Oconee Co. receives $5.2 million for waterway grant to assist with tornado recovery efforts

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OCONEE COUNTY, SC (WSPA)– Oconee County has received a $5.2 million waterway grant to help with recovery efforts after last year’s tornado in Seneca.

Oconee County Emergency Services said the grant must be matched, and they are working on that now. This will allow crews to pull debris out of water that are creating a hazard.

“We’re just now getting into some of the waterways grants which is millions of dollars that we’re working on to try to clean up the waterways and debris that was thrown into the waterways,” said Scott Krein, Director of Oconee County Emergency Services. “So the waterway grant actually allows us to pull debris out of the water and on the banks of some of the areas closes to the bridges and roads. It’s a very small area compared to the amount that’s still there, but it’s very big for the safety of the infrastructure of Oconee County,” Krein said.

In terms of overall county destruction, Krein said originally there was more than $6 million in damages to homes, but recovery efforts are continuing.

“So recovery is still going on. We still have yards and cubic yards, and cubic yards of debris that we’re cleaning up. And we still have homes that we’re repairing. But as of today, we still have two people or two homes that were on the original list of hundreds that we haven’t been able to help,” Krein said.

Volunteer agencies have worked every day to assist hundreds thus far, according to Krein.

“Our long term recovery group has been doing a great job. That’s all of our volunteer agencies that are still here. They’re still working on a daily bases to get these people back to some type of normalcy,” Krein said.

However, he said there are still many more families in lower income communities who need help.

“We still see damage in the Utica Mill area. People still needing help. In the city of Seneca, there’s areas that are a lot of times in the lower income areas that people didn’t have insurance and those kinds of things, that we’re still trying to help as much as we can,” Krein said.

Through it all, Krein said the county has made great strides, and more work is ahead.

“When you’re looking at the devastation that we received April 13th, it’s hard to say a percentage. We have come so far. We’ve cleared our roads. We’re starting to rebuild, but there are so many things behind the scenes that has to happen for everyone to return to normalcy. And it just doesn’t take a year. It’s going to take multiple years for people to get back to normalcy,” Krein said.

One resident who experienced the storm and its aftermath, is hopeful for the future.

“Even as I talk to people and they ride down and look through, they’re just like it’s so sad and it is, but you know I see growth and it’s coming back and we’re Seneca strong and we’re going to do good,” Amanda Wilson said.

Krein also said crews will start on the waterways project very soon.

If you are in need of recovery effort assistance, contact Oconee County Emergency Services, at (864) 638-4200. Leaders said a number of non-profits, churches, and others within the long-term recovery group are willing to help.

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