‘We’re really blessed’: Charleston mayor praises cooperation during Idalia
CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Charleston’s mayor thanked his “Team Charleston” and the public for heeding warnings to stay safe during Tropical Storm Idalia’s arrival Wednesday night.
Mayor John Tecklenburg credited that teamwork for a lack of injuries among citizens of the storm.
“I think in a way, we’re really blessed. We really dodged the bullet,” he said. “I would like to thank our citizens for their fine cooperation and for the most part, staying put last night and staying home and staying safe. That really made it better for everyone because public safety, y’all, is number one.”
He said no injuries among residents were reported during Wednesday night’s storms.
However, Charleston Fire Chief Dan Curia said one firefighter suffered non-life-threatening injuries as crews responded to a 30% increase in call volume compared with a typical night.
“Within that call volume, we had 22 water rescues, predominantly removing people from vehicles in flooded areas,” he said. “Most of the activity for the department was between the hours of 7 p.m. and midnight.”
Tecklenburg said city leaders did not have to close the Septima Clark Parkway, a success he chalked up to the city’s drainage tunnel project. He did acknowledge that they had to close a ramp in West Ashley from 61 after rising tidewaters completely covered that ramp.
But Tecklenburg did use the example of the combination of the the storm surge from Tropical Storm Idalia and the unusually high tide to make a point about future estimates of rising sea level.
“A week ago we were saying it was going to be an eight foot tide. As it turned out, with the wind pushing and the storm surge, we have a 9.23-foot tide,” he said. “Now that 1.23 feet makes a big difference in the Lowcountry. That’s about 14 or 15 inches, and that was just enough to completely cover some old neighborhoods of our city — particularly on the peninsula — with water.”
That difference is about the same difference they predict will be “an everyday occurrence” in downtown Charleston in the year 2050, he said.
Chief Reslience Officer Dale Morris said an increase in sea level of 14 inches added to storm surges or high tides would be “unmanageable” for the city. He said Charleston has a project with the Army Corps of Engineers to design a structure around the margin of the peninsula to help manage such a tide.
“If we would’ve had that structure in place last night, and we’d have closed the title gates that will be part of that structure, the peninsula would’ve been dry,” Morris said. “None of the damage that we’re seeing now coming in in the damage assessments would have occurred. The flooding on the streets on the peninsula would not have occurred.”
He said there is a second project to look at tide and flooding in other parts of the city.
“Those challenges are out there because the sea level rise is going to occur there and here. So just keep this in mind,” he said. “We need this elevated edge around the peninsula, and we need to help the rest of the city, too. But this is an essential thing to understand: if we do not like what happened last night. Do we like it happen two or three times a month in the future?”
Charleston residents who took advantage of the opportunity to park in one of the six city-owned parking garages ahead of Idalia on Wednesday have until 6 p.m. Thursday to remove their cars. The city extended the deadline from 11 a.m. Thursday to 6 p.m. to give people more time.
City spokesman Jack O’Toole said four of the six garages have spaces that have opened up:
- Aquarium parking garage (24 Calhoun Street)
- East Bay/Prioleau parking garage (25 Prioleau Street)
- 99 West Edge parking garage (99 West Edge Street)
- Charleston Tech Center parking garage (997 Morrison Drive)
A limited number of spaces have opened up in the other two garages:
- Queen Street (93 Queen Street)
- Visitor Center (63 Mary Street)
The parking garages can only be used for cars; boats, trailers and golf carts cannot be parked in those garages.
All roads previously closed Thursday morning because of flooding have since reopened.
The city said garbage and trash collection was set to resume on Friday and that crews were prepared to complete collection on Saturday if necessary.
Anyone in the city limits who experienced storm-related damage at their property should report it online at the city’s website or by calling the Citizen Services Desk at 843-724-7311.
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