By Paul Gable
It has been nearly two weeks since Hurricane Florence dumped record amounts of rain on Horry County and, to date, no meaningful attempts have been made by county officials to combat the resulting mosquitoes.
It’s not like all the water that Florence dumped on the area was a big surprise. For at least a week before the storm made landfall, predictions of 20 plus inches of rain throughout the county were the norm.
Yet, the county remained unprepared to combat the intense breeding of mosquitoes that accompanies the rain and continued flooding we have experienced since the storm.
According to two sources with knowledge of the county’s mosquito spraying program, as late as yesterday there were only enough chemicals on hand to spray five percent (5%) of the total acreage in Horry County. Those sources said an order for more chemicals was recently placed, but when the county receives that order it will cover only 40-50 percent of total county acreage.
It’s not like the county does not have the money to pay for more chemicals. According to information provided to GSD, the county maintains a $30 million contingency fund expressly for expenses associated with disaster recovery.
And, money the county spends for things like mosquito spraying resulting from a declared state of emergency situation is recoverable from FEMA. North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper ordered $4 million from state funds to pay for mosquito spraying in the 27 North Carolina counties affected by Hurricane Florence.
In addition, the county’s efforts at stormwater management have been lacking as we have seen from the number of sub-divisions and other areas that routinely flood during heavy rains. Did those responsible for stormwater management imagine we wouldn’t suffer serious flooding in many areas from Florence? The stormwater management department of the county is also responsible and funded for mosquito spraying, but it has chosen to spend funds on items other than mosquito control chemicals and spraying operations in the past few years.
According to several county council members I have spoken to, complaints are pouring in from citizens about the growing mosquito population in all areas of the county. Citizens are questioning why the county isn’t already conducting aerial spraying to combat the increasing mosquito hoard.
It was recently reported in media that the first recorded death from West Nile Virus in South Carolina history occurred in Marion County last month. West Nile Virus is spread by mosquitoes as are other potential health hazards such as Zika Virus, Malaria, Yellow Fever, Dengue and Encephalitis to name a few.
This is not to say we are on the verge of a major health crisis from the county’s lack of preparation, but citizens should not have to put up with even the nuisance factor of a large mosquito population that could have been prevented. Why not prepare for action when we know in advance a hurricane with predicted major flooding is heading our way? This is only common sense.
Over the last week, social media has been filled with posts and photo ops by elected officials about what a great response has been made to the effects of Florence. If only they were true.
Congressman Tom Rice bragged how he sent a letter to Gov. Henry McMaster requesting the governor to amend the state’s application for FEMA funds to include funding for I-73. Wouldn’t it have been much more beneficial to his constituents for Rice to request FEMA funds for mosquito spraying or to fix roads and bridges damaged by the flooding? After all, FEMA funds are for disaster recovery, not construction of brand new highways.
County Council Chairman Mark Lazarus specifically named administrator Chris Eldridge and assistant administrator Justin Powell for praise in how they have handled response to Florence.
In this writer’s opinion, you spoke much too soon Mark.
———————————————————————– Update ———————————————————————-
The following was released by the Horry County Public Information Office at 11:39 am September 27, 2018
On Thursday, September 27, 2018, 11:39 AM, Public Information <PIO@horrycounty.org> wrote:
For Immediate Release
Horry County Council Passes Resolution Regarding Mosquito Spraying
Conway, SC (September 27, 2018)—Horry County Council passed a resolution to transfer three million dollars in funds from the general fund to the stormwater fund to assist with mosquito spraying after Hurricane Florence.
Horry County Stormwater officials are working closely with the aerial mosquito spraying contractor to determine a schedule for additional aerial mosquito spraying. The goal of this additional aerial spraying is to treat all of the unincorporated areas in Horry County to combat the potential public health threat of the large mosquito population after the storm. The spraying schedule will be published this afternoon at stormwater.horrycounty.org. All mosquito spraying is weather dependent and up to the judgement of the contractor.
In addition to added aerial spraying, the Horry County Stormwater Department will continue with regular truck spraying in the mornings and evenings until further notice. Residents in the unincorporated areas of Horry County can still request spraying in their area by filling out the online form at horrycounty.org.
The Horry County Stormwater Department encourages everyone to take safety precautions including:
- Use bug spray. Active ingredients such as DEET, picaridin, IR3535, lemon eucalyptus, and para-menthane-diol can help protect you.
- Wear long sleeves and long pants to cover your skin.
- Tip and toss water filled containers around homes and businesses.
The chemicals used for mosquito control spraying are approved by the EPA and pose minimal risk to humans or animals. Individuals with asthma or other respiratory illness may wish to stay indoors and close windows and doors during spraying. In addition, homegrown fruits and vegetables should be washed, scrubbed, and/or peeled before eating.
To help keep our honeybee population safe, beekeepers are urged to contact the Horry County Stormwater Department to identify the location of their colonies.