Adjusting the 'new normal' of storm prep

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Since my last appearance in this space, much has happened in our state and this lovely corner of the Lowcountry.

On the legislative front, those of us in leadership make the trek to the Statehouse for committee meetings. The South Carolina House Republican Caucus met in Beaufort County for discussions on the legislative agenda for the 2018 session.

The official meeting was productive, but, in my view, the main events were the various field trips arranged to showcase aspects of Districts 118 and 120, represented by my colleague, Bill Herbkersman, and myself, respectively.

Our visit to the Waddell Mariculture Center, at the end of Sawmill Creek Road, was a highlight. Al Stokes and his crew of S.C. Department of Natural Resources scientists are doing excellent work in several areas, including supporting our fish populations, doing research and providing production information to members of the mariculture industry, as well as helping to keep the estuarine waters of our area and our state clean and productive.

It also was a fortunate coincidence that during the caucus visit, the Chronicle of Higher Education released a finding that the University of South Carolina Beaufort was the fifth fastest growing undergraduate public university in the country, over the past decade. Our congratulations go to USCB Chancellor, Dr. Al Panu, and to the retired Chancellor, Dr. Jane Upshaw, for their excellent work.

Of course, the major event of last month was Hurricane Irma. For a week before she made landfall, nearly all the forecasting models took the storm right into Beaufort County. Ultimately, she came ashore south of Savannah, and proceeded northward through middle Georgia, striking our area a glancing blow.

We did not, however, emerge unscathed. Bluffton and the surrounding area lost a significant number of docks, including many on Myrtle Island, and on toward the Oyster Factory, where there was some erosion, in addition to dock damage.

We also lost a number of specimen trees, including the oak that fell on the Bridge Street home of Mary and Ed Lawyer. Although there was damage to the house, fortunately neither Mary nor Ed was injured. Aside from the damage to docks and some flooding, our losses were comparatively minor.

The good news was that the coordination between the various governmental jurisdictions was much improved over the somewhat disjointed response to Hurricane Matthew. Gov. Henry McMaster and staff, state emergency managers, and local officials deserve high marks for their performance.

We were also served well by the state and the county's adoption of the International Building Code and the International Residential Code some years ago. Our newer structures are built to better withstand many of the rigors of the increasingly numerous and more powerful storms we seem to be facing.

The county and the municipalities also deserve credit for their attentive enforcement of the new codes, as well as the new emphasis on the Best Management Practices (BMPs) for dealing with stormwater. The "new normal" of frequent, powerful storms would seem to mandate a continuation of all these prudent development standards.

Weston Newton is the representative for District 120 in the State House of Representatives.

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