Beaufort County residents are in the dark.
Literally 54,000 residents were without power as of Monday afternoon, county administrator Gary Kubic said.
But some property owners are also in the dark about the extent of damage Hurricane Matthew unleashed onto their properties.
That’s in part because recovery crews worked to clear primary roads Monday, so the status of secondary streets isn’t even known by folks on the ground.
Here’s what Beaufort County officials reported they’ve been briefed on or seen firsthand:
Matthew caused an “unprecedented amount of damage on Hilton Head Island,” Gov. Nikki Haley said in a news conference Monday. “Trees are down in a way we’ve never seen before.”
During a Monday afternoon news conference, town manager Steve Riley warned that some island residents could be without power for five to seven days.
Residents may be allowed to return home Tuesday, “but no promises,” he said.
An initial assessment of three-fourths of Hilton Head’s commercial properties Sunday revealed roughly 440 undamaged, 54 with some level of damage and two buildings destroyed, Riley said.
Hilton Head Hospital’s emergency room opened at noon Monday. No timeline was announced for re-opening other hospital services.
Fifteen of the island’s 23 traffic signals are operational, according to the town website.
“The south end (of the island) was particularly hard hit and struggling to recover,” Riley said.
Major arteries in Sea Pines are still being cleared so assessing properties on secondary roads is not an option, Toby McSwain, director of safety, security, and transportation at Sea Pines, said.
“I can’t even begin to tell you when we’ll start (secondary roads),” McSwain said Monday morning.
Major throughfares that are accessible include:
▪ Greenwood gate to Frasier Circle
▪ Frasier to Harbour Town
▪ Some portions of the stretch from Greenwood Drive to South Sea Pines Drive
He reported some homes weathered Matthew well, as did the Plantation Beach Club.
But others weren’t so lucky. He said he couldn’t estimate how many homes had trees fallen through or against the house.
Lagoons filled with debris are clogged and cannot flow properly, but Sea Pines is “not even close to getting around to address(ing) that.”
McSwain did get a chance to see oceanfront properties, he said, and the dunes are completely gone, “completely washed away,” he said.
Roughly 50 percent of major roads are accessible in Hilton Head Plantation, said general manager Peter Kristian.
“It’s a work in progress,” he said Monday. “Literally thousands of trees are down.”
At least a dozen homes have trees on or against them, Kristian said, but said “I’m sure that’s only a small proportion.”
One piece of good news, he said, was that he hadn’t seen any homes “completely obliterated” or portions of home debris in street or yards.
But it’s “still way too dangerous” to let people in.
He declined to let a reporter or photographer in to inspect the gated community.
Earlier flooding that made Shipyard Drive impassable has subsided, Shipyard Plantation general manager Salley Warren said, but most secondary roads are still blocked by debris.
She reported no wind damage, meaning no roofs were ripped off of homes, but there are a number of houses with tree damage.
Utility crews restored water and power to the welcome center and beach club, Warren said.
As people trickled back into Bluffton and power was slowly restored across some of the town, Mayor Lisa Sulka said at a Monday morning news conference that the barrier islands protected Bluffton from the worst of Matthew’s wrath.
“This is a miracle that (we’re) back in 48 hours,” she said. “It should be a week from now, truly, that (people) should be allowed back in.”
No calls from displaced families came to her as of Monday early evening, she said.
The historic district was one of the hardest-hit, Bluffton Police Chief Joey Reynolds said at the same conference.
Reynolds also noted “a lot of water damage” at The Farm, Hampton Hall and Hampton Lake.
Trash pick-up and recycling will begin Wednesday.
“The town’s in good shape,” said town manager Marc Orlando. “We’re in cleanup mode. I don’t think there’s long-term damage.”
Beaufort, Port Royal and Islands
Repairs to the Harbor Bridge began Sunday and are still underway, Haley said Monday afternoon.
The storm washed out part of the causeway, preventing access to Fripp, Harbor and Hunting Island.
County administrator Kubic reported a number of power restoration and debris removal crews on the ground on St. Helena Island.
“They were hit very, very hard with tree damage,” he said. “The city of Beaufort is in pretty good shape.”
In the city of Beaufort, streets are no longer blocked off, Mayor Billy Keyserling said.
He said he knew of two homes damaged by trees within the city limits, one on Hermitage Road, the other on Mossy Oaks Road.
Still, power outages are prevalent north of the Broad River. Keyserling is among those without power.
Congestion on the highways Sunday prevented additional utility crews from providing relief. Stuck in long lines of traffic, the crew spent the night in their trucks, Keyserling said.
In the town of Port Royal, town manager Van Willis identified these streets as some with the largest issues:
▪ Lenora Drive - trees completely mangle power lines
▪ 11st Street. - significant trees down
▪ Old Shell Road - completely inaccessible
▪ The Sands Road - storm surge undermined foundation
More than 60 Beaufort Memorial Hospital patients who were transferred to facilities throughout the state return Monday evening.
In a news release, the hospital also announced the following practices and clinics will re-open Tuesday:
▪ Beaufort Primary Care – Beaufort Medical Plaza
▪ Harrison Peeples Health Care Center
▪ Orthopedic Specialists, 1251 Ribaut Road, Dr. Kevin Jones
▪ Laboratory, Beaufort Memorial Hospital and Beaufort Medical Plaza
▪ Rehabilitation Services for adult orthopedics, 1251 Ribaut Road
▪ Pediatric rehabilitation Services, Beaufort Medical Plaza and Bluffton Medical Services at 7 Arley Way
▪ Wound Care Center at Beaufort Medical Plaza
▪ Imaging services, Beaufort Memorial Hospital and Beaufort Medical Plaza
Patients scheduled for an outpatient service on Monday will be contacted by a hospital representative to reschedule. Remaining services and clinics are expected to reopen Wednesday.