Work, brains and heart: Protecting the Waccamaw
As I sit here, it’s been almost three weeks since Hurricane Matthew came through the Pee Dee and the Grand Strand. It’s my third weekend working. It’s a lot of Santee Cooper employees’ third weekend working.
Obviously, our first step was getting the power back on after the hurricane. Linemen were out almost the entire time, except for the small window when the winds were too high. You know something I never thought about before I came to Santee Cooper? Every time your power comes back on it’s because there is someone out in the storm turning it on. Every time.
Then, the flood started moving in. At headquarters, engineers were focusing on the best way to secure the old Grainger site’s Ash Pond 2, where 13 percent remains of the ash that was once onsite. In addition to work they’d been doing for days already, they came up with an Aquadam, which put enough height on the dike on that pond that it wasn’t flooded by the rising Waccamaw River.
But the work! Employees and contractors were out there filling each section with water all along the one mile of dike. Others laid more than 7,300 feet of containment boom around the ponds and pumped water into the ponds to equalize the dikes. Still others monitored river levels, inspected the dikes and evaluated our operation. And they did it while spending time away from their families. All of our employees have stories. In my mind, though, it was the employee who is a mom with a 5-month-old daughter, who was still breastfeeding, who made the most impressive sacrifice.
And the brains! There were constant calculations as we filled the ponds, making sure we stayed within inches to feet of the river height at all times. We’re now doing that in reverse and pumping water out of the ponds in order to continue to equalize pressure on both sides of the dikes. The water samples and knowledge of the river and its ecosystems all come in to play. Engineers came up with solutions like silt fencing and silt curtains as extra protections for the Waccamaw River, just in case.
And the heart. All of our employees are doing this to protect the community they love and help the company that is their extended family. At least one employee lost everything in the flood but was here working. People would come back from spending the entire day on the river with a smile on their face and a joke coming out of their mouth. They miss their families, but they know they’re doing important work.
So I guess three weeks doesn’t seem that long at all, when you’re surrounded by such amazing people.