Police officers from DI-based Team 5 join Hurricane Florence relief team in Georgetown
The predictions for Georgetown County were not sunny after Hurricane Florence made landfall in North Carolina. Although the storm had passed, flooding was still a threat to the South Carolina county, with officials believing the water levels could have been higher than the flooding brought by 2016’s Hurricane Matthew.
In response, the Charleston Police Department deployed 34 officers to the Georgetown area to aid the Georgetown County Sheriff’s Office in a joint flood response effort from September 24 through September 28. Among the law enforcement personnel on the team were Lt. James Byrne and Officer Tina Scales of Daniel Island-based Team 5.
Thankfully for Georgetown, the area’s flooding was less severe than expected.
“There was a sense of anticipation,” said Lt. Byrne. “There was this ‘hurry up and get it started’ feeling. The flood waters were much slower to come up, the flood waters were much slower to come down stream, and when they did, they were much lower in crest height than anticipated.”
Byrne stated that CPD was originally preparing for 10 to 15 feet of flooding, but over the course of their stay, the prediction was downgraded to 2 to 5 feet.
“Some people never saw any flooding,” he said.
“We were there as well for traffic control and to address if there was any major evacuation required there,” said Byrne. “In the past, I guess they’ve had some looting issues, so we were there to prevent burglaries and such, as well.”
Scales mentioned that her duty in Georgetown was primarily to watch floodwaters and report if they had risen to the road next to her post.
“We were treated very, very well, exceptionally well by the Georgetown County Sheriff’s Office, and even more importantly, by the residents of Georgetown County,” Byrne said about the hospitality they encountered in the town. “They came out of the woodwork to feed us, to make sure we had things that we needed. There were tables of food. You could not leave hungry.”
“They made sure that we had everything, really,” said Scales. “They took real good care of us.”
The most prominent difficulty faced by citizens of Georgetown was the anxiety of waiting for a flood that didn’t come.
“The issue that they were being told was that the floodwaters were going to be higher than they had ever been in recorded history,” Byrne added. “And it was the stress of ‘how do we protect this, how do we protect the infrastructure?’”
Byrne commented that, despite the lack of destruction, the mobilization efforts were worth it. “The last thing that we wanted, and the last thing that the Georgetown County Sheriff’s Office wanted, was to be caught unprepared,” he said. “And I would do that again 20 times—kind of the ‘all dressed up and nowhere to go’ syndrome—I’d do it 20 times, rather than do one where nobody’s ready.”
“We were honored to come and help the people of Georgetown,” added Captain Chip Searson, who commanded the CPD relief team. “They were very thankful for our help and treated our officers like family during our deployment. We are happy the flooding was far less than projected.”
“I am really proud of these officers for volunteering to deploy,” he added. “They represent the true meaning of public service.”