After the Storm

Continued from Water, Water Everywhere…

The next morning we awoke to a beautiful day and to find that we had to hit the road once again.  Although we had been lucky to book a room in Pinehurst the night before, other hurricane evacuees had pretty much booked the entire town for the next few nights.  As a result, we were off to Charlotte and further west.

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After our night in Charlotte, we were once again faced with a decision – stall another day to see if we might be able to make it back to the coast and salvaged the rest of our vacation or begin the long drive home.  We opted to drive down to Columbia, South Carolina – a non-committal approach to our dilemma as we could still go either direction – east to the coast or west to home.  All during the previous day and the next, we scanned the news for some indication of what was going on on the coast.  We knew things had been worse further south, down towards Hilton Head Island, but we were staying north of Charleston and had hope things would open back earlier.

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Charlotte bound

We’d spoken to Mr. Herbie, the owner of the house we’ve rented for years.  Mr. Herbie was a lifelong resident of Georgetown, South Carolina and he’d actually ridden out Hurricane Hugo.  He indicated that the owners of the island homes had been allowed back to assess the damage.  Luckily, it was minor and Mr. Herbie had already started the clean up on his house.  Based on this information, we left Columbia and headed towards Charleston – finally a commitment to our course – we were headed east, back to the coast.

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Charleston lunch view

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We had lunch at our favorite spot in Charleston and decided to ride around to see how the city had fared.  It was amazing how fast things had gotten back to normal.  The flooding from storm surge had receded from the area around the Battery and there were neatly swept piles of debris, mostly palm fronts and limbs, but otherwise you couldn’t tell anything had happened. After our drive around, we headed across the Ravenel Bridge, on our way north, up the coast to Georgetown and Pawleys Island.

The island was still not open to the public, so we spent another night in a hotel, but at least we were less than a mile away.  The next morning we awoke to the good news – we could return to the island via the north causeway.  As we drove across, everyone was busy with clean up.  Mr. Herbie was at the house and had pulled all the items from the storage area underneath the house out to dry.  There were yard crews raking and blowing debris to the street edge – it was a hive of activity.

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Drying out
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Debris clean up on the island
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Replacing screens on the porch

We headed inside and I immediately went to the ocean side porch.  I was completely shocked by the different in landscape.  All the sand dunes were gone and the ocean seemed much, much closer to the house.  Up and down the beach were dangling and mangled decks, boardwalks, and back porch screens.  The beach itself was wider and packed solid.  Stairs that once led down to the sand were now shorten by anywhere from 5 to 10 steps due to the sand from the destroyed dunes being redistributed.  It was as if a giant vacuum had come in and sucked up everything.

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View before
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Same view after
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Before
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After

Despite that, Mr. Herbie’s beach deck and walkway were still there.  The walk down to the beach no longer required any stairs to make it down from the dunes.  It’s a good thing as they were gone.  Even with all the changes, it felt wonderful to be back and to see that Pawleys had survived with minimum damage.

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The power of water

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I have never been one to take the weather lightly, but this particular experience taught me the incredible power of even a relatively mild storm.  I cannot imagine what it would be like if a major hurricane like Hugo were to revisit these shores.  Here’s hoping it doesn’t happen…

…at least this fall….as we are headed back.  🙂

All photos by the author.

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