Olivia Aldridge

Reporter/Producer

Olivia Aldridge is a reporter for South Carolina Public Radio, and has previously reported on recovery from weather disasters in the state, including the floods of 2015 and Hurricane Matthew.

Although a Georgia native, Olivia graduated from Presbyterian College in Clinton, SC with a Bachelor of Arts in English and Creative Writing. As an undergraduate, Olivia worked in print media as the editor of her college newspaper and a reporting intern for Street Sense newspaper in Washington, D.C. She also worked as an oral historian for the Textile Mill Memory Project, a Mellon Grant-funded project preserving the history of rural SC’s textile mills.

Olivia began at SC Public Radio as an intern in 2016, when she founded the ongoing program Narrative.

Ways to Connect

Members of Lexington County Public Safety and EMS. From left to right: Michael Collado, Micah Norman, David Kerr, and Rollie Reynolds.
Clayton Sears/SC Public Radio

South Carolina, like many states, draws attention to its rising annual traffic fatalities with sobering light-up signs on the interstate, reminding commuters to be conscientious on the road. Roadway fatalities are an issue in any state, and are certainly a topic of concern in South Carolina. As of 2016, South Carolina led the nation in traffic fatalities with 1.88 per 100 million miles travelled.

Danny Flores (left) and fellow Community Leadership Corps participants took part in training exercises with the Obama Foundation at the Richland Library earlier this month.
Olivia Aldridge/SC Public Radio

On Saturday, June 16, around 50 young adults, ages 18 to 25, gathered in the Richland Main Library in Columbia. All of them, in some capacity, were activists, hoping to gain the skills to influence change in their own communities with the training of the Obama Foundation as members of its newly minted Community Leadership Corps, or CLC.

Governor Henry McMaster and businessman John Warren (left) debating on June 21 at the Newberry Opera House.
SCETV

The two remaining Republican gubernatorial candidates faced off Wednesday, June 21 at the Newberry Opera House for a debate co-sponsored by SCETV and the Post and Courier. Governor Henry McMaster and businessman John Warren positioned themselves as the experienced politician and the political outsider throughout the night as the top vote earners from June 12’s primary sparred over healthcare, education and statehouse corruption.

The first annual Lizardman Festival and Comic Con was  held June 8-10 at the S.C. Cotton Museum in Bishopville.
Olivia Aldridge/SC Public Radio

The tale goes something like this: a young man gets a flat tire late one night in 1988 while driving near Scape Ore Swamp, and gets out of his car to change it. Then, from the shadows emerges a creature that’s green, wet, seven feet tall, with three fingers, red eyes and scales. As the young man scrambles to drive away, the creature viciously attacks his car.

Two Eastern Box Turtles cross the road.
Chesapeake Bay Program / Flickr

Now that summer is approaching, it’s a common occurrence to see turtles crawling across roadways in South Carolina (and many other states). Ever wondered why that is? In honor of World Turtle Day, I spoke with Cris Hagen, Director of Animal Management at the Turtle Survival Center, a program of the Turtle Survival Alliance, in Charleston.

Maj. Gen. Charles F. Bolden at the University of South Carolina's Thomas Cooper Library. Gen. Bolden has donated his personal archives of papers, personal items and professional artifacts for curation by the University's Caroliniana Library.
Olivia Aldridge/SC Public Radio

Students from three local Columbia high schools got a rare opportunity Monday—to see real life astronaut and former NASA Administrator Major General Charles F. Bolden Jr. speak about space, science, and the future. For Bolden, who hosted the talk at the University of South Carolina’s Thomas Cooper Library in honor of the gift of his personal archives to the university, it was also an opportunity—to share his journey with students of his own alma mater, C.A Johnson High School.

The 2018 National Health Security Preparedness Index was released in April. A program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the index gauges each state's response to emergent situations affecting public health.
nhspi.org

It’s that time again. Spring is in full swing, and so are preparations for the upcoming Atlantic hurricane season. The National Weather Service is preparing to recognize National Hurricane Preparedness Week in early May, and will partner with the state’s Emergency Management Division to sponsor South Carolina Hurricane Preparedness week beginning May 27.

The new Four Paws Animal Clinic recently opened a few blocks from its former location after more than two years of operations in a temporary building while it recovered from the 2015 flood and sought the right place for its new home.
Tut Underwood/SC Public Radio

For some, the so-called “thousand-year rain” and the floods that followed it in October 2015 may seem an event long past, but many are still recovering from the storm’s devastation.  For some businesses in Richland County, the after effects of the floods continue to pose particular difficulties. Take the Four Paws Animal Clinic, which was forced to operate out of a temporary location for more than two years after the flood, when the business' original building bordering Gills Creek was ruined.

The stage at the eighth annual River Rocks Music Festival. Damages caused by the floods of 2015 forced the festival to relocate from its usual location at Riverfront Park.
Laura Hunsberger/SC Public Radio

On a sunny patch of open space along the Congaree River in Columbia, the eighth annual River Rocks Festival brought hundreds of residents out last weekend to enjoy the spring weather and learn about the conservation efforts of the region’s Congaree Riverkeeper and their partners. In between acts, a man took the stage to pump up the crowd.

The South Carolina Disaster Recovery Office provides home repairs and replacements to victims of the 2015 floods and Hurricane Matthew.
SCDRO

For the past few years, we've brought you a lot of stories about recovery from the 2015 floods and Hurricane Matthew. Many people across the state might be wondering "isn't this recovery taking a long time?" As JR Sanderson, Program Director for the South Carolina Disaster Recovery Office, explains, the answer is yes—and no. 

The landscape of Sesquicentennial State Park was permanently altered by the floods of 2015. Pictured here is standing water that remains from the event.
Olivia Aldridge/SC Public Radio

Between the autumns of 2015 and 2017, 47 of South Carolina’s state parks experienced temporary closures due to damages sustained during severe weather events, including the Floods of 2015, Hurricane Matthew, Hurricane Irma and the Pinnacle Mountain Wildfire at Table Rock State Park. February marked an important milestone: for the first time since the fall of 2015, every affected park was reopened.

Meteorologist John Quagliariello of the National Weather Service encouraged preparedness for tornadoes, floods and other severe weather at a press conference on Tuesday, March 6, 2018.
Olivia Aldridge/SC Public Radio

According to an official proclamation from Governor Henry McMaster, this week is Severe Weather and Flood Safety Awareness Week in South Carolina. It’s an occasion intended to encourage South Carolinians to prepare for potential severe weather scenarios.  

Hurricane Katrina, August 28, 2005.
NOAA

Back in January, a diverse group of Midlands community members congregated at the United Way of the Midlands. Among the 20 or so assembled guests were lawyers, businesspeople, nonprofit staffers, and a vet. What they held in common was their shared action after a terrible natural disaster 12 years ago, when Hurricane Katrina battered the gulf coast.

Jeremy Cannon of Cannon Ag Products is one of many farmers who is still recovering from the flood of October 2015 and Hurricane Matthew in 2016.
Olivia Aldridge/SC Public Radio

In September 2015, many farmers in South Carolina were looking forward to a promising harvest. The drought that began in 2014 had subsided in time for at least one crop to flourish remarkably well: by the time October rolled in, full, glistening fields of white cotton spread through rural South Carolina, just shy of ready for harvest. It seemed that farmers would see a rich reward for the stress of the long, dry months that preceded.

The Inclement Weather Center is located at 191 Calhoun Street, and opens on winter nights that are forecasted at 40 degrees or below.
Olivia Aldridge/SC Public Radio

Winter is an especially difficult time of year for unhoused South Carolinians. As temperatures dip below freezing throughout the season, the threat of hypothermia is ever-present. That’s why several nonprofits in the Midlands have forged together each winter since 2014 to sponsor Columbia’s Inclement Weather Center (IWC), open from November 1 to March 31 on nights when the temperature is 40 degrees or below.

A satellite view of Hurricane irma on September 5, 2017.
NOAA

Last month, the 2017 Atlantic Hurricane season finally came to a close. From June 1 to Nov. 30, South Carolinians were encouraged by SCEMD and other state agencies to be on high alert, especially after the severe storm impacts the state received during the 2015 and 2016 seasons. Now that hurricane season has wrapped up, we called on John Qualiariello, a Columbia-based meteorologist for the National Weather Service, to reflect.

Mayor Steve Benjamin of Columbia commemorated his city's commitment to the Sierra Club's Ready for 100 Campaign in May.
Thelisha Eaddy/SC Public Radio.

Since President Trump announced the U.S. would exit the Paris Climate Agreement back in June, redoubled support for the agreement has come from the local level, with mayors from around the nation pledging their cities' support for the Agreement.

Richland County meteorologist Ken Aucoin checks the weather several times daily to give accurate reports to county emergency managers.
Tut Underwood/SC Public Radio

Weather is constantly monitored in South Carolina by meteorologists for TV stations and the National Weather Service. But to keep people informed of—and protected from—threatening weather, Richland County has a unique advantage as the only county in the state, and perhaps one of few in the nation, to have its own meteorologist. Ken Aucoin is both the county’s meteorologist and an emergency manager, thus making the county uniquely positioned to respond quickly to bad weather.

Watching the Winds

Lou Alice James is the 200th homeowner to receive assistance from the Midlands Flood Recovery Group. Here, she clings to the one family heirloom that survived the mold, a crystal candlestick.
Olivia Aldridge/SC Public Radio

Early this month, South Carolina reached the 2-year anniversary of the devastating October 2015 rain event, offering a natural opportunity to pause and observe the many tragedies that the widespread flooding wrought, and the many triumphs of recovery that have followed. The Midlands Flood Recovery Group, for its part, celebrated a significant milestone in its flood recovery narrative this month: the 200th home repaired by the group and the gift of a restored home for one resilient flood survivor.

Instructors and presenters from Richland County's Flood Ready Seniors event. From left to right: Ben Marosites, Natasha Lemon, Winta Adams, and Sharon Long.
Olivia Aldridge/SC Public Radio

If the past two years have taught South Carolinians anything, it’s that disasters are never out of the question, especially during hurricane season. County officials across the state have placed emphasis throughout 2017’s hurricane season on preparing the public for weather-related emergencies, putting their experience responding to the historic flood of 2015 and Hurricane Matthew in 2016 to good use.

Clemson researchers are studying the role wetlands have in exporting carbon during floods and severe weather events. Shown here are wetlands of the Hobcaw Barony, home to Clemson's Belle W. Baruch Institute.
Dr. Bob Pohlad of Ferrum College via Flickr

It's no secret that access to drinking water can be limited during severe weather events. But what about the days and weeks that follow? According to research from Clemson's Belle W. Baruch Institute of Coastal Ecology and Forest Science, water can still be unsafe weeks after residents' access to water has been restored.

Flooded dunes on Sullivan's Island before Hurricane Irma hit the Carolina coast.
Victoria Hansen/SC Public Radio

Tourists are attracted to Charleston not just for its history, but also for its beautiful ocean views and beach access. But the ocean’s rising levels also pose a major threat to coastal cities like Charleston, especially when they combine with large rain events like the hurricanes the city has weathered over past years. Since 2014, Charleston’s streets have been flooded consistently more often, from 11 days in 2014, to 38 days in 2015 and 50 days in 2016. 

This sign, erected by Clemson's Belle W. Baruch Institute, marks a plot that was originally a research environment for trees affected by Hurricane Hugo. In October 2016 the plot was affected by Hurricane Matthew as well.
Olivia Aldridge/SC Public Radio

The Hobcaw Barony in Georgetown, South Carolina is a rare place. Situated between the Winyah Bay estuary and the Atlantic Ocean, the property contains both freshwater habitats and salt marshes, interspersed with loblolly and longleaf pine forests. The variable ecosystems that Hobcaw supports make it the ideal site for university research centers such as Clemson University’s Belle W. Baruch Institute of Coastal Ecology and Forest Science.

From left to right: Dr. Clayton Copeland, Dr. Robert Dawson and Dr. David Leach.
Olivia Aldridge/SC Public Radio

At the University of South Carolina, three faculty researchers have formed an unexpected research partnership in response to the Thousand-Year-Flood. Soon after the historic October 2015 rain event, a Dr. Clayton Copeland of the School of Library Science approached two of her colleagues from the School of Medicine’s Rehabilitation Counseling Program and proposed a joint study of disabled individuals’ experiences in relation to the flood.

The South Carolina Disaster Recovery Office logo.
SCDRO

Nearly two years after the historic October 2015 storm, many low-income homeowners are finally receiving assistance to repair their flood-damaged homes with the help of The South Carolina Disaster Recovery Office, or SCDRO. SCDRO announced in a press release last week that it closed its application intake period for the October 2015 Severe Storm Program at the end of April—capping off at 3,755 completed applications—and has moved forward with home repairs and replacements for eligible applicants. 

SC Safe Home Director Ann Roberson distributes information on storm readiness at the Bluffton Storm Ready Expo
Haley Kellner/SC Public Radio

Many homeowners near South Carolina’s coast were left to deal with significant property damage in the wake of Hurricane Matthew. Now, early in 2017’s hurricane season, which began in June and runs through November, there are options for coastal South Carolinians who want to prepare for storm damage. One of them is the South Carolina Safe Home Program, a grant program operated by the South Carolina Department of Insurance to help offset the cost of home alterations that mitigate storm-related damages.

Troubles caused by the historic flood of October 2015 were accompanied by one tiny bright spot: the flood temporarily refilled the state's groundwater supplies, which had been in decline through years of drought since the 1990s.
Courtesy of Nichols resident Courtney Wilds

For many who experienced the destruction of South Carolina’s October 2015 flood, it’s perhaps difficult to imagine that the state was plagued by a drought prior to the historic rain event. Despite the monumental devastation wrought by the flood, hydrologists who study the state’s aquifers, or the state’s usable groundwater resources, have observed a faint silver lining.

SC Department of Insurance Director Ray Farmer stand on stage speaking into a microphone, welcoming the crowd.
Haley Kellner/SC Public Radio

On Saturday, June 10, a bustling crowd of Beaufort County homeowners and their families assembled under a tent outside the Home Depot in Bluffton for the city’s second annual Storm Ready Expo. Hosted by the South Carolina Department of Insurance, the Expo was intended to encourage inclement weather preparedness at the beginning of hurricane season, which began June 1 and continues through the end of November.

When Highfill assisted in volunteer efforts to aid flood recovery in rural Williamsburg county, he and other volunteers coordinated with county officials to provide water, food, and sanitation kits to flood victims.
Credit: Charles Highfill.

Charles Highfill has long been an avid HAM radio operator, and has assisted in volunteer emergency weather response in that role for many years. During the flood of October 2015, Charles assisted in water rescues and in communicating road safety conditions to state agencies. Several weeks after the flood, he helped to coordinate assistance for flood victims in rural Williamsburg County. Ironically, Charles himself has received little help since his home was condemned due to flood damage.

Harriet Mealing is planning to move into a house soon, but is waiting until she has the financial ability to furnish it with appliances.
Olivia Aldridge/SC Public Radio

Harriet Mealing's trailer home was severely damaged by the flood. Ceilings caved in, holes opened in the floor and mold and mildew ruined most of Harriet's belongings. She sought help from a myriad of flood recovery organizations, but received very little assistance, and she received no financial support from FEMA. Over a year later, Harriet is still living in the same situation, resigned to Clorox her home every week to keep the mold at bay. 

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