By Stan Welch
Taylor Jones, Director of Anderson County’s Emergency Preparedness Division, is well aware of how lucky Anderson County was during the remarkable weather events of the last week or so.
He is even more aware of that now, because after cleaning up the relatively few loose ends in Anderson following the storms that absolutely drenched most of the state, he and several other emergency management personnel are in the Midlands, assisting in Lexington County.
“The folks down there called us Monday and asked if we could help. We were on the way by that afternoon. We had been in contact with different management units all over the state since Thursday. We had been preparing here for forecasts of up to sixteen inches of rain, with most of it coming during the Clemson game, which meant maybe a hundred thousand people in the midst of a tremendous storm.”
Jones said that his department and the county public works department responded to one hundred sixty six calls between Friday afternoon and midnight Saturday. “We were blessed because even then we got off light. We had some trees down and roads underwater. We barricaded thirty three roads temporarily but by Monday, the worst was over. We had no major issues or dangerous situations.”
Upon arrival in the Lexington county area, Jones said the realization of how blessed his home county had been really sank in. “This is just incredible down here. You know, this is a five hundred year rainfall, and it just outstripped all our computer models. You just don’t prepare for something on this scale.”
Jones credits Governor Haley and SCNG adjutant general Gen. Robert Livingston for being on top of the situation. “They have been out in front of this every step. They are making decisions before the decisions can make themselves. I’ve deployed on similar responses at least ten or twelve times, and this is the smoothest operation I have seen, and under rough conditions.”
A swift water rescue team has been deployed to the SC Justice Academy, which is closed to normal instruction and classes,and a first management team from the city of Anderson is also deployed. They specialize in prioritizing the different aspects of a response event.
Jones and his staff are coordinating eleven water distribution points. National Guard personnel are handling the actual distribution, but eight deputies from Anderson are in the area to provide crowd control and security at the distribution sites. “The Sheriff was very forward leaning in providing additional personnel. The response from the Upstate as well as the rest of the Southeast, and even the nation is just fantastic. FEMA is here of course, and the Department of Homeland Security. It just makes you proud of South Carolina to see everyone just doing what has to be done.”
Anderson County administrator Rusty Burns said that the public works department has also sent personnel to the area. “They will be relieving crews that have worked literally non-stop for days. They will also help conduct bridge and road inspections. As you have probably seen in the media. the damage to infrastructure is enormous. We’re proud that our people were so eager to assist our fellow citizens, and are contributing to the efforts to restore some sort of normalcy.”
Jones says that may be a while coming. “Right now, we don’t even know what we don’t know. The water is still very high and even more is headed downstream to us. We are also experiencing an abnormal cascading effect, where one event can lead to another. For example, our computer models projected perhaps one or two dams failing, but we have already had a handful fail, and each one releases water to the next dam downstream. I suspect we’ll be finding damage for several weeks as the waters finally recede.”
Jones is proud of his crew, saying, “We came down here wanting to make a real difference, and I think we will before this is over.”
He expects to be deployed for at least one week, and is prepared to rotate personnel in and out if necessary. “I’m briefing Sheriff Skipper, Mr. Burns and Chairman Dunn a couple of times a day, so they are aware of the circumstances.”