South Carolina was the hardest hit of all the Atlantic coastal states affected by the massive storm system that was exacerbated by Hurricane Joaquin. Massive flooding took the lives of 19 South Carolinians and 6 others, demolished homes and buildings, turned roads into rivers, left over 30,000 without power, felled trees, and inflicted at least $1 billion in property damage. For Dixieland, the so-called October 2015 North American Storm Complex — there is not even a memorable name for it — is another Hugo (1989) or a milder (but still devastating) version of Hurricane Katrina (2005) or Sandy (2012).
Fewer than one out of ten homeowners in the state have flood insurance: the road ahead will be difficult if not impossible for many. Elected officials representing South Carolina have a poor track record of readying the state for a litany of climate change impacts predicted for the Southeastern US. Even Senator Lindsey Graham [R-SC], who has charmed environmental groups of late with sweet talk about the need for sensible policies to deal with climate change, and set himself apart from fellow Republicans who play the climate denial game, backtracked on passage of national climate change legislation at a critical moment in 2010, and again in 2012, when he voted to deny federal disaster relief for victims of Hurricane Sandy. South Carolina is poorly prepared for a climate disrupted future, its leaders at every level of government have thus far shirked their responsibility to help protect their constituents from climate risks, and now, the state is feeling the sting of an extreme weather event. Will lessons be learned, and new, improved leadership emerge from the floodwaters?