Beaufort News

In hardest-hit Beaufort, trees knocked down, power out across area

Water surges over waterfront park seawall

Water surged over the seawall at Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park in Beaufort on Friday, Sept. 2, 2016 morning during high tide as Tropical Storm Hermine made it's way up from Florida.
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Water surged over the seawall at Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park in Beaufort on Friday, Sept. 2, 2016 morning during high tide as Tropical Storm Hermine made it's way up from Florida.

The lights are back on for many and the main roads are open, but some of Tropical Storm Hermine’s effects still linger in the northern portion of Beaufort County.

At peak storm time, between noon and 1 p.m. Friday, power companies reported outages for 15,000 customers. By Saturday morning at 8 a.m., all but 2,505 of SCE&G’s Beaufort County customers had power restored. Another six customers in Jasper County were still without power. The outages were being caused by more than 150 incidents, according to the utility’s web site.

There were more than 100 reports of fallen trees, said Lt. Col. Neil Baxley, emergency management director for Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office.

Some of the more significant timbers that toppled:

▪ A large limb fell on a power line northbound near Technical College of the Lowcountry about noon but was cleared by 1:30 p.m., Beaufort Police Sgt. Hope Able said.

▪ A tree fell on a vehicle on Seaside Road on St. Helena Island, deploying the airbag, Lady’s Island-St. Helena Fire District spokesman Scott Harris said. No one was hurt.

▪ A tree fell onto U.S. 278, halting traffic for an hour.

But the fallen trees were addressed with immediacy. That’s in part because Beaufort County emergency personnel were on their highest operating alert, Operating Condition 1.

“We were staffed up,” Baxley said. “We had a very coordinated effort between law enforcement, utilities and emergency, so we responded to everything fairly quickly.”

No fatalities were reported. Neither were any serious car accidents, he said.

At the height of the storm, wind gusts clocked 55 miles per hour. An average of three to four inches of rain fell throughout the county as of 2 p.m., said National Weather Service meteorologist Michael Stroz.

‘Nothing out of the ordinary’

North of the Broad River, minor flooding occurred near Boundary Street and Ribaut Road on Friday morning, but by the afternoon, there were no more reports of standing water, said Able of the Beaufort Police.

Fallen trees and intermittent power also plagued the town of Port Royal.

The boardwalk and observation tower were overtopping with water, but the afternoon tide pulled water back out, said Port Royal town manager Van Willis.

“Nothing out of the ordinary,” Willis said of the storm’s effects.

Most of the fallen tree reports Willis received were on private property. That’s not under the jurisdiction of the town of Port Royal, but Willis said he and his team will do as much as they can to help.

A sailboat in the Beaufort River was stuck in the marsh late Friday morning, and its occupant refused rescuers pleas to evacuate, Beaufort Water Search and Rescue spokeswoman Erin Moody said.

Two boats from the rescue squadron and one from S.C. Department of Natural Resources circled the sailboat in choppy conditions and high winds. An air horn was used to draw the occupant to the deck, but the person would not leave the boat despite being told the storm would worsen, Moody said.

Beaufort Water Search and Rescue responders also responded to a boat taking on water at the Beaufort Marina. The crew pumped water out of the boat, which had been swamped by waves, then turned it around, so the bow was facing outward to better handle the waves, Moody said.

Beaufort County schools and government offices closed Friday. Many shops in downtown Beaufort followed suit, to the disappointment of some early-arriving Labor Day weekend tourists.

Joe and Aileen McTaggart, who reside in Manitoba, were visiting family in the area. The couple had hoped to pop in to the book shop where autographed copies of Pat Conroy’s bestsellers are available, they said.

Instead, they walked down Bay Street, peering into darkened windows and shuttered storefronts as the storm rolled north.

Stephen Fastenau: 843-706-8182, @IPBG_Stephen

Kelly Meyerhofer: 843-706-8136, @KellyMeyerhofer

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