Dispatch: Monday, September 11, 2017
First thing this morning it was obvious that something was awry. The wood storks that typically roost in our rear yard were all gone, as were the egrets from the pond edge and the frogs had fallen uncharacteristically silent. The outer bands of Tropical Storm Irma had arrived in Charleston SC, spooking our dogs along the way. Utilities on Johns Island, where our primary residence is located, are not as reliable as downtown so within a short time we were plunged into darkness with a loss of power that stayed that way. So, given that most of our rentals on Folly Beach SC were unoccupied, off we went in a large truck to check on their safety and gain shelter from the storm.
Storms have a way of flushing out weaknesses in ourselves and our infrastructure. Riverland Terrace on James Island was blocked with a downed live power line. No point in debating the matter, we turned around and headed for Folly Road. That was not much better with some substantial oak branches hurtling sideways across the road on a seemingly unknown mission to the other side. The bridge at Folly Beach was passable, though the causeway would soon to be blocked by the rising tide.
We manage a beachfront condo, luxuriously appointed interiors to be sure, but housed in a rather nondescript concrete exterior which seemed to be a good bet to stay. Power was on, cold wine in the fridge what could happen ... right? In short order the power went off. The tide was still rising and waves perhaps 8 to 10 feet smashing onto and across the pier. Visibility dropping as a horizontal, wind-driven rain pelted the building with a fury. A low howl began with the gusts that by 2:00 pm became a permanent feature of the day. Cell phones began screaming tornado warnings as in-storm turbulence made landfall.
As a vacation rental management company, we take seriously our responsibility in the care and oversight of other's homes. These are after all, valuable assets for them and they may be watching the storm from afar. These storms come in bands so we took advantage of quiet spell to drive the eastern end of the island and check on properties we manage. All good, save for one with a flooded rear yard and pool, confirming the reason why we put pool equipment on stands rather than on grade level. You can learn a lot about potential properties, whether you plan to buy or build, when the weather comes calling. The popular local surf spot, "The Washout" and the Folly access bridge are impassable and are closed off by local police. Breaking waves streaming across Folly Road and a monumental heap of marsh grass building up on the asphalt - it's going to take a backhoe to make that mound passable. It’s not all sunshine and roses today.
It does not take long for boredom to settle in for our 8 year-old son when shorn of the internet. He's now watching “Sand Lot” the movie on a computer as internet and cell service are down. Indian, Huron, and Hudson Streets are flooding pretty much all over on both the East and West sides of the island, but as its source is from the marsh there are no waves to cope with. Note to self: When building, infill the lot where possible. We heard that the "Folly Boat," deposited at the entrance of Folly Beach during Hurricane Hugo and an icon of irreverence on Folly Road, was taking a ride across the marsh smashing docks on its way down Sol Legare. They will stay that way, at least until the tide falls and wind abates below its howl inducing fury.
So, trapped in our concrete redoubt, we watched the rip current carry debris past the window towards the pier. 4 sets of steps, one partial roof, 3 palm trees and a large wooden box identified so far. That’s 4 steps per hour or so, perhaps 12 to the tide and 3 tides this storm. Repairs will surely be needed on this island next week.
At some point the sun will return, the trees will green again, contracting crews will replace missing steps and the island of Folly Beach will return to its jovial easy-going self. Hurricane-turned-Tropical Storm Irma will become another storm survived, to be filed in our collective folk memory of life on the Barrier Islands of the lowcountry of coastal South Carolina. It’s a great place to live and work - well, most of the time!
Note: If your property, whether on Folly Beach, downtown Charleston or any of the barrier islands have damage as a result of the storm, our Renovation and Construction teams are here to mitigate any issues. Have a look at what to do once the flood subsides, and let us know how we can help.