The worst of times can be the best of times
As is the case with just about any difficult situation, challenges can often bring out the best in us. It is heartwarming to read and hear all of the amazing stories coming out of places like Barbuda, St. John, St. Thomas, and the Florida Keys in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma. In the islands and towns that suffered the worst of Irma’s wrath, help and support is now flooding in - instead of torrential rain and epic storm surges.
Here on Daniel Island, and on the greater Cainhoy Peninsula, our communities once again dodged a bullet in terms of a direct hit from Irma. Thankfully, the damage here was minimal, but we nevertheless felt the impacts of this monster storm - both in our record tidal surge (some reports indicate it was the biggest surge since Hurricane Hugo in 1989) and in the tropical storm force winds that brought down hundreds of trees and branches. We also witnessed inspiring examples of service from our dedicated first responders and others who worked to keep us safe throughout the storm. Personnel from both the City of Charleston Fire and Police Departments on Daniel Island stood watch near rising waters. Prior to the storm, CFD firefighters conducted boat training, canvassed areas of concern off Highway 41, and checked areas on Daniel Island to be sure drains were clear in advance of Irma’s arrival.
When trees fell in Monday’s relentless winds and came crashing down on Daniel Island streets, arborist P.O. Mead was at the ready - working tirelessly during the storm to clear debris quickly and efficiently so residents, local employees and visitors would not encounter blocked roadways. Mead is contracted year round by the Daniel Island Company to care for island trees. In a letter to the Daniel Island Property Owners Association, Team 5 Commander Lt. Byrne of the Charleston Police Department summed up the value of Mead’s service.
“He worked through the heart of the storm, even when the City ordered the Police and Fire Departments to return to their staging areas,” wrote Byrne in his letter. “Mr. Mead cleared trees, limbs, and other debris with a vengeance. I know of no other area in the City of Charleston that was cleared so quickly or effectively. His services were particularly needed as the City’s Urban Forestry team was unavailable during much of the storm. The only road blockages in Team 5 that remained as Hurricane Irma departed were on Daniel Island Drive and St. Thomas Island Drive, where rising water had made the road impassible to all but the highest vehicles….I thank and applaud Mr. Mead for the work that he did.”
CFD firefighters also assisted with tree removal. Representatives of the Daniel Island Property Owners Association, including Larry Whetsell and other contractors, were also out in force, noted Jane Baker, vice president of community services for the POA.
“The remainder of our contractors and staff returned at daybreak on Tuesday to get straight to work,” she said. “Fortunately, our emergency preparation/recovery plan that is in place gives us a head start as everyone knows what they need to be doing and are able to hit the ground running. I couldn’t be more proud of our entire POA family, employees and contractors alike. I would also like to note that the Daniel Island Club’s entire staff was out on the golf course Tuesday clearing debris. I was especially heartened to receive help from Bob Johnston, an island resident and business owner, and his crew who showed up Tuesday morning asking what they could do to help.”
And as the community has before, such as for victims of Hurricane Harvey, relief efforts are springing up to assist those coping in the aftermath of Irma. Even before the storm impacted the Charleston area, St. Thomas Island residents Foard Fisher, 8, and his sister, Stella, 6, hosted a lemonade stand at their Shell Ring home to raise money for hurricane victims. They collected some $250 for hurricane relief, which they plan to donate to the Daniel Island Community Foundation (to contribute to the DICF’s matching funds program, visit http://danielisland.com/community/announcements/hurricane-harvey-relief/).
As I watched the angry, white-capped waves from the Wando River roll over our shoreline last week, covering areas where our citizens and guests normally gather for recreational respite, and swollen creeks inch close to some of our residential areas, it reminded me that we will always be vulnerable to the fury of storms like Irma. Those of us who call Daniel Island and the Cainhoy Peninsula home will certainly take steps to prepare and stay safe when weather calamities head our way. But whether disaster strikes near or far, we should all be proud to be part of a community that stands ready to respond.