Hurricane Matthew has passed, but the danger for Beaufort County residents still working to clean up yards and property hasn’t.
Homeowners who returned to a mess after the storm are armed with chainsaws, moving large piles of debris and climbing ladders.
There have been no known deaths related to storm cleanup, Beaufort County Deputy Coroner David Ott said Wednesday. But people have been hurt.
Coastal Carolina Hospital in Hardeeville has seen about 20 to 25 patients with storm-related injuries since the evacuation order was lifted for Beaufort and Jasper counties on Oct. 9, hospital spokeswoman Carolyn Grant said. The mishaps include broken bones, cuts from branches, falls from ladders and similar injuries, she said.
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An estimated two dozen people have been treated at Hilton Head Hospital for storm-related injuries since the evacuation order was lifted, spokeswoman Lydia Hill said.
In northern Beaufort County, according to fire officials:
▪ A Shell Point man was critically injured after a tree fell on him while he was cutting it. He was taken to Beaufort Memorial Hospital. Attempts to determine the man’s identity and condition were unsuccessful Wednesday.
▪ A Shell Point family of five was hospitalized after being overcome by carbon monoxide due to exhaust from a generator. A window had been cracked for the power cord. Attempts to determine the family’s identity and condition were unsuccessful Wednesday.
▪ A person fell from a ladder last week after inspecting the roof with an insurance adjuster.
▪ Someone tripped and fell in a driveway while cleaning debris.
Beaufort Memorial Hospital has seen “very few” patients with serious storm-related injuries, emergency services director Kevin Kremer said through a hospital spokeswoman. Kremer said he believes people are heeding public service announcements related to safety.
While there haven’t been many people admitted with major injuries, Beaufort Memorial Hospital doctors have seen eye injuries from debris, people hurt while burning trash and people bitten by dogs they were keeping for friends, hospital spokeswoman Courtney McDermott said.
The continued cleanup comes with safety warnings.
Dr. Jane Kokinakis, an ophthalmologist with Beaufort Eye Center, said earlier this month she was concerned people would injure their eyes during the storm cleanup. She urged the use of safety glasses that meet federal standards.
For many who didn’t hire professional help, using a chainsaw might be unfamiliar — and potentially dangerous — territory.
“That’s the scary part right there — people who don’t use it on a regular basis,” said Jerry Ashmore, director of safety and workforce development for The Greenery, which serves Beaufort and Jasper counties. “... If you don’t know how to use a chainsaw, I would leave that to a professional.”
Ashmore said he saw a man standing on a log while operating a chainsaw above his head.
For those using chainsaws, Ashmore recommends ear and eye protection, chaps to protect your legs and steel-toed boots. Don’t reach above your head or out with the saw, and make sure the area is clear of other people and pets, and that both feet are on the ground, he said.
Broken trees and branches that have not fallen will remain a safety issue.
Ashmore, who is also a Port Royal town councilman, said The Greenery was working on trees next to the town’s Police Department near the Cypress Wetlands and had the area cordoned off by yellow tape. A pair of joggers ran through the work zone, lifting the yellow tape to pass underneath.
Federal work safety officials have been in the area ensuring rules are being followed and passing out personal protective equipment, Ashmore said.
The Greenery employees have been told to watch out for live power lines, fire hydrants, water mains, snakes, alligators and other dangerous pests when moving debris piles.
“Just be aware of your surroundings,” Ashmore said. “We’ve got a long way to go, a lot of cleanup to do. People are tired; people are fatigued.
“Stay hydrated, stay focused and stay steady.”