While Port Royal, Beaufort and Bluffton are in clean-up and repair mode, Hilton Head is still struggling just to clear paths to properties.
The consensus from local officials: The longer residents can stay off the roads, the quicker utility and debris removal crews can return Beaufort County to normal.
Here’s a breakdown:
Island residents face the most uncertainty about their properties.
The county is allowing re-entry at 3 p.m. Tuesday, but many gated communities are strongly advising residents to wait until Wednesday.
“The south end (of the island) was particularly hard hit and struggling to recover,” town manager Steve Riley has said.
While primary arteries in Sea Pines are clear, 87 secondary roads are still blocked, said Toby McSwain, director of safety, security, and transportation at Sea Pines. At least four secondary road were cleared by noon Tuesday.
“The club course was hit really hard,” he said. “(It seems like) every second home has a tree leaning on it or through it.”
In many cases, fire and maintenance crews can’t remove the trees with their equipment. Special tree removal teams need to be brought in.
“We still don’t have a really good idea of the extent of damage Sea Pines has suffered through this storm,” McSwain said.
Across the island, Hurricane Matthew appears to have hit Hilton Head Plantation just as hard.
In an initial assessment, general manager Peter Kristian documented at least 60 homes with trees on or through them.
Based on his limited drives around the gated community, he said Oyster Reef Drive was of the thee areas hit the hardest, but said he was “sure the homes on the sound front took a hit as well.”
All primary roads are clear, he said, adding that he hoped side streets will be done by Wednesday.
But “done” doesn’t necessarily mean driveable for the expected mass influx of returnees.
A one-lane cleared path on each side street is what Kristian said he hopes will be accomplished by the end of Wednesday.
Four building inspectors worked their way through some of the city Monday and were finishing up their assessments Tuesday, city manager Bill Prokop said.
Eighty homes sustained some type of damage, he said, but could not provide specifics.
City planning director Libby Anderson, who is overseeing the inspectors, did not return two phone calls for comment Tuesday.
Everything within the boundaries of the city has been cleared, Mayor Billy Keyserling said.
“It appears that downtown has been restored,” he said. “There’s lots of signs of life.”
With the exception of the Battery Park area, the downtown area all the way up to the city border near Beaufort has been assessed, town manager Van Willis said Tuesday.
He reported 30 trees on houses, but when an assessment of Battery Park begins, that number could rise.
“Battery Park, Drayton and Lenora were hit pretty hard,” he said. “Trees (are) pushed in all different directions.”
Three tree removal crews are coming in, he said.
Willis also cited other sections of town:
▪ Willow Point didn’t have much structural damage.
▪ Rice Point had many fallen trees, but luckily most missed homes.
▪ There is still standing water in the Casablanca area.
▪ Residents should still avoid Sands Road, where storm surge undermined the foundation. The road should be repaired sometime this week, Willis said.
In comparison to Bluffton’s neighors to the east and west who were “devastated,” Mayor Lisa Sulka said Tuesday the town is in good shape.
All primary and secondary roads are clear, she said. She did not know the status of side streets or roads in private communities.
The historic district was hardest-hit, town officials said.
Water damage is heavy at The Farm, Hampton Hall and Hampton Lake, she said, and The Heritage on New Riverside “took a beating on power lines.”
Sulka also noted one or two homes on Buck Island Road damaged by trees.
“This is a miracle that (we’re) back in 48 hours,” she has said. “It should be a week from now, truly, that (people) should be allowed back in.”
Trash pick-up and recycling will begin Wednesday.