The name “Hugo” carries a lot of weight for longtime South Carolinians. On September 22, 1989, the record-breaking monster hurricane made landfall on the Palmetto State’s coastline as a Category 4 storm. According to the National Weather Service, Hurricane Hugo “produced tremendous wind and storm surge damage along the coast and even produced hurricane force wind gusts several hundred miles inland into western North Carolina,” as it moved through South Carolina.
In a 2014 retrospective, Charleston Magazine described the devastation that followed Hugo as this: “In less than 12 hours, Hugo had transformed our beautiful, tranquil Lowcountry into a war-torn, third-world country.”
Longtime Cainhoy resident Sammy Sanders remembers the night things turn deadly.
“I went and tried to get two guys off of a boat the afternoon before Hugo hit,” Sanders recalled. Sanders attempted to bring the boaters to safety, but neither listened to him.
“They wouldn’t leave the boat,” he continued. “The morning after Hugo, I took the sheets off of my bed and covered their bodies.”
A 2005 article in The Daniel Island News documented the Hugo impacts felt by Wando residents Earl and Rosa Shaw, who were living across from St. James AME Church on Thomas Island Drive at the time. The storm came ashore around midnight, Earl recalled, and soon began ravaging coastal towns and villages.
“It was black,” he noted in the article. “Blackest skies I’ve ever seen. And the wind sounded like a freight train. It died out for a little bit and then started up again.”
The most intense winds hit their neighborhood at 4 a.m., producing two hours of sheer terror.
“At one point it sounded like the roof was going to lift right off the house,” said Rosa. “Then a window blew out and it took Earl and five of the boys to hold a piece of plywood on it to keep us safe. We were all praying.”
“You’re in the middle of a hurricane, who wouldn’t pray?” Earl added.
Winds were clocked at 135 mph as Hugo passed through the area. When the storm subsided enough for the family to go outside, they couldn’t believe the devastation.
“Trees were down all over, blocking the road. The road onto Daniel Island was totally blocked by trees. It looked like someone had taken a bulldozer through and knocked everything down,” Earl said. “Part of our roof was gone and we put a tarp over it until I could get it fixed.”
Luckily, no one in the neighborhood was injured during the storm, but it would be months before life returned to normal.
Charleston has had some close calls with hurricanes since then. Hurricane Charley sideswiped the Lowcountry in 2004 and 2015’s Hurricane Joaquin didn’t impact the U.S. directly, but contributed to catastrophic flooding in South Carolina. In October of 2016, Hurricane Matthew pounded the coast with powerful winds, soaking rains and dangerous storm surges– the impacts of which were felt on Daniel Island. Fortunately, the island suffered only minor damage. By the time the worst was over the next day, Daniel Islanders emerged to find dozens of fallen trees, debris in yards and public areas, and swollen ponds, wetlands and creeks. Hurricane Irma was projected to hit Charleston in 2017, until it changed course at the last minute.
With yet another hurricane season currently underway (the season’s first official storm, Hurricane Beryl, was churning in the southern Atlantic Ocean last Friday), it’s time to ask the big question: What if we don’t luck out, again? Are Daniel Island and Berkeley County residents ready for the next major hurricane?
The answer, according to Berkeley County Emergency Preparedness Director Benjamin Almquist, depends on the individual.
“We prepare as department, and from that end, we are prepared,” he said. “Anybody who will tell you that they’re fully prepared— I always get a little concerned about that. You should always be preparing. There is always something more you can be doing.”
While Almquist knows the importance of his branch of the county, he also understands that their work can only go so far.
“Ultimately, the county provides these departments and these resources in order to respond and help the people of the county,” he added. “However, the more that an individual does on their own, the easier everything else becomes. You want to be the person who’s in charge of your own preparedness. You don’t want to have to wait on somebody to come and assist you.”
The best place to start for residents who don’t know much about hurricane prep is the South Carolina 2018 Hurricane Guide. Contained in its 14 pages is everything residents will need to know from terminology to National Weather Service radio frequencies. And it’s available as a free download online at http://www.scemd.org/stay-informed/publications/hurricane-guide/
Some of the ways that the South Carolina Emergency Management Division suggests residents should prepare is by putting together an emergency kit (with two gallons of water per person per day for at least three days, a NOAA Weather Radio, and a first aid kit), knowing the locations of emergency shelters, and knowing your evacuation zone.
One of the most difficult parts of hurricane prep is how unpredictable some storms can be.
“It’s hard to predict what a storm will do,” said Almquist. “We’ve seen that with both Matthew and with Irma. Early projections said that both of those storms were going to hit us square on, and at the last minute they ended up changing.”
With this in mind, Almquist recommends staying on top of the storm and survival methods, as a part of a preparedness plan.
“Always take assessment of your family’s situation,” he said. “You should always be looking at potential evacuation routes. If you decide you’re going to evacuate, where are you going to? That’s something you should be thinking about in advance. Do you have supplies, in the event that you decide you are not going to evacuate? Have you looked into the preparations of your friends and family? Take that community approach.”
Almquist also encourages residents to download the South Carolina Emergency Management Division app, titled the SC Emergency Manager.
SCEMD regularly updates its hurricane guide, with feedback from emergency managers across South Carolina.
“It’s a living document,” said Almquist. “South Carolina EMD has a very strong working relationship with Berkeley County and other counties across the state.”
The number one piece of advice Almquist has for citizens is to think about disasters now, well before a storm approaches.
“Don’t wait until the last minute,” he said. “The time to plan is when there is no emergency present.”
New SCEMD Smartphone App
Want to know how to handle an emergency or disaster? There’s an app for that! Residents in South Carolina now have a new mobile tool to help them prepare for large-scale emergencies, such as hurricanes. The S.C. Emergency Management Division recently unveiled the SC Emergency Manager, a smartphone app designed for users to build their own emergency plans, to keep track of supplies and to stay connected to loved ones. In addition, coastal residents can now “Know Your Zone” instantly using the maps feature as well as locate the nearest emergency shelters when they are open. The tools section features a flashlight, locator whistle and the ability to report damage to emergency officials. The SC Emergency Manager can function without the need of a data connection, which is useful when basic utilities are offline. SCEMD’s new mobile app is available in the Apple App Store (https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/sc-emergency-manager/id1378105431?mt=8
) and on Google Play for Android (https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=org.scemd.app
The following information is provided by the South Carolina Emergency Management Division and can be found at the following link: http://www.scemd.org/prepare/your-emergency-plan/family-disaster-plan/fa...
INCLUDE AT A MINIMUM:
Water - two gallons of water per person per day for at least three days, for drinking and sanitation
Food - at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food
Battery-powered or hand crank radio and a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert and extra batteries for both
Flashlight and extra batteries
First aid kit
Whistle to signal for help
Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation
Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
Manual can opener for food (if kit contains canned food)
Cell phone with chargers
Prescription medications and glasses
Infant formula and diapers
Pet food and extra water for your pet
Important family documents such as copies of insurance policies, identification and bank account records in a waterproof, portable container.
Family emergency contact information
Cash or traveler’s checks and change
ADDITIONAL ITEMS TO CONSIDER:
Sleeping bag or warm blanket for each person. Consider additional bedding if you live in a cold-weather climate.
Complete change of clothing including a long-sleeved shirt, long pants, and sturdy shoes. Consider additional clothing if you live in a cold-weather climate.
Matches in a waterproof container
Dust mask to help filter contaminated air
Feminine supplies and personal hygiene items
Mess kits, paper cups, plates and plastic utensils, paper towels
Paper and pencil
Books, games, puzzles or other activities for children
Store water in plastic containers such as soft drink bottles or plastic milk jugs. Avoid using containers that will break, such as glass bottles. A normally active person needs to drink at least two quarts of water each day. Hot environments and intense physical activity can double that amount. Children, nursing mothers, and ill people will need more.
Store two gallons of water per person per day (one gallon for drinking, one gallon for food preparation/sanitation)
Keep at least a three-day supply of water for each person in your household.
Store at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food. Select foods that require no refrigeration, little preparation or cooking and little or no water. Select food items that are compact and lightweight.
Ready-to-eat canned meats, fruits, and vegetables
Canned juices, milk, soup (if powdered, store extra water)
Staples--sugar, salt, pepper
High energy foods--peanut butter, jelly, crackers, granola bars, trail mix
Foods for infants, elderly persons or persons on special diets
Comfort/stress foods--cookies, hard candy, sweetened cereals, lollipops, instant coffee, tea bags
FIRST AID KIT
Assemble a first aid kit for your home and one for each car. Contact your local American Red Cross chapter to obtain a basic first aid manual. Each first aid kit should include:
2-inch sterile gauze pads (4-6)
4-inch sterile gauze pads (4-6)
Hypoallergenic adhesive tape
Triangular bandages (3)
2-inch sterile roller bandages (3 rolls)
3-inch sterile roller bandages (3 rolls)
Tongue blades (2)
Tube of petroleum jelly or other lubricants
Assorted sizes of safety pins
Latex gloves (2 pairs)
Family Emergency Kit
suggestions and reminders:
-Store your kit in a convenient place known to all family members.
-Keep a smaller version of the Family Emergency Kit in the trunk of your car.
-Keep items in air-tight plastic bags.
-Change your stored water supply every six months so it stays fresh.
-Rotate your stored food every six months.
-Re-evaluate your kit and family needs at least once a year.
-Replace batteries, update clothes, etc.
-Ask your physician or pharmacist about storing prescription medications.
SOURCE: S.C. Emergency Management Division