Months after Matthew, road signs still down, roads washed out

Months after Matthew, road signs still down, roads washed out

HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - Three roads in inland Horry County are still washed out three-and-a-half months after Hurricane Matthew, and many road signs are still down.

South Carolina Department of Transportation Commission Chairman Mike Wooten said only four percent of the roads that were initially closed in the state are still closed. SCDOT's online map shows where they are and the majority left to be fixed are in northeastern South Carolina.

Wooten said there are three steps are to hurricane recovery. The first is the initial response, such as clearing trees from roads.

The second is using on-call contractors, selected every three years, to clear debris from the right-of-way. Monitoring companies then come behind the contractor to make sure everything was done correctly, per Federal Emergency Management Agency guidelines.

Then, the third step to recovery involves hiring contractors to fix the damage.

Wooten said that can take a while due to the steps involved in rebuilding bridges in particular. He added roads in Columbia were recently reopened following the October 2015 flooding.

S.C. 19 in Horry County still looks like the storm just came through.

"We pull up on these jobs and we take pictures too, because it's crazy what Mother Nature can do," said Ryan Meigs, a driller with Mid-Atlantic Drilling.

Before any repairs can happen, the soil has to be tested.

"They can test compaction. They can test water content," Meigs said. "That way they know exactly how to design whatever they have to design to make the bridge last. Especially in coastal areas, that's way more important."

Drillers for Mid-Atlantic Drilling said business has gone up since Hurricane Matthew. The company has five crews going around to different projects, according to Meigs.

"There's more problems than there are people to fix them right now, I think," he said.

Drillers took samples Friday every five feet for as far as 110 feet into the ground near washed out S.C. 19.

"We have a split spoon and basically it's a hollow-type straw," Meigs said. "Once we drill our five feet, we set it down and we put a 140-pound hammer on it."

They drilled and collected samples from several areas to give a sort of geographic blueprint of the land. The drilling and soil testing portion of the rebuilding process is critical for safety.

"The engineers are really trying to take every step they can to get as much information as they can," Meigs said. "So that way when it comes time to build, especially in an area like this - it's a coastal area - they're getting a quality product at the end of the day."

S.C. 19 is projected to be complete this fall, while Stevens Street/S-184 and S-23 are supposed to open this summer.

Once the roads are fixed, Wooten said the last part of the recovery process involves fixing signs.

Directional road signs are still down in Horry County, including two at the Fantasy Harbour exit of U.S. 501.

They are an obvious sign that a hurricane came through.

SCDOT Public Information Coordinator Kimberly Corley said a work order went in recently to repair them. Although the contractor has 75 days to fix them, she said the work should be completed in April.

Corley added the signs themselves are not damaged, so they will be reused. Parts such as steel plates and bolts, however, are needed to repair them.

She said the total for this work order, which includes eight signs that suffered wind damage and one overhead structure that was previously damaged by a vehicle, comes to $26,306.56.

Wooten said fixing signs is less of a priority right after a storm compared to getting roads cleared and bridges rebuilt.

He said even though FEMA reimburses a large portion of the cost of the damage, it doesn't cover all of it. At that point, money comes out of a fund that would otherwise be used to fix roads in the state.

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