Restricted access to Fripp and Harbor Islands has been lifted, the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office announced in a Tuesday afternoon Nixle, but the Sheriff’s Office is deferring to the two private islands’ property owners associations as to whether residents should return.
South Carolina Department of Transportation repaired damage sustained in Tropical Storm Irma to the U.S. 21 Bridge near Harbor River and re-opened it to traffic at 2 p.m. Tuesday.
However, Fripp Island general manager Kate Heins recommended residents wait until the end of the week to return to Fripp to allow the public service district more time.
“We would not turn owners away but we would strongly recommend waiting,” she said. “You can’t flush your toilets. The more people using it, the more overwhelmed the system becomes.”
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Harbor Island owners association manager Don Woelke said power is on, and even though water and sewer have yet to be restored, the POA did not have an official recommendation for residents waffling on whether to return or wait a few days.
“We’ll leave that up to the residents,” Woelke said.
South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster issued an evacuation order for three counties’ barrier islands Friday evening that took effect at 10 a.m. Saturday. For Beaufort County, the order applied to Hilton Head Island, Fripp Island, Hunting Island, Harbor Island and Daufuskie Island. He lifted the evacaution order via Twitter on 9:15 a.m. Tuesday.
By Tuesday at 9:30 a.m., Beaufort County’s traffic cameras showed cars moving over the bridge onto Hilton Head Island.
Hilton Head Mayor David Bennett wrote “Come on Home!” in a newsletter sent to residents at 9:54 a.m. Hilton Head Hospital’s emergency room re-opened at 10 a.m., the newsletter said.
At McMaster’s press conference, the governor reported two Irma-related fatalities.
▪ The first was a 57-year-old Charles Saxton of Calhoun Falls in Abbeville County who was hit by a tree limb.
▪ Zhen Tain, 21, died Monday in a traffic collision on I-77 near Columbia that S.C. Public Safety director Leroy Smith attributed to storm conditions. Smith said Tain was driving too fast, lost control of his car, sideswiped another vehicle, hit a guard rail and then overturned.
The State newspaper reported on two other storm-related fatalities.
▪ Arthur Strudwick, a city of Columbia employee, died Monday after he responded to a downed tree. Strudwick was critically injured in single-vehicle crash during the height of the storm’s impact, Columbia city manager Teresa Wilson said in a statement. Strudwick was rushed to the hospital where he died.
▪ William McBride, 54, died of carbon monoxide poisoning after leaving a generator running inside his mobile home, according to the Sumter County coroner. McBride was found at his home and pronounced dead about 7 a.m. Tuesday, said Coroner Robert Baker. He said McBride’s death was accidental.
South Carolina Department of Transportation secretary Christy Hall said little damage to infrastructure was sustained statewide.
Regarding road closures, Hall reported 162 statewide in 22 counties, with most concentrated in Greenville County. Jasper County had 35 and Beaufort had “few,” she said.
A Department of Natural Resources representative reported boat crews visited Daufuskie Island shortly before sunset Monday and found the 102 residents — who declined to evacuate before Irma — were safe.
In Beaufort County, 14,000 properties were still without power, and 2,000 of those are on Hilton Head, a utility representative said at the press conference.
McMaster reported no widespread damage in the impacted areas. As re-entry to the islands picks up, he urged everybody to practice patience.
“Don’t let your curiosity get in the way,” he said. “Be careful of emergency vehicles and power companies working to restore power. You can look at the damage and trees, but let’s get everyone back in their homes first.”
In a press conference following McMaster’s, Beaufort County Sheriff P.J. Tanner said Hunting Island is closed and damage assessment will begin soon.