Even if Hilton Head Island is opened to evacuees on Tuesday, many Sea Pines residents will still not be allowed to go to their houses, according to Community Services Associates President Bret Martin.
CSA, the company that manages the private community, will bar residents who live in sections that are still obstructed by trees from entering the neighborhood, Martin said. Those homes are mostly located in the southern end of the community.
Allowing their homeowners back may obstruct recovery crews, Martin explained Monday afternoon.
Hilton Head Mayor David Bennett announced Sunday that he hopes the island would be open for re-entry Tuesday.
Still Sea Pines security and CSA are strongly discouraging all Sea Pines residents from returning that soon because of the status of the neighborhood.
As of Monday afternoon:
▪ There is still no electricity or sewer service, and the water is not potable. There is a boil-water advisory in effect.
▪ Recovery crews have been unable to access whole sections of the neighborhood that are obstructed by trees, although the major roadways and both entrances have been cleared.
▪ Large trees are still falling in the aftermath of the storm throughout the neighborhood.
▪ Not all emergency services would be able to access obstructed parts of the community.
“We’re trying to get Sea Pines cleaned up so that people can get back in safely, securely and with services available when they come here,” Martin said. “We would love the property owners to get back as soon as possible, but we want them to be safe at the same time.”
Because Sea Pines’ roads are privately owned, CSA can prevent residents from returning, said Bob Bromage, spokesman for the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office.
Still, many residents are upset that they are unable to see the damage to their homes and are anxious to return now more than four days after Gov. Nikki Haley called them to evacuate.
“We just want to know if our house is okay,” Sea Pines homeowner Heather Martin Guy said. “Even if we have to climb through downed trees to get there. Even if we can’t stay there. We just want to see it, salvage what we can, begin recovery, and help our neighbors do the same.”
Other residents plan to wait to attempt to come home.
“My husband and I are full-time residents of Sea Pines and anxious to see if there is any damage to our home but will not return until utilities have been restored,” said Jani Stephenson. “We are very grateful for all the hard work of the first responders and want to stay clear for clean-up to continue.”
Martin did not have an estimate Monday afternoon for when neighborhood problems would be resolved.
CSA crews, private contractors and crews from Hilton Head Fire & Rescue and the South Island Public Service District are helping clear the neighborhood to restore access and services.
CSA is also seeking access to emergency funding from the Town of Hilton Head to help with recovery, Martin said.
Sea Pines security officials said burglaries have been reported, though they have so far been limited to the areas that were accessible before security teams returned to the island. The only area they have seen that has been burglarized so far is the Sea Pines Center area, said Sea Pines director of security Toby McSwain.
Security will inform residents and business owners if they believe their property has been burglarized, McSwain said.
McSwain said residents should also prepare for the possibility of wildlife encounters when they return as some alligators and deer have been seen near homes.