Hurricane

‘The luck of the draw’: Residents reflect on Hurricane Matthew’s uneven damage

Unexpected damage in Bluffton

Residents in Bluffton's Pinewood neighborhood talk about the damage the town sustained.
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Residents in Bluffton's Pinewood neighborhood talk about the damage the town sustained.

Hurricane Matthew caused widespread damage in coastal communities in Beaufort County, but the places where the storm hit hardest baffled some residents.

In Forest Beach, near the Atlantic Ocean, homes were largely unscathed.

About five miles inland from Hilton Head Island, select neighborhoods in Bluffton were blasted.

For some in Beaufort County, a sense of normalcy may be starting to return, while others continue to grapple with damage to their homes or apartments a week and a half after Hurricane Matthew’s landfall.

‘Fairly lucky’

Forest Beach Owners Association president Jack Daly says North and South Forest Beach were fairly lucky.

“By and large, Forest Beach came out pretty well,” Daly said.

The area had several large trees down on properties and in roadways. But most residences and commercial properties were left without major damage from the storm.

Forest Beach must now must go through beach renourishment to replace areas blasted by the storm surge.

Daly said there seemed to be more tree damage in South Forest Beach. On Wednesday, trees were still scattered across some South Forest Beach yards.

Forest Beach on Hilton Head Island received little hurricane damage, while other areas on the island — north and south — were slammed.

“We were enormously fortunate,” said Forest Beach resident Mira Scott. “Some of the trees fell toward the beach. Isn’t that weird?”

One tree crashed through the fence of a recreation area near the Coral Sands Resort.

Daly said Forest Beach flooding seemed fairly random but was more concentrated in the north.

“It was mostly due to ... drainage being clogged,” he said.

But he said some residents were “crazy enough and vigilant enough” to go outside during the storm and unclog leaves from the (storm) drains with rakes.

Daly said few houses received the sort of structural damage seen in other parts of the county.

Doug Felten, vice president of Forest Beach Owners Association, says a tree fell on his house in North Forest Beach near Coligny Circle, and the hole in the roof required patching.

“I had the worst damage of anybody in the neighborhood,” Felten said. “(But) it really was not serious damage, and it wasn’t structural in any way.”

“It could have been the luck of the draw,” he said.

The unlucky

Miles away, in Bluffton, residents in some areas were not as fortunate.

“There were a lot of blessings on where trees fell and missed things,” said Bluffton resident Sue Deloach. “For those that have the damages, it’s heartbreaking. It really is. It doesn’t matter where you are.”

Deloach — as well as others in her Pinewood neighborhood — chose not to evacuate. They had weathered hurricanes before.

But Matthew was different.

It carved a swath of damage in Bluffton, primarily in Pinewood, on May River Road, and around Alljoy and Confederate roads.

Driving through northern Bluffton, it’s hard to see much damage at all.

Bluffton residents said they were surprised the town sustained as much damage as it did.

“No one expected this,” said Megan Elliott, who lost 18 pines on her Pinewood property. “Our neighborhood’s called Pinewood, but it doesn’t feel like it anymore. We should be ‘Pineless’ instead of Pinewood.”

Our neighborhood’s called Pinewood, but it doesn’t feel like it anymore. We should be ‘Pineless’ instead of Pinewood.

Megan Elliott, Bluffton resident

Bluffton Mayor Lisa Sulka said the distribution of damage in Bluffton was uneven.

Some areas were hit, while others weren’t.

“Hilton Head, Fripp and Hunting (islands) — they protected our mainland,” Sulka said. “We did not get near the damage that they got, ... but it was very odd.”

Deloach said the nature of hurricanes like Matthew is “random.”

“Certainly being on the beach and on an island is more dangerous,” she said. “I would have evacuated if I had lived there, but I would have evacuated to Bluffton.”

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