From Garden City to Georgetown, residents who suffered the impact of a historic flood just a year ago were not taking any chances with Hurricane Matthew.
On North Merriman Road in Georgetown, Tony Vanverhorst, 42, cleaned his neighbors’ storm water drains during lulls in the downpour Saturday morning.
“The city doesn’t clean them, so I do it myself to stop the flooding,” he said.
With a few pushes of his rake, he unblocked the leaves and debris, and the water that was starting to pool around his neighbor’s house receded in minutes.
Vanverhorst carried binoculars around his neck. He wanted to be able to see all the way down the road and monitor the spot where the water rose rapidly in last October’s floods. After the destruction that happened then, he was confident his neighborhood would be able to handle Hurricane Matthew.
“I respect Mother Nature, but a Category 1 is almost like a regular rainstorm down here,” he said. Many parts of Georgetown saw more than a foot of rain Saturday. A few streets already were flooded by mid-morning, with cars in driveways half-submerged.
While Vanverhorst unblocked the storm drains, his 6-year-old neighbor Zanir Brown took advantage of the break in the weather to play outside with an umbrella. He said he was just excited to be out of school, but seemed a little disappointed in his first hurricane. Except for Brown’s family and a few people coming out to their porch for a cigarette or to scan the sky, Georgetown neighborhoods were completely deserted, with residents either boarded up inside or evacuated.
An hour before Hurricane Matthew made landfall 30 miles south in McClellanville, the cemetery of the First Calvary Missionary Church in Georgetown was already flooding rapidly. The rising water started carrying away the flowers that had been left by the graves, floating them out to the street.
As the center of the storm passed through the area, the historic oaks by Litchfield by the Sea lost some of their branches, splitting right down the middle. In Murrells Inlet, by noon Saturday many roads were too flooded to pass. In some areas downed trees completely blocked the roads. Branches and debris also blocked parts of 17 North.
Garden City residents also have been inundated time and time again in the last year, from the October flood to to Tropical Storm Hermine last month. When Gov. Nikki Haley called for the evacuation of the coast earlier this week, residents promptly boarded up and got out. Even Sam’s Corner bar, well-known for being open in any weather, was dark early Friday evening as the storm approached. One lonely straggler looking for a hurricane party said he couldn’t find anything open or anyone who had stayed.
The empty streets showed that Haley’s call to evacuate had been heeded this time. In South Carolina evacuations used to be mandatory or voluntary, but now they are an order issued by the governor that residents are to follow.
Vera Bergengruen: 202-383-6036, @VeraMBergen