Waiting for Florence

6 mins read

Track of massive storm remains uncertain

By Bob Sofaly and Justin Jarrett

The Lowcountry was left in limbo this week as the East Coast braced for the arrival of Hurricane Florence.

Kaina Robinson, left, pitches in and helps load sand bags into cars. Robinson said he came to get bags for himself but decided to stay and help. Photo by Bob Sofaly.

Gov. Henry McMaster issued a mandatory evacuation order for the entire South Carolina coast on Monday, then lifted the order for Beaufort, Jasper and Colleton counties before it was to go into effect at noon Tuesday. 

The storm, which was a Category 4 hurricane as of Tuesday afternoon, was projected to make landfall along the North Carolina coast sometime Friday. Officials urged everyone within the potential swath of the storm to remain vigilant and follow official sources for updates on the projected path.

“While being outside of the cone is a hopeful sign, remember that rather than bouncing its way north along the coast like others storms of the past, Florence remains at sea and will make a direct and powerful hit somewhere,” Beaufort Mayor Billy Keyserling said in an email. “Furthermore, like Hugo, there can be last minute changes in direction at the last minute. This is to say we must remain vigilant and continue preparing for the worst while we are of course hoping for the best.”

Many did just that Monday.

Storms and stress can bring out the worst in people, but a group of Beaufort firefighters and Beaufort Department of Public Works officials got together to help people by filling nearly 2,000 sand bags in two days as Hurricane Florence approached the coast — all for free. 

Schools, businesses, government offices and even local churches were closing down Monday, Sept. 11, in preparation for the arrival of Hurricane Florence. The mandatory evacuation order for Beaufort County was lifted Monday morning, but the track of the massive storm remains uncertain. Photo by Bob Sofaly.

“We don’t check people’s IDs to see if they are live in the city limits”, said Nathan Farrow, Public Works Operations Manager for the City of Beaufort. “If they show up, we fill the bags and give up to a dozen bags to each person who shows up.” 

A stream of cars and pickups streamed in behind the Southside Park office Sunday and Monday.

Beaufort resident Kaina Robinson also was on hand to help with the heavy work. Robinson was there to pick up sandbags for himself but said he saw how hard the crew was working and thought he’d lend a hand. 

“Everybody needs some help sometimes,” he said.

One unidentified firefighter said, “Our job is to protect life and property. Doesn’t matter if it’s on fire on under water”.

The public works staff also checked storm water drains and outfalls, cleaned ditches and pumped out ponds and other places where water collects, getting ready for Florence and the potential floods it could bring if the track shifts to the south.

A number of local restaurants and lodging establishments had elected to stay open throughout week, even when the evacuation order was in place, to serve residents and visitors traveling inland from the sea islands, or in-town residents and visitors seeking lodging accommodations and a place to eat.

An updated listing of those businesses is available at bfthospitality.com/index.php/news/. 

Beaufort County School District schools and the district office will  remain closed for the rest of the week.  A decision will be made this weekend on whether normal operations will resume on Monday, Sept. 17.

All school athletic and extracurricular events scheduled for this week are cancelled and will be rescheduled.

Three town hall meetings scheduled for this week – May River High on Tuesday, Whale Branch Early College High and Bluffton Middle – have been cancelled and will be rescheduled.

The Beaufort County School District Teacher of the Year Awards Breakfast scheduled for Wednesday, Sept. 19, has been cancelled and will be rescheduled.

Information on make-up days will be conveyed to parents and employees next week.

Photo at top: City of Beaufort firefighters and the department of public works teamed up Monday, Sept. 11, to fill nearly 2,000 sandbags for people in Beaufort. Using a scoop cut from a plastic pipe they filled the bags and passed them to others to be tied and loaded into a steady stream of cars and pickups. Photo by Bob Sofaly.

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