Holiday, license and scandal — you might say it was a perfect storm.
A surge of hits overran the state Web portal during the long Fourth of July weekend, slowing, stalling and at times crashing the server for the S.C. Department of Natural Resources online system. That caused some customers to be turned away or to wait some 40 minutes or more to process a simple $10 saltwater fishing license.
On Friday alone, when state licensing offices were closed for the holiday, the number of hits on the site more than doubled the previous highest day's use, said Scott Moore of South Carolina Interactive, at the DNR board meeting Wednesday.
What happened? The usual crush of holiday visitors and boaters looking for fishing licenses, on top of the annual renewal of existing licenses that expired at the end of June, on top of a new saltwater license requirement for people who fish from the beaches or docks. All that, on top of a 400-500 percent increase in traffic on the governor's Web site.
Yep, Gov. Mark Sanford was getting a lot of attention in the wake of revealing his affair with an Argentine woman.
"That had a significant impact on all our systems," Moore said, because all state sites run through a single system.
Three people waited 40 minutes at Haddrell's Point Tackle & Supply to buy saltwater licenses to fish from their private docks, and a deluge of customers came from another store whose computers "timed out," or lost access to the site, because of time delays, said store owner Mike Able, as he recounted problems.
"I have two tackle shops. I need fishermen. I don't need people out there angry," he said.
Even DNR licensing staff had to work two or three hours overtime at Fort Johnson on July 2 to handle customers who were in line at closing time, said Mike McShane, DNR board chairman.
"If there were anything that could have been done we would have done it," said John Frampton, DNR director. "This is not acceptable. This has got to be fixed. There will be some changes, I promise you that."
Moore said the overall state Web site will be moved to a separate system from the individual agency sites to help ease future crushes.
Frampton said the agency is developing licensing improvements that are expected to include multi-year licenses, and will look into the possibility of issuing 365-day licenses instead of the current July 1-June 30 license.