South Carolina /Lowcountry News
Savannah Business Journal Staff Report
October 10, 2016 – Beaufort County officials held a 2:00 p.m. press conference today to update the public on progress in opening up the county and the islands. County Sheriff B.J. Tanner was the lead spokesperson.
Traffic signals, tree damage covering roads, power lines damage and power lines on the ground are key issues right now. The tree damage is extensive, significantly blocking access to residential areas.
The county has two planes flying over the county today, taking photos of all county property to be made available for property assessment, for FEMA and “hopefully for residents,” Tanner said.
The Emergency Room at Beaufort Memorial Hospital is back in operation.
“Our utility companies are working extremely hard. We have more linemen in-county, now, he said. But they tree damage and road access is affecting the ability to restore power.
Progress is being made. They still have some flooding issues, another official emphasized.
Law enforcement has logged 6,324 calls from Wednesday until noon today, but rumors of looting in not accurate. Of those calls, 6.000 were business and residential checks. Only two hundred calls were due to crime, natural deaths and traffic signals out.
They are still not allowing people onto Hilton Head Island, Fripp Island, Harbor Island and Hunting Island which remain closed except to emergency responders. All other portions of Beaufort County are open. The Town Manager of Hilton Head Island Steve Riley joined the press conference. The South end of Hilton Head is particularly hard hit, but the tree damage is county-wide. Today, they cleared all the public roads, "but we have major, major areas os the side streets and private areas that remain unaccesaible,” he said. Power may not be back on until tomorrow, and very possibly... not for everybody.
“The (Hilton Head) Mayor has posted that we are hoping to get you back tomorrow, but we can’t say that for sure yet, or the time,” Riley stated.
The county is running check points to limit entry to Beaufort County at bridges to these islands.
Port Royal city and Bluffton are also working on assessments.
The bridge to Crawford Island (sp) has been damaged. The roadway is fine, but it is the underpinnings.
The damage at Honey Island (not sure of spelling) “is incredible,” another official said.
"Right now … from the checkpoints … I’ve seen trucks coming on from the grocery stores and generators,” Riley said.
Yesterday, officials inspected 500 business buildings on Hilton Head Island; 440 are undamaged. 54 have some level of damage; 2 are destroyed. “That’s just a little over 10%. There are a lot of areas that have dodged damage, but the tree cover down is a real challenge,” said Riley.
They are going door-to-door doing welfare checks in some areas, and have brought some people to shelters.
Bluffton Fire Rescue has been helping on Hilton Head, Riley said, “so out people can go home and rest.”
"The private community managers that I’ve talked to are extremely concerned. In some cases, there is only a narrow trail. People are going to come back, and not be able to go home,: Sheriff Tanner said. They are therefore looking at opening another shelter.
He said that he does not believe that schools will open on Wednesday, at least not on Hilton Head.
The temporary shelter set up at Well Branch lost power, so the shelter was moved to Battery Creek High school, 1 Blue Dophin Dr., for North Beaufort County. A second shelter for residents is now operating at Bluffton High School for South Beaufort County. They are aware that many residents will want to come home, without realizing that they cannot stay in their homes.
They are cutting fire and rescue trails into all areas as quickly as possible, in case of need. As power comes back up, there is an increased risk of house fires.
“I apologize that that we were not more prepared to deal with the social media aspects of pictures, utilizing youtube and video for residents out of the area to understand the damage in their neighborhoods,” Tanner added. “We were prepared for the assessment phase, etc., but we were not prepared for social media. The last time we had an event like this was 1959.”
South and North of the Broad River video will be uploaded onto the Beaufort County Facebook account.
The Sheriff’s helicopter video of the county, including of Hilton Head Island, will be uploaded soon.
“We want them to know what it looks like from a visual perspective before deciding to come home, or come to check on their property,” said Sheriff Tanner.“Unbelievable amount of tree issues, and our traffic signals are still a very big challenge,” he added.
The business license office will be opening soon for companies or individuals to get a license to work in the county on tree removal or home renovation, and for residents to check to see if a vendor is legitimate. Tree removal and landscaping does not require a State License or training, but everyone must have a business license.
FEMA is not in Beaufort County yet, even though they’ve had reports that there are vehicles with ‘FEMA’ signs on their vehicles. Call the police. “They are not FEMA,” Tanner said. Call 911. “We’d like to talk to them.
Many of the island’s beaches appear to be damaged, based on aerial shots.
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