It has been a cruel year in South Carolina. All summer, much of the state was categorized between abnormally dry and severe drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. And then Hurricane Joaquin changed all of that in a major way.
Even though the Category 4 hurricane never directly hit the United States, it did force more than 20 inches of rain across big portions of South Carolina and southeast North Carolina. The Weather Channel referred to it as “one of the most prolific rainfall events in modern U.S. history.”
The storm has passed, but Palmetto State residents are just now dealing with the fallout.
“We will have to assess the damage, and I anticipate that damage will probably be in the billions of dollars,” says Columbia, S.C. mayor Steve Benjamin. “We’re going to have to work to rebuild. Some people’s lives as they know them will never be the same.”
Damage included washed out roads and flooded homes and business. The storm also submerged thousands of the state’s row and vegetable crops.
“It’s just a complete disaster,” Clemson Extension agent Charles W. Davis Jr., told the Charleston Post Courier. “This is one for the record books. We’ve had rain events before, and they were never very pretty, but this is the one the old-timers are going to talk about. It’s a shipwreck.”
AgDay anchor and executive producer Clinton Griffiths notes that for the state’s cotton and peanut producers, the timing almost couldn’t have been worse.
“In South Carolina, 13% of the crop is out of the field as of last week,” he says. “Peanut harvest isn’t progressing well [either]. It’s only 13% complete, down 11 points from average.”
South Carolina Department of Agriculture commissioner Hugh Weathers says the next few days will be spent in farm fields across the state assessing the extent of the damage.
“This amount of water doesn’t do any crops any good,” he says.
Weathers pledges an update as soon as his office contacts farmers and ranchers in all parts of the state. Meantime, Clemson University is offering farmers to attend an event Thursday, Oct. 8, to learn how they can manage flooded crops and mitigate flooding effects on hay and cattle production.
Fortunately, no additional heavy precipitation is forecast for South Carolina for the next several days, although light rain (less than 1 inch) is possible over the weekend.
According to The Weather Channel, Florida is historically the state with the highest chance to see hurricanes in October. The next named storm, Hurricane Kate, has yet to form.