Hurricane Matthew brings devastation to St. Helena Island
William Thompson smoked a cigarette and navigated his green Club Car through the gravel and dirt paths of Lands End.
Hurricane Matthew devastated the St. Helena Island community. A tree split a single-wide trailer down the middle. The root system of a fallen tree lifted the slab under another house and cracked the building in half. Fences were down, and on about every block, a tree rested on a home.
“A lot of us were lucky,” said Thompson, who has lived in Lands End 30 years. “But a lot of us won’t walk into our homes again.”
Electricity, water and sewer service are slowly returning to northern Beaufort County. Evacuees were readmitted to Fripp Island on Thursday, the last area in the county where post-storm access had been restricted. But that’s not to say things are back to normal — or anywhere close to normal — at Lands End, Coffin Point or similarly damaged communities. Roughly 20 people remained Thursday morning in a Red Cross storm shelter at Battery Creek High School, according to a volunteer, who added people in need of a place to stay continue to check in and out.
“Some people leave as they get power,” shelter manager Jessica Brain said. “Some don’t have homes to go back to.”
Thompson was among the lucky on Lands End. He rode out the storm there, as Hurricane Matthew pushed the wind like a freight train along Seaside Road.
A tree leans away from Thompson's home. He secured it with chains on each end. If it falls, the root system would take out the back of his home.
Coffin Point Plantation faced similar damage.
A plywood sign at the community’s entrance warns looters they will be shot. A fallen tree and limbs littered the Coffin Point Cemetery.
A power crew rolled through standing water Thursday on McTeer Drive, a dirt road with downed lines and poles. Coffin Point homeowner Andrew Seward talked to some of the utility employees who said they had made their way up from Miami, Fla., and that Coffin Point experienced some of the worst damage they had seen from Hurricane Matthew.
Seward dug up pieces of his dock from behind his beachfront home Wednesday. When the hurricane passed through, it deposited a 40-foot dead tree behind his house. A crab lodged in his screen door.
Neighbors had their roof lifted off, and their walls collapsed, Seward said. A Coffin Point resident who stayed through the storm was trapped in his beachfront home by fallen trees, until neighbors cut a path.
“It’s just massive devastation,” Seward said.
On a sunny Thursday in Lands End, residents tended burn piles. Contractors came and went, solving the maze of roads to find a path through.
A man bemoaned a tree on the roof he had replaced just three months ago. A tree fell on the home of a woman who just moved in a week earlier.
Nate and Kim Day first saw pictures Sunday of the tree on the Fort Fremont Road home where they have lived since 1995. But they couldn’t return until Wednesday.
The Days were still without power Thursday morning.
“Any ballpark on when power will be restored?” Nate Day asked a crew out of Virginia working on the power lines along his road. He was told some parts of the community had power and that the Days’ power could return as soon as Thursday.
The Clemson flag and Weber kettle grill remained untouched on the front porch. The tree crashed the roof of the two-story home and appeared to damage some ceilings inside. A tree contractor arrived and told Nate Day he would try to have a crane out soon.
The Days said they could be worse — the house is still inhabitable, and a 25-year-old Mustang belonging to Nate's late father remained unharmed.
“It’s a bump in the road,” Nate Day said.
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In need after Hurricane Matthew?
American Red Cross shelter: Cots, bottled water, food; Battery Creek High School; 1 Blue Dolphin Drive, Beaufort, SC, 29906
St. Helena aid station: Volunteers giving away MREs and bottled water; St. Helena Elementary School; 1025 Sea Island Parkway, St. Helena Island, SC 29920
Hot meals:Hot meals from noon until 2 p.m. through Saturday; Tidal Creek Fellowship; 290 Brickyard Point Road S, Beaufort, SC 29907