The bride and I make an annual trek to Hilton Head Island during the first week of December. We’ve been doing it for nearly 20 years so she can attend a S.C. Pharmacy Convention while I, you know, play golf.
We usually stop in Beaufort, partly to have lunch, partly to check out a lot we purchased years ago.
This time we got an eyeful in both places.
I had not read about the destruction that hit Beaufort and Hilton Head Island during Hurricane Matthew.
Most newspaper accounts centered, rightly, on the local problems caused by the storm, along with horrific tales about the massive flooding and loss of life in North Carolina.
It wasn’t until we got to our lot in Beaufort that we realized the extent of the damage there.
Piles of debris remained uncollected, especially in our own community, Islands of Beaufort. Our half-acre lot had two huge oak trees down, along with many large branches. We could walk around only with difficulty.
Of course, we’ll have to have it all cut and hauled to the curb while FEMA is still around to collect it, sometime in January.
It was all a surprise because we had not heard anything about the hurricane hitting Beaufort County so hard.
Things got worse when we arrived at Hilton Head, 40 miles south, where huge mounds of debris and chain-sawed trees still lined the streets eight weeks after Hurricane Matthew roared trough on Oct. 8.
Several homes were getting new roofs and siding while parts of bike paths in a town that loves bike paths remained blocked by fallen trees. Some twisted tree trunks suggested a tornado or two.
Reading The Island Packet, we learned that the eye of the Category 2 hurricane had passed just 20 miles offshore, sending its strongest winds across the island.
Town Manager Steve Riley said maximum sustained winds reached 105 miles an hour, The storm, meanwhile, came ashore in McClellanville with 74 mph winds – just barely a category 1.
Matthew hit especially hard in Sea Pines Plantation, where only about 20 percent of the debris had been picked up by last week – this while some 80 tree-hauling trucks had been picking up debris seven days a week since Matthew.
Mountains of debris were already piled up on two large playing fields – Chaplin Park and Honey Hill Park – and Riley said it would be at least two years before all of it was processed and repairs made.
Harbourtown Golf Course, where the RBC Heritage Classic will be played in April, lost about 300 trees but officials were confident the tournament would be played without a hitch.
Picturesque Harbourtown Marina, home of the iconic red and white lighthouse, was another matter.
We were stunned to find the yachts normally docked there gone, all removed while the marina underwent repairs from Matthew, including dredging the entrance. Several boats had also been severely damaged.
Shops were open, as well as the lighthouse, but walking around was eerie without the boats.
It was all pretty sad because we’ve always liked Hilton Head, with its live oaks draped with Spanish moss. We’ll be heading back next December and by then maybe we can enjoy the old, familiar Hilton Head Island.
Contact Bob Bestler at firstname.lastname@example.org.