Floods exposed Berkeley County communications glitches

Flooding from Huger Creek over Highway 402 in Berkeley County proved too much for this military-style vehicle during the response to the disaster in October.

MONCKS CORNER — Coordinating information among emergency responders as well as that given out to the public turned out to be the biggest frustrations of the people who handled the October floods.

A final review of that response was held Tuesday among officials from Berkeley County and other agencies, a thrash-it-out session of pros, cons and takeaways from the disaster caused by 30 inches of rain in five days. Flooding led to more than 70 water rescues, the loss of 30 homes, closed roads and bridges.

Officials described the incident as chaotic and more intense than training could prepare for. At one point, as water rose a foot high at a crucial intersection on U.S. Highway 17A, officials worried they might have to evacuate some 2,600 people from nearby subdivisions.

The flooding struck on a weekend night, complicating the situation. In just one example, Moncks Corner Fire and Rescue crews rescued 12 people from three flooded homes by tying lines from truck bumpers around their waists and wading into swift running water waist deep, Fire Chief David Miller said.

Even the county’s Emergency Preparedness Center wasn’t spared. Staff in the basement facility worked as flood waters seeped out of the floor and rose an inch.

People in the field knowing where to turn for real-time information turned out to be the biggest glitch, Emergency Preparedness Director Tom Smith acknowledged. The department is working to improve that.

But overall the response was “one call, that’s all,” said County Supervisor Bill Peagler. “We learned a lot. I want everybody to know, we will get better.”

Reach Bo Petersen at 843-937-5744, @bopete on twitter or Bo Petersen Reporting on Facebook.