Sandwiched between the solar eclipse and a major hurricane devastating Texas was the 25th anniversary of a major disaster: Hurricane Andrew.
Before Aug. 24, 1992, Hurricane Hugo in South Carolina in 1989 got all the press as the big storm of those times. Andrew changed that, smashing into south Florida in the early morning with wind gusts up to 168 mph. Homestead was totally destroyed. Fifteen people were killed. More than 50 other deaths were blamed indirectly on the hurricane.
As with other big storms, South Carolinians joined the nation in reaching out to help the nation, thankful that “there but for the grace of God, go I.”
The years since have brought more hurricanes, with Katrina setting the deadly standard when it slammed into the Gulf Coast in 2005. Katrina ranks as the third most intense U.S. land-falling hurricane, behind only the 1935 Labor Day hurricane and Hurricane Camille in 1969. More than 1,200 people died in Katrina and subsequent flooding, making it one of the five deadliest hurricanes in the country’s history.
With the ongoing tragedy on the coast of Texas from Hurricane Harvey, new standards could be set. Everyone hopes not but the scenes of devastation and flooding are horrific.
Thankfully, the latest big storm to hit South Carolina, Hurricane Matthew a year ago in October, had weakened from a Category 5 storm by the time it finally made landfall as a Category 1 storm near Myrtle Beach. But that was not before the storm in its more powerful stages tracked along the coast of the Southeastern United States. Overall, Matthew killed more than 30 people in the Southeast and caused property damage of about $10 billion.
For the people of The T&D Region, Matthew proved again that hurricanes are more than a threat to the coast. While local counties again fulfilled their mission as a primary coastal evacuation zone, the hurricane did not spare us:
• Matthew’s winds ripped through The T&D Region Friday night, Oct. 7, and Saturday morning, Oct. 8, downing trees and power lines, leaving the entire region a declared natural disaster area.
• A peak wind gust of 64 mph was reported Saturday morning at the Orangeburg Municipal Airport. The gust was the highest recorded in the Midlands during the hurricane.
• The Orangeburg Airport recorded 6.28 inches of rain with other reports including 9.7 inches in Santee, 8.4 inches in Holly Hill and 4.5 inches in North.
• Power outages were a major issue. About 20,431 Orangeburg Department of Public Utilities customers were without power at the peak of the outage.
• In total, there was $6.7 million in damage to Orangeburg County’s homes from Matthew, with 21 destroyed, 145 receiving major damage, 222 with minor damage and 105 more suffering some impact.
• Twenty-eight businesses caught Matthew’s wrath, with nine destroyed. Commercial property damage reached a total value of $505,500.
• Damage to public properties reached $50,275.
• Orangeburg County crop assessments showed a 15 to 20 percent loss in cotton and a 5 percent loss for peanuts and soybeans.
• The overall value in residential, commercial and public damage reached $7.3 million.
With an unfolding disaster in Texas and a tropical system presently menacing the South Carolina coast as a reminder that the peak of hurricane season is approaching for the Atlantic Coast, the need for preparedness is real, particularly with regard to supplies to sustain a family while power is out.
Build an emergency kit with a gallon of water per person, per day, non-perishable food, a flashlight, battery-powered radio, first aid kit, medications, supplies for an infant if applicable, a multipurpose tool, personal hygiene items, copies of important papers, cell phone chargers, extra cash, blankets, maps of the area and emergency contact information.
Talk with household members and create an evacuation plan. Practicing the plan minimizes confusion and fear during the event.
Be informed. Learn about the community’s hurricane response plan and use the South Carolina Hurricane Guide to “Know Your Zone” for evacuations. Plan routes to local shelters, register family members with special medical needs as required and make plans for pets.
As too many found out a year ago and in hurricanes before Matthew, waiting until the storm is at hand is too late.