8 weeks after floods: Roads getting fixed, mosquitoes dying

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) – The Thanksgiving weekend marks eight weeks since historic rainfall flooded parts of South Carolina. Many things are returning to normal after up to 2 feet of rain fell in areas from Columbia to the coast from Oct. 2 to 5. Nearly 90 percent of the roads closed at the height of the storm are back open. Debris cleanup is ending. Lawmakers have started hearings to figure out how to pay for repairs. But many questions remain. An official damage estimate has not been released, and until that figure is known, Gov. Nikki Haley and many state lawmakers say it will be impossible to commit to an exact plan on how to pay for the flood. The deadline to apply for federal assistance is Dec. 4. Here is a look at how things are progressing since the flood: MOSQUITOES The swarms of mosquitoes pestering people in South Carolina have finally met their match – the cold weather. The recent cold snap has killed off or forced into hibernation most of the mosquitoes who thrived in the pools of standing water, said Frank Carson, mosquito control manager for Charleston County. Carson warned that if the weather turns back warm for a stretch before the next hard freeze, some of the bloodsuckers could return. The cold weather also prevents spraying, which can only be done with the temperature is above 50 degrees. “You need some consistently freezing temperatures over time. They can be in so many places. You could have them in the larval stage in standing water and they still could survive and hatch off if it gets warmer,” Carson said. The boom in mosquitoes because of the flooding was unprecedented. Charleston County typically gets 120 complaints about mosquitoes in October. This year, workers were called 840 times, Carson said. Carson‘s crews in an average October spray about 2,000 acres for mosquito larvae. This October, workers sprayed 78,000 acres. ___ ROADS Repairs to South Carolina roads are ahead of schedule. In mid-October, the state Department of Transportation hoped to have just 86 highways and bridges still closed on Thanksgiving. Instead, there are just 69 closures – 44 roads and 25 bridges. The DOT said it can‘t do anything with 26 of those roads because they run over dams where the owners haven‘t decided what to do with the damaged structures. DOT Secretary Christy Hall said she is proud of her crews, who have put in long hours over the past eight weeks. “The SCDOT team has shown their dedication and commitment to the people of SC through their hard work and perseverance,” Hall said in an email. Hall said last month she hoped to have a final estimate for how much damage to roads will cost. But she said this week that figure still isn‘t finalized. ___ AGRICULTURE The weather was cruel in so many ways to South Carolina farmers this year. A dry summer wiped out part of the corn crop. Then, just a few weeks before harvest, floods destroyed peanuts, cotton and other fall crops. The state Agriculture Department estimates direct losses to farmers at more than $375 million. The governor asked the U.S. Department of Agriculture this week to get crop insurance payments to farmers faster. The flooding may have long-term effects as well. The water could have shifted soil and made fields unstable for heavy equipment. Perennial tree crops like peaches could be struggling with weeks of fully saturated soils making it hard to get nutrients and breeding mold. ___ RAINFALL RECORDS The rains in the state didn‘t end with the floods. There have been several other heavy rain events this fall, although none has reached the magnitude of the massive floods. This will be the wettest September through November in both Columbia and Charleston. Columbia has seen more than 26 inches of rain during meteorological fall, which is three times the normal amount. Charleston has had almost 30 inches of rain during the same period, which is more than 250 percent of normal rainfall, according to the Southeast Regional Climate Center. While this likely won‘t be the wettest year in recorded history for Columbia, Charleston still has a chance for its wettest year in 2015. The official recording station at the airport in North Charleston has seen 71.75 inches of rain this year. The record is 72.99 inches in 1964. Normal rainfall is around 50 inches.

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