Hurricane Matthew costs county $52 million

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Photo above: Mable Saunders gets a box of fresh lettuce and bag of apples as she makes her way to get water. Volunteers later helped Saunders and others with special needs with the heavy packages of food and water. The Lowcountry Food Bank handed out 7,000 pounds of food, water, fresh produce and pastries as part of the relief effort for those affected by Hurricane Matthew. Photo by Bob Sofaly.

By Kat Walsh

So how bad was Hurricane Matthew?

The eye of the storm was about 20 miles offshore at 6 a.m. Saturday. It was about 40 miles across, meaning that the strongest winds of this Category 2 hurricane were estimated at 105 mph.

Clearly, there was a lot of damage.

However, it was mitigated by first responders and the community at large “thanks to our incredible firefighters, police officers and public works staff, who worked all shifts almost around the clock,” said Beaufort Mayor Billy Keyserling. “If you evacuated and then returned to Beaufort, you would not think we had the storm we survived.”

However, there are those who are still struggling.

Hundreds of people stood in the hot sun for more than an hour on Oct. 14 and waited as the Lowcountry Food Bank from Charleston re-packaged 7,000 pounds of food, water, fresh produce and pastries as part of the relief effort for those affected by Hurricane Matthew.

The event was hosted by the Community Bowling Center. Also on hand were volunteers from Walmart who provided transportation, and Food Lion, which donated $30,000 worth of $20 gift cards.

Some of the food items being given away included cakes, pies, pastries, water and fresh fruit and vegetables. Photo by Bob Sofaly.
Some of the food items being given away included cakes, pies, pastries, water and fresh fruit and vegetables. Photo by Bob Sofaly.

Damage assessment

Beaufort County’s initial assessment identified 1,888 structures with damage, 96 of those with major damage and a preliminary estimate of damage $$51.6 million.

Although approximately 11 caskets had to be recovered and prepared for reburial, there were no reported deaths.

On Oct. 17, the county began a more detailed “phase 2” assessment of major damage structures for purposes of “red tagging” them habitable or not and refining damage cost.

Individual assistance for repairs to homes, vehicles or personal property are eligible to apply for FEMA assistance.

Disaster assistance may include grants to help pay for rent, home repairs to primary residences, uninsured and underinsured personal property losses, and medical, dental and childcare expenses caused by the disaster.

There are a number of ways survivors may apply for FEMA assistance: online at DisasterAssistance.gov; through the FEMA Mobile App at fema.gov/mobile-app; or by calling 800-621-3362.

Bottles of fresh water were bagged and given away to those who needed it. Photo by Bob Sofaly.
Bottles of fresh water were bagged and given away to those who needed it. Photo by Bob Sofaly.

City of Beaufort damages

In phase 1 of its damage assessment, the city of Beaufort identified a total 148 properties; eight of which had major damage.

Residences and  businesses (building) that sustained damage due to the storm, and who have not received a green, yellow or red placard should contact 843-525-7049 or mmcteer@cityofbeaufort.org and provide us the address of the property.

Structures sustaining only minor damage will be given a green placard indicating repairs can start immediately and that no permit is needed. Structures sustaining moderate or major damage will be given a yellow or red placard.

A permit will be required to repair structures receiving a yellow or red placard. No fees will be charged for permits to repair storm damage if the permit application is submitted before Dec. 31.

Utilities 

Brad Samuels with SCE&G reported that as of Oct. 16, 57 customers remained without power, mostly on Daufuskie Island and the St. Helena Island area.

Palmetto Electric has restored power to most customers. A few scattered customers who have to have repairs made to their property are the only ones who remain without power.

BJWSA reports that all treatment facilities and pump stations have power.

Debris management

The county’s recovery efforts are well underway to remove storm-generated debris. All public roads are now passable and crews are addressing “leaners” and “hangers” this week.

Debris removal began Oct. 17, with the first of three planned passes of public roads.

The county-hired contractor, Ceres Environmental Services, plans to have more than 40 trucks working simultaneously in var  ious locations throughout Beaufort County.

Residents are asked to place storm-generated debris in piles at the curb in front of their residence as soon as possible for collection.

The county has also issued a customer service line to answer debris removal questions or schedule collection information at 843-685-9880.

Hunting Island State Park

Hunting Island’s Nature Center is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily and the staff will be on hand to provide basic information about the park and its recovery.

The Hunting Island lighthouse is currently open, but is subject to close without notice for repairs.

However, the remainder of the park is closed until further notice. All reservations have been cancelled and refunded through December 2016.

“We are continually assessing damages from Hurricane Matthew and will post more information as it becomes available,” reads a statement on the park’s website.

Donations and volunteers

Fred Leyda, from the Beaufort County Human Services Alliance, is working with the local Volunteer Organizations Active in Disaster and PALS to establish a clearinghouse for volunteer groups and donations.

He will be setting up either an 800 number or physical location after a needs assessment is complete.

While the work to recover after Hurricane Matthew will take time, the response and responders were immediate and that alone is encouraging.

A statement from Beaufort Regional Chamber’s Visitors Bureau sums it up well: “Hurricane Matthew gave us his best shot, but we are still standing and our communities are in the process of regaining our form.”

Bob Sofaly contributed to this story.

In other Hurricane Matthew news:

• The Burton Wells and Buckwalter PALS recreation facilities have reopened. Visit www.bcpals.com.

• As the Lowcountry cleans up from Hurricane Matthew,  Beaufort-Jasper Water and Sewer Authority (BJWSA) is asking residents to avoid placing hurricane debris near water meter vaults, fire hydrants or any above-ground utilities.

• The the boil water advisory for Fripp Island has been lifted. Any questions can be directed to 843-838-2400.

• All Beaufort County Convenience Centers are now open. The centers will operate from 7:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. on their normal operating schedules, which entails all centers being closed on Wednesdays. The Convenience Centers will only be accepting bagged, household garbage (Class 3). Residents should not bring Class 1 (yard debris) or Class 2 (construction debris) storm-generated debris to the Convenience Centers at this time. Residents should sort Class 1 and Class 2 debris into separate piles and leave it on the right of way/curb at their residence for collection, being careful not to block fire hydrants, stormwater ditches or utility boxes.

• Call the county’s new customer service line for debris removal at 843-685-9880 with any questions.

• Palmetto Goodwill is working with local chapters of the American Red Cross to provide help those affected by Hurricane Matthew. Goodwill will be providing vouchers worth $35 that can be used to purchase clothing and shoes. To begin the process to obtain a voucher, call the Red Cross at 800-768-8048. Vouchers can be redeemed at Palmetto Goodwill retail store locations. For those looking to help their neighbors, Palmetto Goodwill is accepting disaster donations of clothing, furniture and other household goods at all local Goodwill stores. Donations will help hurricane survivors replace the contents of their homes and help them get their lives back on track.