Savannah Hwy. & Main Road
Despite dire warnings of an impending Armageddon, the lowcountry sustained mild damage in the wake of Hurricane Matthew. Elected officials and media figures made it sound like Matthew was going to be as catastrophic as Hurricane Hugo, which leveled the lowcountry in 1989. When asked about the comparison to Hugo in post-storm coverage by 94.3 FM talkshow host Kelly Golden, Sullivan’s Island Mayor Pat O’Neil responded, “This storm doesn’t even merit comparison with Hugo.”
The pre-storm forecasts called for Category 2 hurricane winds, 8-14 inches of rainfall and devastating storm surge. The actual impact of Matthew was tropical storm force winds (less than 73 miles per hour), 6.5 inches of rain at the airport, and minimal storm surge damage. There was significant flooding in Shadowmoss Plantation and Hickory Farms in West Ashley and Arbor Oaks in Summerville, among other areas. Main Road along the Stono River was shut down due to flooding.
Governor Nikki Haley called for coastal evacuation Wednesday, October 5, more than 48 hours before projected landfall. The South Carolina Highway Patrol successfully reversed the eastbound lanes on I-26 from North Charleston at mile marker 213 to Columbia at mile marker 116. More than 310,000 coastal residents were estimated to have evacuated over a three-day period. The traffic flow toward Columbia moved at the speed limit. Evacuees returning to the coast on Saturday and Sunday were stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic.
Some bright spots from the storm include a great effort by trash and yard waste crews, which limited the exposure to flying debris, a great presence by local law enforcement and the ability of grocery stores and gas stations to resupply and remain open immediately before and after the storm event. There was also great communication by the media, the lowcountry Emergency Operations Center, the Governor’s office, and neighborhood Facebook groups letting people know about services were available and which stores were open. Neighbors helped neighbors.
Charleston County offices were shut down Monday, October 10, meaning that storm debris pickup will be delayed by one day. A scheduled Tuesday yard waste pickup will be delayed until Wednesday, for example. The Charleston County citizen information hotline number is 843-746-3900. In Dorchester County, the hotline number is 843-832-0393, and in Berkeley County, it is 843-719-4800. For the tens of thousands of lowcountry residents who are still without electrical power, the SCE & G number is 888-333-4465 and the Santee-Cooper Electrical Co-orperative number is 888-769-7688.
After we fully recover from the effects of Matthew, we must put pressure on our local governments to come up with a preventative maintenance plan for our drainage system and design engineering plans to improve drainage. We also must stop building residential and commercial developments in the wetlands, which is causing massive property damage due to stormwater runoff.