Hurricane Matthew battered thousands of buildings and trees and caused widespread power outages and flooding throughout the Lowcountry in the early morning hours of Oct. 8. But the Category 2 storm didn’t dampen the resolve of residents determined to help their neighbors – and complete strangers – who were suffering. Read here about some of these unsung heroes.
When Kim Sullivan struck out on her bicycle early on the morning of Saturday, Oct. 8 — just hours after Hurricane Matthew ripped through Beaufort County — she had no idea she was about to become the eyes and ears of an entire community.
She just wanted to make sure her boyfriend’s Fripp Island home didn’t blow away in the storm.
Sullivan — a 53-year-old Newberry County native, artist and former educator — elected not to evacuate, braving the storm at her Beaufort home with her boyfriend, Steve Carroll.
“Friday night, during the storm, I stayed up all night long,” she said.
It was when she lost power around 3:30 a.m. Saturday that Sullivan decided this: “ As soon we were able to leave the house in the morning, we were going to try to get to (Fripp Island) and see what (Carroll’s) house looked like.”
After a failed attempt by car to make the trek to the island, Sullivan and Carroll opted to go by bike. They parked at Gay Fish Co., and Robert Gay gave them a lift to the Harbor River Bridge. They then bicycled to Fripp, lifting their bikes over downed trees.
Sullivan began taking pictures and shooting video, as well as interviewing people she came across on the trip.
“If I saw someone, I would ask them about what they saw,” Sullivan said. “Then I would go and post (videos and photos) to Facebook.”
She started a new page specifically to house these posts.
Almost immediately, the page became a hit. Photos and video — all taken using a smart phone or iPad — attracted hundreds of views, comments and shares.
Then came the messages from members of the community. People who evacuated homes in the neighborhoods they were riding through began asking Sullivan if she could check on the damage.
“I started to realize that this could help people. I realized that I can be their eyes,” she said. “So, I just kind of filmed as much as I could and tried to show it.”
Sullivan said she had mixed feelings about broadcasting the devastation to the world.
“It was exciting, but not in a happy way — more like a scary kind of way,” she said. “When you turned a corner, you didn’t know what to expect.”
While she saw many heavily damaged homes on her ride, Carroll’s wasn’t one of them.
“His house really made it out so much better than most,” Sullivan said.