Myrtle Beach is deciding how to best help the many families dealing with scores of trees that fell in this weekend’s storm.
Assistant City Manager Fox Simmons said during city council’s meeting Tuesday that Myrtle Beach might be able to use grant money from the office of Housing and Urban Development to help some residents remove trees that fell on their homes if they could not afford to do the work themselves. The process of securing HUD funds could be “challenging,” however.
“We’re gonna seek other answers if we can, and also continue to explore this fund,” he said.
Mayor John Rhodes said removing the trees needed to be a top priority, focusing on those unable to pay for contractors.
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“I mean we’ve got some families that could be in danger of the structure giving away completely,” Rhodes said. “I’m talking huge trees. There’s got to be some emergency fund money that we can use from the city to take care of this.”
Councilwoman Mary Jeffcoat said there needed to be an option that wouldn’t force the city to wait for another council meeting in two weeks, and Councilman Wayne Gray suggested holding a special meeting before then to approve a tree removal plan. The city would have to gain permission from property owners before going on private land to remove trees, City Attorney Tom Ellenburg said.
The storm has had widespread effects on the city, county and state, and many were left without electricity Tuesday. Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce President Brad Dean revised his estimate of lost tourism revenue, saying the storm easily incurred losses of $50 million. The most recent projection of property damage within the city estimated that private property was impacted to the tune of $8.6 million, and public facilities saw $815,000 worth of damage.
County officials also came to the meeting to request that Myrtle Beach work in concert with other areas to secure federal funding for beach renourishment. County Council Chairman Mark Lazarus praised the city for coordinating with the county as local governments dealt with the storm.
Lazarus said he had spoken with Sen. Tim Scott and Rep. Tom Rice, and that both men understood the importance of the region’s beaches.
“In light of the storms, now there is emergency funding,” Lazarus said. “The problem is the [Army Corps of Engineers] only has so much money in the account right now, and you’ve got devastation from Florida all the way up to Virginia.”
Myrtle Beach lost 1.3 million cubic yards of sand because of Hurricane Matthew, City Manager John Pedersen said. By contrast, beaches within the city limits lost about 900,000 cubic yards during floods in October 2015.
Serious storms routinely suck sand off the beach. Beach renourishment, which would return sand and therefore lengthen the beach, is scheduled to begin in Myrtle Beach in 2018. The federal funds necessary for that process have not been appropriated.
Rhodes said the city is looking to move that timetable forward.
“It’s Washington. You don’t know what Washington’s gonna do,” he said. “You have no clue, but I think that council and chairman Lazarus made a very good point that—that basically nothing was going to be done until the new president comes in. And then we’ve got to hope to get it done then.”