After a Flood | Recovery of Important Documents

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This article was written by Fielding Freed, Historic Columbia director of historic house museums, after the 1000-year flood in South Carolina almost two years ago. With the devastation in Houston and the impending arrival of Irma, we think it is very relevant today.

Every time a hurricane approaches the South Carolina coast, residents are reminded to put important papers in a readily accessible, waterproof box to make it easier to grab on the way out the door during an evacuation. Most Columbians who were victims of the recent flood did not have that luxury. For those whose irreplaceable family papers, photographs and artworks were waterlogged, there is a limited amount of time for successful recovery. Even though we are more than two weeks after the flood, if you have waterlogged papers, photographs, or artwork that have not been cared for yet there are a few things you can still do:

  • Freezing can buy you more time. A freezer with a “frost-free” setting can, over months, dry out items (“freeze-drying”), which can be preferable to air drying.
  • If a stack of family photos are stuck together, you can use distilled water to re-wet them then slowly ease them apart for air drying. Soak them in the water if needed.
  • Mold and mildew can be removed if it has already begun to bloom, but do not use chemical cleaners. Mild soap and water will work.
  • Avoid drying wet things in direct sunlight if possible.
  • Use paper towels to blot off excess water. Newspapers can rub ink onto other paper.
  • Un-frame works of art or photos behind glass if wet.
  • Many water-damaged items can be repaired or conserved—do not be too hasty in throwing them away.

One way to think about the situation is that the photographs and papers contain information that we want to preserve. Sometimes we just cannot save the originals. So, even if your family photos or papers were badly damaged, you can still take a digital photo of them which can be digitally corrected and printed later. You can then dispose of the originals, especially if they become a health hazard. No matter where we live in South Carolina, having those important family papers and photographs duplicated electronically and stored safely before a natural disaster is a lesson we can all learn from the floods caused by Hurricane Joaquin.

Beth Bilderback, Visual Materials Archivist at USC’s South Caroliniana Library, assists David Fulmer with dozens of flood water damages renderings drawn by his late father, preservation architect William Fulmer. The South Carolina Chapter of the American Institute of Architects sponsored the salvage of the collection.

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‘1000 Year Flood’ brings Columbia, Mississippi to the aid of Columbia, South Carolina

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For immediate release: October 8, 2015

Two cities that share a name, a historical tie, and a set of classmates, will come full circle this week: sharing relief from natural disaster. The citizens of Columbia, Mississippi have answered the call for aid posted to social media.

The Columbia MS for Columbia SC relief effort is targeted specifically:

1) to assist Columbia SC area hospital operations burdened due to the flood event,and

2) to support Columbia, SC hospital staff and patient families who have been displaced and are in need. Tnovsa is conducting this relief effort with the cooperation of the South Carolina Hospital Association, Palmetto Health, Providence Hospitals, the Dorn VA Medical Center and Moncrief Army Hospital.

Historical Ties

According to the Lamar County Mississippi Genealogy and History Network, Columbia, Mississippi, located in Marion County, was named for Columbia, South Carolina, the city from which many of its early settlers had migrated.  It changed its original name from Lott’s Bluff when it incorporated to Columbia on June 25, 1819, “in memory of a district and town back in South Carolina”.

Columbia SC / Columbia MS Relief Backstory

As New Year’s Eve 2015 neared, Columbia, South Carolina resident Catherine Fleming Bruce saw a post from College classmate Danon Vest Jones, describing the devastation in Columbia, Mississippi after an EF3 tornado left 5 dead and 50 injured a few days before Christmas. Danon was assisting area relief efforts and had turned to social media. In response, Catherine created the Facebook page ‘Columbia SC for Columbia MS: tornado relief’, took to local media to share the news , and challenged residents of the ‘Famously Hot’ City’ to help.

Nine months later, it is Columbia, South Carolina that is in dire need, struck by a massive ‘1000 year’ flood that has taken lives, destroyed homes, and damaged roads and bridges. Flooding that warranted a federal disaster declaration; flooding that is still unfolding.

After a city-wide water shutoff on October 4th and news that hospitals might have to evacuate patients, Bruce returned to the original FB page, inviting the people of Columbia Mississippi to help.

The Columbia, Mississippi response was immediate. In a few days, the plea for help from its new ‘sister city’ had been shared more than 18,000 times. Columbia Strong, the organization that led the tornado relief effort in Mississippi, is making a major commitment. The City of Columbia, Mississippi has declared October 10th and 11th “Days of Giving for Columbia, South Carolina!”, and will collect clean specific relief items and water to meet the drinking and cooking needs of hospitals in the Midlands.

A truck bearing aid from Columbia, Mississippi is set to arrive at the Charles R. Drew Wellness Center, 2101 Walker Solomon Way in Columbia, South Carolina at 2:00 pm on Tuesday, October 13th, welcomed by hospital and local officials.

Jeremy Robbins of Columbia, Mississippi reports: “We have organized relief efforts for our sister city, Columbia, SC. They were among the first to respond to our needs after the December 23rd tornado so unfortunately, in this short time, we shall return the kindness. “

Contact information:

For information about the Columbia, Mississippi relief efforts for Columbia, South Carolina contact Mrs. Danon Vest at 601-906-8483.

For information about the Columbia SC for Columbia MS effort in January 2015, and the current outreach to Columbia, Mississippi for help with flood relief targeting Columbia South Carolina hospitals, contact Catherine Fleming Bruce, 803-521-2057.

For information about the Columbia, Mississippi relief efforts to Columbia, South Carolina Hospitals, contact Regina Brown, Palmetto Health, at 803-296-2961 or via cell 803-237-6548.

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