A parade of National Guard vehicles and power company trucks traveled down Main Street in Conway on Sunday, just barely clearing traffic lights that sagged precariously low at intersections before plowing through the washed out roadway in front of Conway Feed and Grain.
Downed power lines mangled in trees partially blocked the road in front of the Horry County Museum, and while traffic signals were mangled, many were still operational.
In downtown neighborhoods, residents drove through a maze of back roads to maneuver around giant, uprooted trees that completely blocked roadways.
Sections of the roof blew off Elissa Hollywood’s house during the storm, which she described as worse than Hurricane Hugo.
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“I thought I had lived through the worst. Apparently not,” Hollywood said.
“I think actually we had numerous tornadoes come up through the hurricane as well, because I could hear them sounding like a train coming. It’s a very ominous and scary feeling,” Hollywood said.
Restless neighbors walked their dogs and children, steering clear of the power lines that littered neighborhoods.
A group of teenagers climbed across one enormous tree on Ninth Avenue that was uprooted Saturday by Hurricane Matthew, but jumped down after they were told the tree was resting on top of fallen power lines.
“We were going stir crazy,” explained Amanda Rodermond.
Robert Skaggs and a friend did their sightseeing by bicycle, stopping to rest at a picnic table beneath the Waccamaw River bridge, where rising flood waters had already cut off the walkway.
“We haven’t seen the worst of it yet,” Skaggs said of the next disaster poised to strike Conway — major river flooding.
I thought I had lived through the worst. Apparently not.
Skaggs lives along Highway 90 outside of Conway, which also was hammered by hurricane force gusts. That highway was declared closed by the county, but was dangerously passable.
The only thing holding up dozens of trees uprooted by the storm were power lines, cutting the highway to one lane as motorists swerved to avoid driving underneath the sagging branches.
Work trucks made their way down the highway, cutting away tree branches so the power company could restore electricity.
Considering the massive damage — 54,000 customers of Horry Electric Cooperative without power Saturday evening — Sharon Muhl of Hillsborough wasn’t confident.
“I don’t think we’re going to get power for quite some time,” Muhl said. “It’s a shame, but this is the area we live in and we have to expect it once in a while.”
The power was restored along most of Highway 501, where fast food restaurants were packed with customers with no electricity to cook at home. Walmart in Conway was also crowded with shoppers stocking up on non-perishable food.
At Lowe’s, employees loaded generators on handcarts, barely beating the demand of customers.
Although Gov. Nikki Haley had not lifted the evacuation order for Horry County by Saturday afternoon, Highway 501 was already jammed with traffic, heading towards Myrtle Beach.