Wayne Pierce pulled his bright blue golf cart in front of the boat ramp at Port Royal Landing, watching with his wife Norma Cooler to see how far the water would rise in the wake of Tropical Storm Michael on Thursday morning.
Despite an abnormally high tide, the water didn’t climb as high in the marsh as the couple expected. Michael swept through the Carolinas and left the Beaufort area largely untouched, with fallen limbs and yard debris. High winds that churned the water and rocked docks and moored boats.
With school out and local government offices closed, people got outside to enjoy the breeze. At The Sands in Port Royal, families hunted for shark teeth in the shallow tide pools, fished and rode bicycles.
Families in town for Marine Corps Recruit Depot graduation parked in SUVs with windows painted to honor the new Marines.
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“They came to have fun and, by golly, they’re going to do it,” Cooler said as she watched the beach from the golf cart.
Tropical Storm Michael left fallen branches along the road on Bay Street in downtown and littered the bluff overlooking the Beaufort River.
On Thursday morning, Beaufort-Port Royal Fire Department responded to nine calls related to power lines, three trees in the road and one call for a tree on a house, fire officials said.
The Richard V. Woods Memorial Bridge and J.E. McTeer Bridge remained clear and traffic moved normally. A large fallen tree limb at Allison Road and Battery Creek Road in Beaufort partially blocked one lane.
Thousands were without power early Thursday morning in Beaufort County.
Michael made landfall in the Florida panhandle as a Category-4 hurricane Wednesday afternoon and moved swiftly through the Carolinas.
Tornado warnings were issued in Beaufort County on Wednesday night. But the storm didn’t bring the expected amount of rain and spared an area weary from flooding during Irma in 2017 and flooding and tree damage during Hurricane Matthew in 2016.
Eric Longo, an artist and owner of Longo Gallery on Charles Street near Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park, rode his bicycle along the waterfront Thursday morning as wind whipped through the boats docked at Beaufort Downtown Marina.
He greeted passers-by in town for Marine graduation, picked up a small sign blown over by the wind and pointed out where water had risen near the marina during Irma.
He said the forecast had not worried him but that the wind strength was unexpected.
Pierce and Cooler spent part of the morning raking up debris in the yard before driving the six-seater stretch golf cart to survey the rest of the town.
The couple was camping on an oceanfront site at Hunting Island State Park when the evacuation was called for Hurricane Matthew in 2016.
They plan to return to the park to camp Sunday, weather permitting.