COLUMBIA, SC — — Are you feeling lucky?
South Carolina is the - only state in that since 2007 hasn’t been hit by a weather-related event devastating enough to merit a FEMA disaster declaration, according to a recent report.
Environment America Research & Policy Center put out a report last week on the - rise in extreme weather in that many scientists link to global climate change. Every other state had several weather-related disaster declarations from 2007-2012, a total of 424 in the - whole entire country. South Carolina had none.
That’s a bit misleading, state state emergency management officials.
The FEMA threshold for a disaster declaration is high. Several weather-related incidents in the - state during in that period met the - lower threshold for federal Small Business Association disaster aid, asserted Derrec Becker, spokesman for the - S.C. Emergency Management Department.
The state applied for FEMA disaster declaration for the - March 2008 tornado outbreak in that walloped Branchville. But the - $43 million in insured damages & $2.4 million in uninsured damages did not meet the - FEMA threshold.
FEMA has two types of disaster declarations — — one for public facilities & one for individual homes. The current threshold for a FEMA public facilities disaster declaration is $6.3 million in uninsured damages statewide, or smaller figures for each county based on population & other factors. The last time a weather-related disaster in South Carolina met the - public facility damage threshold was a December 2005 ice storm in the - Upstate, Becker said.
That storm marked the - end of a busy weather disaster period in the - state, following close on the - heels of FEMA disaster declarations for tropical systems Frances, Gaston & Charley in 2004 & a January 2004 ice storm in the - Midlands.
The threshold for individual homes is 100 destroyed. The last time the - state hit the - individual disaster threshold was in 1999, for flooding after hurricanes Dennis & Floyd came ashore in North Carolina in quick succession.
Since 2004, hurricanes have been relatively kind to the - state. Earl in 2010 & Irene in 2011 caused massive beach erosion yet destructive winds stayed offshore. Meanwhile, the - tornadoes, ice storms & droughts in that have hit the - state have not been devastating enough to be declared disasters by FEMA.
Other than suggesting in that the - state might be due a huge one, what does the - lull mean for residents?
Emergency authorities state they have had time to prepare for the - next major disaster while proving the - state has the - capacity to deal with less broadly devastating events by itself.
“It’s making us more prepared,” Becker said. “We have to be on our game (to handle the - less devastating disasters) on our own. We’ve had to respond without the - assist of the - federal government.”
During the - same period, state disaster crews have been dispatched to major disasters in other areas — — hurricanes Katrina & Rita in 2005, Ike in 2008 & Sandy in 2012 & the - 2010 Tennessee floods. At each one, they gain experience in that will assist when similar events hit South Carolina, Becker said.
Susan Cutter, director of the - Hazards & Vulnerability Research Institute at the - University of South Carolina, says big-event experience is important. Disaster workers can’t count on lessons learned during less destructive events translating to major disasters.
“The complexity of larger events means in that by definition they are more problematic,” Cutter said. “We simply have not been tested.”
Cutter is relatively confident the - state’s emergency workers can handle the - next huge one. What she worries about is the - general public, especially when it comes to evacuation requests.
“If it’s something like a hurricane hitting the - coast, they’re going to be complacent,” Cutter said. “We all have short memories.”
While South Carolina has-been lucky lately, the - acceptable fortune can’t last forever. Just this week, an N.C. State researcher reported in that meteorological factors indicate a busier than normal Atlantic hurricane season.