Surveying Damage 500ft Above Columbia

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With the Palmetto State under a ‘state of emergency’ — the National Guard is hard at work. At least 1,300 National Guard members have been deployed, with 7,000 more on alert. Raycom’s Chad Mills spent some time on the ground and in the air with the South Carolina Air National Guard.

500 feet above Columbia… it’s easy to see the devastation. “Some of us went to Katrina in Louisiana several years back, and I can equate this to some of what they had there.” For some of the past few days Anna Dewitt’s office has been a black hawk helicopter. “They’ll put me on the hoist. I’ll go down. I have a strap, which is a like a big belt. I have a basket to put the patients in.” Her team rescued 26 people on Sunday.

On Monday, no rescues, but the recon work began. “The aerial assets, right now, are some of the only ways we’re getting around.” Major General Robert Livingston says some of the ten crews surveyed damaged roads, while others kept an eye on the swelling rivers, including the Congaree, which looks even more vicious from above. “We haven’t seen the crest in the midlands yet, and we’re certainly, after it crests in the midlands it’s about two more days before it gets down to the coastline.”

But other recon work is being done from the air too. Commissioner of Agriculture Hugh Weathers is assessing farms. “We won’t know for quite a while, and it is harvest time. There are peanuts on the ground ready for taking in. Cotton ready to be picked. Soybeans not far behind, so it’s a harvest time for fall crops.”

Also in the air, State Law Enforcement Division Chief Mark Keel. “Our primary mission is to obviously assist local agencies, and within the past 24 hours, we’ve made contact with all our sheriffs. We’re contacting our police chiefs all over the state. We’re just making sure they got what assets they need from law enforcement to try to help them out and get through this situation.” Chief Keel with SLED says recovery efforts are manpower intensive, and hard to do thoroughly until floodwater recedes. He says that’s why it’s important to check on your neighbors.

Flooding around the state; Emergency management officials are keeping their eyes on a number of dams. At least 19 have been breached statewide. The failed dams have forced at least a thousand people from their homes and into shelters until the dangerous conditions start to fade. South Carolina Emergency Operations Center is still activated at OPCON 1.

Startling new images this morning from Lugoff just northeast of Columbia. Rising waters there were too much for one driver on Sunday. Fire officials were able to rescue the woman from the roof of her car. The body of a DPT worker who died while working in the floods, was also recovered in the same area.