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Rising Cost of Rising Water Webinar Series

South Carolina

Flooded road and bridge in South Carolina, with water rising to the roof of a motel.
Hurricane flooding Flooding in Mullins, S.C., after Hurricane Florence. © South Carolina National Guard

Our waters are rising, and we’re paying the price.

Every year from 2015 to 2019, heavy rain events and coastal storms decimated South Carolina homes, businesses, schools and hospitals. Storm surge pushed salt into our drinking water. Drowned treatment plants spilled raw sewage into our rivers. South Carolinians were forced out of their homes ahead of flash floods and swollen rivers.

We can’t continue business as usual. In the face of higher tides, more intense rain events and a changing climate, we must reduce risks and strengthen our communities. We can tackle this challenge. We can become more resilient and build a more prosperous future.

From August through December 2020, The Nature Conservancy held a three-part webinar series offering a range of perspectives on the rising cost of rising water and solutions to help our homes and businesses. Each of the three panels featured SC-ETV Public Affairs Reporter Gavin Jackson as moderator, with a special welcome by Nature Conservancy South Carolina Executive Director Dale Threatt-Taylor. Speakers included:

  • U.S. Representative Tom Rice (SC-7)
  • Col. (Ret.) Frank McClary, Mayor of Andrews, S.C.
  • Adam Emrick, City Administrator for Conway, S.C.
  • Fred Malik, Managing Director of Fortified Products, Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety
  • Ray Farmer, Director, South Carolina Department of Insurance
  • Frank Nutter, President, Reinsurance Association of America
  • Raghuveer Vinukollu, Senior Vice President/Natural Disaster Solutions Lead, Munich Re
  • Pamela Williams, Executive Director, BuildStrong Coalition
  • Kim Stenson, Director, South Carolina Emergency Management Division

Part 1: Can South Carolina Afford the Next Storm?

August 2020

The cost of natural disasters is increasing dramatically. How will South Carolina pay for a future of more frequent, intense flooding and storms? Featured panelists included Kim Stenson, director of the South Carolina Emergency Management Division, and Pamela Williams, executive director of BuildStrong Coalition. Moderated by Gavin Jackson, public affairs reporter for South Carolina ETV, with a special welcome from Dale Threatt-Taylor, executive director of The Nature Conservancy in South Carolina.

Missed it, or want to listen again? Watch the video below!

This first webisode drew 80+ attendees from the insurance, engineering, real estate and financial sectors.

The Rising Cost of Rising Water Listen to our panelists discuss the future of South Carolina in preparation for increasingly intense natural disasters.


“Don’t build in vulnerable areas … If we continue to build in floodplains and places that are probably going to be impacted by disasters, then we’re going to continue to have problems… We’ve got to change the culture [and] there’s a lot of different issues involved with that.”
Kim Stenson, Director, SC Emergency Management Division

“Unlike repairing something that has been impacted by a disaster, if we make it stronger, we’re avoiding future damage. That’s huge. That’s a smart investment, so we need to be driving federal investments in ways that are cost effective and risk reducing.”
Pamela Williams, Executive Director, BuildStrong Coalition

Part 2: Can Insurance Keep Up?

October 2020

From hurricanes to megafires, the rising cost of natural disasters is all over the news. Can insurance keep up, without bankrupting their rate payers or themselves?

Featured panelists included Ray Farmer, director of the South Carolina Department of Insurance; Frank Nutter, president of the Reinsurance Association of America; and Raghuveer Vinukollu, senior vice president and natural catastrophe solutions lead for Munich Re. Gavin Jackson, public affairs reporter for SC – ETV, returned as event moderator.

Missed it, or want to listen again? Watch the video below!

Attendees from across South Carolina logged on, representing the insurance, engineering, and finance sectors along with federal legislative staff, state and local leaders, state agencies, and emergency management professionals.

The Rising Cost of Rising Water: Part 2 Our panelists discuss the role of insurance in preparing for and responding to natural disasters.


“If it rains at your house […] it could flood.” 
—Director Ray Farmer, SC Department of Insurance

“[There] needs to be a paradigm shift, if you will, in thinking and exploration of the way to solve the problem of climate change in the context of providing financial resources to communities, governmental entities, as well as individuals.”
—Mr. Frank Nutter, President, Reinsurance Association of America

“We also need to think about nature-based solutions. That’s very important. Natural infrastructure is a way to reduce losses. There is a study by The Nature Conservancy and others saying that for Superstorm Sandy the amount of protection the coastal wetlands provided amounted to almost $625 million.” 
Dr. Raghuveer Vinukollu, Senior Vice President and Natural Catastrophe Solutions Lead, Munich Re

Insurers are beginning to change their approach… [The National Association of Insurance Commissioners] has established a special committee on climate and resiliency… They’ll be looking at insurers’ use of modeling: how insurers and reinsurers use modeling, how rating agencies incorporate climate risk into their analysis of governments and how strong a company is. They’ll also have an investigation in development of climate-related stress testing and scenario modeling. What is the worst-case scenario? Can your company withstand such a thing?”
—Director Ray Farmer, SC Department of Insurance

Part 3: Investing in Solutions

December 2020  

The final webisode in our three-part series examining the rising cost of rising water, aired with introductory remarks by U.S. Congressman Tom Rice, whose seventh district of South Carolina has been particularly hard-hit by storms and flash floods. More than 70 people tuned in from state, county, and local government; congressional offices; and construction, emergency response, insurance, and engineering sectors. 

Missed it, or want to listen again? Watch the video below!


The Rising Cost of Rising Water: Part 3 Our panelists discuss the topic of investing in solutions.


…In three of five years when we were hit by a hurricane, I had to learn an awful lot about disaster recovery in a short period of time. Unfortunately, the people who were most effected by the disaster were people who couldn't afford to be. So, I spent an awful lot of time in communities that were in poverty, that had nothing to begin with, and had the little that they did have taken away from them by flood waters.” —U.S. Congressman Tom Rice

There's money available coming through, but it's not fast enough. It can't keep up with the damages. So, we're still living with that today. So, what we have done here, again, partnering with the county and now with The Nature Conservancy, is look for some solutions… Now that we know what the problems are [from a stormwater study], we're in a position now to receive the funding wherever it comes from. We have maps to fix this thing. So we're ready to go.” —Col. (Ret.) Frank McClary, Mayor of Andrews, S.C.

After 2016 when Hurricane Matthew hit, we realized that the flood of 2015 the year before was not an aberration. It was the norm, and we needed to start treating it like that.”

“We also changed the mindset of the city of Conway. We know we will flood. So how do we become a city that floods and it becomes an inconvenience not a disaster?”

—Adam Emrick, City Administrator for Conway, S.C.

A key concern of our membership, who happen to be property insurers and re-insurers, is dealing with climate adaptation. I guess that's sort of the underlying trend here, is what's happening? The environment is changing. We are starting to see hazards like flood, wind, wind-driven rain, fire and hail being a part or accompanying these slow-moving, grinding storms. These storms that park over our communities and really expose our built environment, our homes and our commercial buildings to fatigue.” Fred Malik, Managing Director of Fortified Products, Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety