Along Grand Strand, reminders of Hurricane Hugo as cleanup begins

A film of slimy mud coated a corner of the Garden City Grocery late Sunday afternoon – and Abby Hughes wasn’t happy about it.

Despite her efforts to secure the business before Hurricane Matthew, water poured into the little market Saturday. She spent Sunday sweeping out the store, but the work was tedious.

“My father bought this last January, but my parents are away right now, so we are having to deal with it,’’ she said. “We boarded up doors, we put the sandbags down. We used this spray stuff to coat the walls. Nothing really kept it from staying out.’’

A storm surge unlike some folks had seen since Hurricane Hugo 26 years ago washed through Garden City, forcing people such as Hughes to begin the messy cleanup process Sunday.

Ocean water crashed over seawalls and into streets Saturday afternoon, flooding the town and temporarily covering the causeway that connects the oceanfront with U.S. 17 business on the other side of the salt marsh.

When the water subsided, the impact was obvious. While no buildings were knocked down, many pools had seawater in them and a number of beach houses in the center of town had been underwashed by the surging ocean.

In one spot near the Kingfisher Pier, a driver used heavy machinery to dump sand in front of a building, an apparent attempt to buffer it from high seas that might come again.

Sand from the storm surge covered parts of the town’s main oceanfront road, just like after Hurricane Hugo in 1989.

Bulldozers from Horry County’s public works department were scraping up the sand from Waccamaw Drive and depositing it in a holding area Sunday afternoon. A maintenance official said the sand would be cleansed and eventually deposited back on the badly eroded beach.

Hughes said she had no idea when she would get all the sand and muck out of her father’s store, but others who were cleaning up hoped they could get back in business soon. Though the summer tourist season has passed, Garden City still gets vacationers on pleasant fall days.

Margie Lambert’s pub, The Bar, was filled with friends helping her clear the mud. Water had risen 3 feet high inside her business Saturday and several adjacent apartments. A huge beer cooler was tipped on its side when she arrived to survey the damage at her business.

Lambert said she hopes to reopen in a few days, but a key was getting power restored. Much of Garden City was without power Sunday. It was restored at The Bar about 5 p.m. Sunday.

“I’ve had help from my bartenders, their husbands and their kids and everybody,’’ said Lambert, adding the water was worse than a massive flood that blasted South Carolina in October 2015. “People can’t believe how bad it really was. They said, ‘We’re not going to get nothing.’ Well, they sure got a surprise.’’

Mike Wilson said he and his girlfriend weathered Matthew in an upstairs room of her beauty parlor, rather than stay in his trailer, which he felt was vulnerable in the storm. His girlfriend was lucky. Her shop in Garden City had relatively little damage, aside from some water that seeped inside.

Others couldn’t say that, he said – most notably people in the path of the storm surge.

“This was a reminder of Hugo, especially with all the sand,’’ he said.

Similar cleanup efforts were going on in other South Carolina communities Sunday. Workers swept mud, hosed floors, picked up trash and pumped out water, all as they began trying to recover from Hurricane Matthew.

“It’s a losing situation,” said Ray Booth, who manages the OceansOne condo tower in Myrtle Beach. The high-rise suffered damage to the pool and deck.

“We’ll clean it up. I had expected to be open today but obviously that’s not going to happen.”

In North Myrtle Beach, a particularly large cleanup is needed at Cherry Grove. Multiple buildings caught fire Saturday night, whipped by near hurricane-force winds. Sunday afternoon, the blackened remains of the buildings stood starkly against a blue October sky.

Firefighters and police had cordoned off the area.