President Joe Biden approved a major disaster declaration for South Carolina this week, a move that unlocks additional federal aid to help coastal residents hit hardest by Hurricane Ian.
The action means residents in Charleston, Georgetown and Horry counties can now apply for disaster relief funds through the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Ian made landfall just south of Georgetown as a Category 1 hurricane on Sept. 30. It damaged at least five piers in the Myrtle Beach area, including the Pawley's Island pier that collapsed into the Atlantic Ocean.
Ian also knocked down trees, caused power outages and brought storm surge and torrential rainfall to the South Carolina coast, swallowing much of Charleston's downtown peninsula.
Gov. Henry McMaster requested the federal disaster declaration Nov. 1, after a damage assessment by FEMA and the S.C. Emergency Management Division found that 17 homes were destroyed, 232 homes had major damage and 82 had minor damage because of the storm.
It also determined the hurricane had cost state and local agencies more than $25 million.
Georgetown County Emergency Services Director Brandon Ellis said his department had anticipated approval of the disaster declaration given the damages they observed in the storm's aftermath. In October, Ellis estimated the hurricane had caused $53 million worth of damage to commercial and residential properties in the county, in addition to $5.7 million to the county's government infrastructure.
"Those beach accesses were a large number of our damages, as well as the actual beach damage itself," Ellis said.
Ellis told the Georgetown County Council on Oct. 11 that two emergency beach accesses used by first responders would be given priority for reconstruction. In all, a majority of the county’s beach accesses were either “majorly damaged” or destroyed.
Pawleys Island Town Administrator Daniel Newquist said that debris cleanup on the town’s beaches following Ian yielded almost two dozen 80-cubic-yard loads, nearly three-quarters of which originated from the Pawleys Island Pier.
The edge of the pier fell shortly before Ian made landfall near Georgetown on Sept. 30.
The newly signed emergency declaration can provide grants for temporary housing, home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses and other programs designed to help people and business owners recover from the lingering aftermaths of the storm, according to a news release from the White House.
Residents who suffered storm damage in those areas are eligible for storm-related costs not covered by insurance and can register for FEMA assistance online at www.disasterassistance.gov, or by calling 800-621-3362.
Additionally, Biden approved federal assistance to state and local governments, along with certain private nonprofit organizations, in Berkeley, Charleston, Clarendon, Georgetown, Horry, Jasper, and Williamsburg counties as they continue their recovery efforts.
Mike Woodel contributed reporting from Georgetown.