The storm is now over. Most of us are back in our homes attending to the debris. It seemed a good time to look back at what for some of us was the first hurricane we have ever been through. What were our feelings, what have we all just been through, what worked and what didn’t. The lessons learned are part of our lives.
Our first reactions to the coming storm were “Oh no, that’s not going to happen. It’s going to veer out into the ocean like all the others have.“ Then came the realization it was going to happen and where would we go? I sat on the deck outside my house looking at the beautiful view of the water, the dock and the marsh and wondered if I would ever see it again. Fortunately, I had a favorite niece visiting me and she and her friend helped to bring in all of those flying objects I had outside. I had two wonderful neighbors, Fran and Robert Quagliato, who were looking out for me. They had booked a hotel in Greenville and I went to book it also. I had the hotel reservations on the line and in the two minutes I paused to consider if I wanted to drive to Greenville, the hotel came back on the line and said, “The hotel is full.” I talked with friends in Summerville who said “Come out here, we’re not leaving.” So the decision was made.
Then came the incessant worrying. Was my house going to make it? The news bulletins, especially from the Weather Channel, were never reassuring. They couldn’t be; Matthew was heading right at us. Then it hit and we had no idea what we were coming back to. We began looking for pictures of the island, but you could quickly see they weren’t much good. They showed downed trees and lakes of water but gave you little idea of where they were taken. They only increased the worry.
I came back to the island on Monday, the 10th, at noon. Having seen quite a lot of debris on some roads, I was not prepared for how clean the entrance to Seabrook looked. Seabrook Island Road, at the entrance gate, had already been cleaned up and looked very good. It wasn’t until I got to the side roads that I began to see the results of the hurricane. My own street, Marsh Gate Drive, was completely covered and as I pulled into my driveway, I could see there were several trees lying across the driveway impeding my access to the garage. My two friends from Summerville had come home with me and a great neighbor, Lynn Kennedy, also showed up. They all had electric saws and heavy blowers and we all went to work on the tree and the debris around my yard. Within a few hours, the tree was gone and the front of the yard looked pretty good. The good news is the house was fine. I probably need a new roof and I definitely need repairs to my dock, but the living quarters were in good shape and I even had power.
As Seabrookers, we have just been through one of the more harrowing experiences of our lives. What struck me was how well we all pulled together. Let’s talk a bit about communication. The Town of Seabrook, SIPOA and Tidelines all communicated with each other better than I have ever seen it and I have lived here for twenty years. Many have worked hard to make that happen. Our Mayor, Ron Ciancio, gets a special shout out for his devotion to making sure Seabrookers had all the information they needed to evacuate the island and for keeping us updated on the information he had on what was happening to our lovely spot. SIPOA likewise. We had no doubts all entities were working together with one wish in mind: keep Seabrookers safe and do all you can to ensure their well-being. The Town’s windshield survey of Seabrook properties on October 10th was particularly helpful to anxious residents who hadn’t made it home
Tidelines gets some special recognition. People have to realize Tidelines is an organization made up exclusively of volunteers and it has only been in existence for 2½ years. The team members worked from locations as far away as Annapolis, MD, to churn out all that information you got on Tidelines. They worked their computers getting all of the information they could on weather-related events and what was going on in Seabrook, as well as communicating with the Town and SIPOA for relevant information. Some of this information has already been published, but it bears repeating: in the 48-hour period beginning Friday, the 7th, they published 37 articles that had 26,000 views. They had a 25% increase in followers, adding 300 new ones, bringing their total now to 1600 followers. This is an amazing accomplishment and it was all done by volunteers.
There is another resource that warrants recognition. It is called Nextdoor Seabrook Island. Tidelines published information on the social network on October 9th. Nextdoor is a way of communicating with your neighbors almost like you do on Facebook. This allowed people to ask their neighbors to check out their houses to see if things were okay in the storm. They have also done a lot of reaching out to find people to help with cleanup. In one comment, I noticed a Seabrooker telling readers he was on the island and would be happy to check out their properties if they would send him their address and phone numbers. Talk about a good neighbor.
We also can’t forget the many employees of Seabrook who worked so hard to get things cleaned up for us as well as keep us safe.
There are so many stories of people helping people that came out of this storm. One in particular struck me as being special. Sue Coomer’s husband, Dick, died on October 10th. They were in Ohio at the time of his death. Ten of her Seabrook neighbors got together and decided she could not come home to the debris in her yard, so they all pitched in to clean it up before she got home. Sue was thrilled to see a clean yard when she got home. She has since written thank you notes to all of them.
If you know of special acts of kindness that happened during Hurricane Matthew’s attack on us, please let me know. We would like to share them. Use the “Submit an Article” form on the Tidelines site found here.
– Barbara Burgess, Tidelines Staff Writer