NICHOLS, S.C. – More than 300 volunteers gathered in Nichols on Saturday to clean up debris from roads and drainage canals affected by flooding from previous storms.
The town of Nichols has been flooded twice in the past three years after hurricanes hit the Pee Dee.
The cleanup effort, led by South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster, the South Carolina Floodwater Commission and the South Carolina Department of Transportation (SCDOT), focused on targeting projects that could help alleviate and minimize the effects of flooding in the area. McMaster and the commission partnered with officials from Marion County and the town of Nichols to identify potential projects prior to the cleanup event.
The cleanup day began at 8 a.m. with groups of volunteers working across five worksites around the town. Projects consisted of conducting maintenance on 25,000 feet of roadside drainage, working on 1.5 miles of the main flood canal and removing debris from Catfish Creek Canal, as well as replacing a drainage pipe on Kemper street.
Leland Colvin, the deputy secretary for engineering with SCDOT, said that because this area of the state is so flat, it is important that the drainage system is fully functioning to help mitigate flooding.
“The importance of doing this is to help with drainage,” Colvin said. “These folks here in the town of Nichols have been devastated over the last three hurricanes. It’s basically to alleviate the flooding in South Carolina.”
Volunteers included Nichols residents and groups and individuals from other parts of the state, including the South Carolina State Guard.
Stewart Snowden, a lifelong resident of Nichols, said he came out to the event because the area needs the help and it’s his home. Though Snowden did not have any flood damage to his home, he said it was hard to see others losing everything.
“It (the flooding) was unprecedented,” Snowden said. “You grow up here and you hear the stories of the floods at the end of the '20s and '30s, but nothing compared to what we saw in Matthew and less than two years later, you get another one. It’s heartbreaking to see family homes and friends that lived here go through this lose everything not one time, but two times.”
Snowden said it was gratifying to get to help.
Elizabeth Hussey came to the cleanup after reading about it in a newsletter from the Audubon society. She came with her husband, Joseph Hussey.
“My husband and I just happened to have one free weekend off, and it seemed like a good opportunity,” she said.
During the Nichols cleanup day, the South Carolina Floodwater Commission also held their second meeting since the group’s inception last fall.
South Carolina Floodwater Commission Chairman Thomas S. Mullikin said Nichols is leading the way for the state in the effort to fix drainage systems.
McMaster said during the meeting that cooperation, communication and collaboration are the keys to change.
“When we work together, you can accomplish great things, and I think this day is going to be of historic importance as so many others are in South Carolina,” McMaster said.
South Carolina Lt. Gov. Pamela Evette said she’s proud of how South Carolinians come together to work as they did during the cleanup.
“I hope today sets an example, an example for communities all across our state to do what we’re doing here,” Evette said. “That’s how we do it, we do it together.”