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.
Palmetto Electric Cooperative lineman Jason Davis gave up a lot for Hurricane Matthew, including his wedding day.
Nobody was watching the storm swirl up the Atlantic coast any closer than Jason and his fiancee, Caitlyn Sloss.
They were to be married on Saturday, Oct. 8, the day the hurricane slammed Beaufort County in the wee hours. It left 61,831 power outages in the cooperative’s three-county service area. And it blew away a wedding date that was four years and a day after Jason’s and Caitlyn’s first date.
I don’t think I’ve ever been more tired in my life.
They knew on Tuesday the plug had to be pulled on the wedding she had been planning for more than two years.
“At first, I was really upset about it,” Caitlyn said, “But then I realized everything happens for a reason.”
And in this case, the wedding happened a week later. Everybody was able to be at the Pine Level Baptist Church in Early Branch just as planned — even the best man who almost had to pay somebody to work for him that day.
“It actually turned out real good,” the bride said a week later.
When the hurricane hit, Caitlyn was with their childish puppy, Samson, and her parents, Chris and Sherry Sloss, somewhere near Greenwood.
Jason, a 24-year-old with four years of experience at Palmetto Electric, was in the crowd at the co-op office near Ridgeland. It had 310 employees poised for action at first light.
His work day started at 6 a.m., and it wouldn’t end for a week.
“We had to cut our way to get to work,” he said.
The wind was still blowing hard. He was in a four-person crew assigned to the Robertville area on U.S. 321 in Jasper County.
“Everywhere we went, water topped my boots,” Jason said. “My feet got wet first thing in the morning.”
They faced leaning poles, dead trees and running water.
“I don’t think I’ve ever been more tired in my life,” said Jason.
They got back to the co-op office between 10:30 and 11 p.m., then got up and did it all over the next day. Breakfast and dinner were catered. They got a sack lunch. One day, the Chick-fil-A in Bluffton brought hot chicken biscuits for breakfast. One day, the Hilton Head Home Builders Association delivered Jersey Mike subs. Outback in Bluffton brought food.
For a while, Jason was working with a cooperative crew from Kentucky. About 85 additional linemen from three states came.
At the same time, South Carolina Electric & Gas had as many as 750 linemen working to restore outages in Beaufort County, one of the hardest-hit areas in a statewide system that experienced more than 280,000 outages.
“We all got right down to it,” Jason said. “None of us had a problem working late or whatever it took.”
After the second night, Jason was able to go home to Varnville to sleep in his own bed at night.
By Thursday, Caitlyn could call everybody and say the wedding was on again. Afterward, Jason worked another week before the newlyweds took off for the delayed honeymoon in a cabin in Tennessee.
“It was a very good feeling seeing the excitement from people and seeing that they appreciated what we were doing,” Jason said. “It was a rewarding feeling.”
His new wife said, “I’m very thankful for him — all of them — for working so hard. He works hard. Somebody’s got to get the lights back on.”