Mostly empty school buses cost South Carolina $1M in Matthew

AP News
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Posted: Oct 26, 2016 4:48 PM

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — South Carolina spent nearly $1 million sending 300 school buses to Charleston County on the coast during Hurricane Matthew to evacuate residents, but only 24 of the buses were used, state education records show.

And the only people who rode the buses to inland shelters were residents of a nursing home, according to information from the state Education Department obtained by The Greenville News (http://grnol.co/2dLmW0L).

Fuel for the buses, meals and hotels for the drivers and bus aides, the cost of a team from the state Forestry Commission and other expenses totaled $954,779. State officials said they think federal disaster money should repay much of that cost.

Some residents did go to North Charleston to get on the buses, but were directed to local shelters instead because of a rule that stated the buses couldn't be used until nearby shelters were at least half full.

Gov. Nikki Haley touted the buses for a few days after ordering evacuations along the coast as the hurricane threatened. Her spokeswoman, Chaney Adams, said she was relying on county information and the program will now be reviewed.

"When local requests for assistance come in, as the state prepares for a storm, we listen to the needs of local officials," Adams said. "In the aftermath of a storm, state officials always consider what worked and what didn't, and that informs what can be handled better during the next state of emergency."

Hurricane Matthew killed five people in South Carolina, all connected to inland flooding from heavy rains. The storm killed 42 people in the U.S., over half of them in North Carolina, and more than 500 people in Haiti.

Hurricane Matthew was a Category 4 storm when the governor ordered evacuations, and officials had to take into account the possibility of a direct hit without any weakening, Education Department spokesman Ryan Brown said.

"It would have been a much worse situation had we been hit with a massive hurricane and not had enough buses there," Brown said.