Weather News

‘Thank God it wasn’t worse’: Beaufort Co. relatively unscathed after Hurricane Dorian

The Lowe’s off Robert Smalls Parkway in Beaufort was busy Friday morning — but most of the customers weren’t prepping to repair damage from Hurricane Dorian, which whipped Beaufort County with a peak wind speed of 67 mph but caused no injuries.

Instead, Ron Brown of Yemassee was shopping to fix his porch after it took a beating at a recent cookout. He grew up in Hampton County and has lived for 12 years in the house he inherited from his father.

“They always say, ‘Oh, it’s slowing down, that’s not a good sign,’” Brown said. But the only damage he sustained in this hurricane was a little bruising on his tin roof from a tree.

Sarah Farrow, a lifelong Beaufort resident, said she “didn’t even lose power” as the storm bore down on the coast. Her three kids carried a long carpet over their heads, doing some shopping while their father was at work.

“We were really, really lucky,” she said.

Outside of the store, the sun was shining and the roads were cleared, with leaves and pine needles pushed to the margins. Regulars shuffled into nearby coffee shop City Java & News, getting the same answers to questions being asked there and at dozens of other shops and restaurants in Beaufort County: There was almost no damage, but they were short-staffed and closing early because of an ingredient delivery delayed by the storm.

Ismet Ekin, general manager of the Beaufort Lowe’s, said he’d seen more generator sales before the storm than anyone coming in for repairs after — which was good, because the store was short-staffed. About 90 of his 150 employees had evacuated, he said.

But the store still opened every day this week, and 12 Lowe’s staff had stayed at a hotel nearby to assist first responders.

“I don’t think it impacted us as much as the previous ones,” Ekin said.

He moved from New Jersey two years ago and, citing his familiarity with tough storms through blizzards up north, has stayed in town for all three hurricanes he’s seen in Beaufort County.

“We like hurricanes and stuff,” he said. “But we don’t want the community to suffer so we can make money.”

For the most part, the community seemingly hasn’t suffered. Tanner said no injuries were reported in the storm.

As of Friday afternoon, Dominion Energy reported just over 1,000 customers in Beaufort County without power, down from its peak of 17,000 Thursday morning. The company predicts that 95 percent of customers will have power restored by 9 a.m. Saturday.

Dayatra Thornton was one of the few county residents still “patiently waiting” for power as of Thursday evening, when she went to check on the St. Helena house where she and her husband live.

Fortunately, she didn’t see any damage at the home Thursday, and her only hurricane costs will be the extra money spent on emergency supplies and the loss of wages for her and her husband during the storm. But this may make future evacuations harder to justify, she said.

“I’m not one to gamble with my life,” she said. “If the governor issues a mandatory evacuation, I’m gone. My first priority is my family.

“But a lot of us say, ‘Lord, we don’t know where this money is going to come from if we leave.’”

Still, she said this time around was much better than 2016’s Hurricane Matthew, which kept her out of her home for nearly two months.

At Lowe’s, Brown got ready to check out, happy that his father’s house had endured yet another hurricane in its long legacy of weathering storms. He hadn’t used his generator in the two years since he bought it, but he was ready. He hopes he won’t need it until after he fixes his porch.

“Thank God it wasn’t worse,” he said.

Follow more of our reporting on Hurricane Dorian

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Rachel Jones covers education for the Island Packet and the Beaufort Gazette. She attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and has worked for the Daily Tar Heel and Charlotte Observer. Rachel grew up in Ayden, NC, surrounded by teachers.