Charleston, SC dodges a big ball named Ian
CHARLESTON, SC – This historic city of gracious mansions and trees draped in Spanish moss dodged the devastation Saturday that Hurricane Ian visited in Florida. But Charleston was left with another reminder of its vulnerability to powerful storms.
Damage in Charleston, a city below sea level with a long history of flooding, appeared minimal the day after Ian landed in South Carolina as a Category 1 storm.
“People need to realize that Charleston has really been largely spared by just 20 or 25 miles,” said Sen. George “Chip” Campsen, a Republican who represents the area and currently lives on the Isle of Palms, a small barrier island just outside of Charleston. .
Branches and leaves littered the ground, a few trees were felled, and sandbag walls still stood guard outside some store entrances.
But the skies were blue and tourists, who had been trapped in their hotels, emerged to find a city mostly unscathed, although here and there some of the iconic Spanish moss was thrown from the trees onto the street.
“This is our first hurricane, so it was a little crazy and scary at first,” said Connie Justice, 38, of Philadelphia, as she and her husband shopped on King Street in downtown Philadelphia. Charleston. “I’ve never seen anything like it, but it wasn’t even as bad as half the videos, like flooding and all, from Florida.”
Campsen, who spent Saturday removing storm shutters and getting his boat business back online, said they were all very lucky.
“If you look at what happened at Pawleys Island and Georgetown, it was really the benefit of being on the west side of the eyewall when it made landfall, which went about right. above my house,” he said.
Ian had been slated to land a direct hit on Charleston. But in the last few hours it unexpectedly moved further up the coast. That spared the city, which in recent years has taken steps to become less prone to flooding.
City and state leaders worked with the federal government to build a sea wall, which will stretch 8 miles and cost the north $1.1 billion, to further protect the historic city. They also set aside around $38 million for a near-completed drainage tunnel that would push excess water into the nearby Ashley River.
Sally Bullock, manager of local clothing store Collared Greens in historic Charleston, said these anti-flood measures are long overdue.
“The biggest problem in downtown Charleston is that we’re so prone to flooding,” Bullock said as he showed customers linen shirts and bow ties. “And what they had predicted was that it was going to hit at high tide. We’ve had really high tides recently. Once the water gets here, there’s nowhere to go. .
Still, Bullock said, the city had appeared to be doing a good job clearing out the sewers before Ian arrived, and as a result, the storm itself wasn’t as bad in Charleston as it could have been. .
Bullock said she has clients in Oklahoma who tell her they’ve seen more severe damage in their state from tornadoes.
“One of them said he wasn’t really impressed with this storm,” Bullock said, and I was like, “Honey, that’s a good thing.”
Justice and her husband, Anthony, were down in Charleston with a group of friends. She said her husband was golfing when they encountered 50mph winds on a course closer to the coast. She said they ended up weathering the worst part of the storm in their hotel lobby before venturing out to bars, which extended their hours after Ian left.
But in the small coastal communities just north of Charleston, Ian wasn’t so forgiving.
Guerry Green, a longtime resident of Pawleys Island, said the community was largely spared the structural damage a hurricane’s brutal winds can cause. But many of their docks were wrecked, the pier was badly damaged, and there was water everywhere.
The storm hit just at high tide, resulting in the “highest tide I’ve seen since Hugo,” Green said, noting it hit the coast during the day so he could see it. come.
As a result, a large number of cars were flooded and many homes were inundated with 4 to 6 feet of water, Green said.
After the bridge that connects the island to the mainland reopened, Green said: ‘People started coming home at 10am this morning, owners and contractors.
“So I guess eventually the cosmetics will sort of get cleaned up,” he said. “Longer term products – mostly water – are going to take a while.”