Aiken seeks 'major disaster' declaration from FEMA, President Obama

News 12 at 6 o'clock / Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2014

AIKEN, S.C. (WRDW) -- Molley Gray has lived in Aiken for 51 years, but she's never seen it like this.

"We've all thought about maybe a World War III and hoped it would never happen, but that's the first thing that came to my mind,” she says.

On Tuesday morning, she took pictures along Berrie Road to send to her grandson. To street is lined with huge piles of vegetative debris.

"Well, more than trees, I think it's the way it affected all of us in our hearts to see this much devastation,” she says.

"It's heartbreaking. We have a very significant amount of damage in Aiken. We're going to pull through. It's going to take a lot of work,” adds Aiken City Manager Richard Pearce.

Pearce and many other city employees have been working non-stop. City landmarks like the Rye Patch and Hopeland Gardens remain closed for clean-up. Nearby, Hitchcock Woods remains closed for at least the rest of this week as trails are cleared.

The city has cleaned up South Boundary Avenue. Despite pile after pile of limbs, the iconic 100-year-old oaks remain intact, but other trees will have to be replaced.

"We're awaiting word from the President,” says Pearce. “We certainly have state funds that we would access as well."

Pearce says he hopes President Barack Obama will allow FEMA to declare the area a “major disaster” area, which would free up more federal money to pay for a lot of the clean-up, overtime of his workers, and the cost replanting.
Downtown, streets once lined with shade trees are now marked with stumps and fractured branches, some still hanging in power lines.

"The tree workers call that a hanger, and we have a lot of hangers through the city. That's a very dangerous condition, because we don't know when the limb stuck up in a tree is going to decide to let gravity take over,” says Pearce.

Pearce says, despite the damage, Aiken will survive and regrow.

To learn more about helping trees recover after an ice storm, click here.

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