By Sally Mahan
From cleaning up the debris to tree removal to insurance claims, Hurricane Matthew’s effects are still being felt throughout the Lowcountry.
According to the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office, there have been many concerns from citizens regarding inflated prices for cleanup/tree services and the legitimacy of out-of-state companies operating in Beaufort County since Hurricane Matthew.
The sheriff’s office offers the following tips:
• If you think the price is inflated, obtain an estimate from another company.
• Ensure the company is properly licensed, bonded and insured by asking to see their professional licenses and associated documents. If they fail to provide documentation, do not hire them. You can also research companies online for customer reviews and legitimacy.
If you feel there is price gouging involved, contact the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office Emergency Dispatch 843-524-2777 and it will investigate.
School makeup days
The Beaufort County School District is considering a revision of its school calendar to restore instructional time lost during the Hurricane Matthew evacuation and during the return of evacuees and restoration of services to schools.
The eight-school days lost during Hurricane Matthew meant a total of nine days lost because of an additional day missed last month during Tropical Storm Hermine.
South Carolina laws covering minimum instructional time meant that the district had to find a way to restore four days to the first semester so that students could meet their course requirements, said Superintendent Jeff Moss.
After discussions with the board of education and school principals, Moss said it was determined that the best way to do that was to make Dec. 19-21 full instructional days with all schools operating on normal schedules, and Dec. 22 a half day.
“We understand that these schedule changes may be an inconvenience during winter break,” said Moss. “But we must adhere to state law, and our primary concern is the education of the 22,000 children entrusted to our care.”
Individual FEMA assistance
Registering with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is the first step to getting federal disaster assistance.
FEMA will ask you to provide information about the property damage you sustained from Hurricane Matthew, proof of your identity and residency, insurance and other documentation to help determine your eligibility.
After you apply, FEMA will send you a copy of your application and a booklet, “Help After a Disaster: Applicant’s Guide to the Individuals and Households Program,” which will answer many of your questions.
Inspections will be done by private contractors who wear official FEMA identification badges. If you have concerns whether the person is really a FEMA housing inspector, you should contact your local law enforcement agency, which will be able to validate the inspector’s identification.
FEMA-contracted inspectors will only confirm personal detailed information that you previously provided during the registration process. There is no charge for an inspection.
For more information about Hurricane Matthew recovery, call the FEMA helpline at 1-800-621-FEMA (1-800-621-3362) or visit the South Carolina Emergency Management Division at scemd.org/recovery-section/ia.
Countywide debris removal
Trucks started removing debris last week and have already hauled away more than 4,600 cubic yards of debris, as well as 1,100 hanging trees and 58 leaning trees. Debris will be reduced by burning or grinding.
The county’s debris removal contractor will make three passes through affected areas to collect debris over the next several weeks until removal is complete, which could take as long as 90 days.
Bagged debris will not be collected and should not be placed on the public right-of-way.
Residents should place Class 1 vegetative (woody, burnable debris such as limbs and shrubbery) and Class 2 construction/demolition storm-generated debris in separate piles on the public right-of-way/curb at their residence for removal, being careful not to block stormwater ditches, water meter vaults, fire hydrants or other utilities which are located above ground.
At this time, only county, city or state roads are eligible for debris removal. Private roads, private communities, and/or gated properties will not be covered under this program (FEMA Public Assistance).
Beaufort County has requested a waiver from the federal government to allow crews to remove debris from these areas.
Check the Beaufort County website at www.bcgov.net for additional information and updates on the debris removal process.
United Way of the Lowcountry (UWLC) is collecting funds for disaster relief efforts to help people impacted by Hurricane Matthew.
UWLC is the agency designated by Beaufort County to collect donations for disaster relief efforts. Through its partnership with Beaufort County, UWLC will be collecting, administering and distributing funds for relief efforts.
All donations are tax deductible and 100 percent of the money collected will stay local.
Donations can be made on the United Way of the Lowcountry website at www.uwlowcountry.org or Beaufort County’s website at www.bcgov.net.
Donations may also be mailed to United Way of the Lowcountry at P.O. Box 202, Beaufort, SC 29901. Checks should be made payable to United Way of the Lowcounty, with “County Flood Relief” in the memo.
Additionally, the Community Foundation of the Lowcountry will soon begin awarding grant dollars to eligible nonprofit organizations which are responding to community needs in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew.
The Community Foundation has already distributed $50,000 to several front-line organizations, including the American Red Cross (Lowcountry Chapter), Bluffton Self Help and the Deep Well Project.
An advisory committee made up of local government, business and community leaders will be authorized to review grant applications and recommend grants.
For specific grant guidelines and forms, visit www.cf-lowcountry.org.
Kroger generously donated thousands of pounds of dog and cat food to help Lowcountry pet owners recover from the devastating effects of Hurricane Matthew.
Palmetto Animal League distributed the pet food at the Penn Center on St. Helena Island. The pet food was given out free of charge to anyone in need.
“I’m excited about Penn Center being the focal point for providing food and supplies for needy pets,” said Penn Center Executive Director Dr. Rodell Lawrence.
Kroger donated a total of 60 pallets of pet food to Coastal Empire and Lowcountry areas hit hard by the hurricane.
“We hope this donation lessens the burden for residents and agencies receiving this product,” said Glynn Jenkins, public relations director for Kroger’s Atlanta Division.
Palmetto Animal League President Amy Campanini said it has been heartwarming to see so many people helping animals in the days following the storm.