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Hurricane Matthew - One Week Later: October 15, 2016
Highlights for the Town of Hilton Head Island

by Town Manager, Steve Riley

  • Evacuation of the Island went extremely well. Evacuation of the hospital and care facilities, which began Tuesday afternoon, proceeded smoothly. Quite a few able-bodied citizens heeded the Mayor's and Governor's advice to leave early and a steady stream of vehicles began to exit the Island early Wednesday morning. That steady movement continued into the early morning on Friday. We never experienced the bumper-to-bumper exodus of prior evacuations.

  • The evacuation of first responders and other critical support staff to USCB, along with all of the apparatus and vehicles, went extremely well on Friday morning. USCB was a gracious host with a crew of kitchen staff who stayed and made sure everyone ate well. Six hundred mission essential staff from the Town, many of the utilities, local and state law enforcement, the hospital and others were housed at USCB and poised for immediate reentry. Beaufort County EOC was very supportive.

  • The eye of the storm was about twenty miles offshore at 6:00 am Saturday. The eyewall was about 40 miles across, meaning that the eyewall and the strongest winds of a Category 2 hurricane crossed South Beach and other parts of our shore. Maximum sustained winds were estimated at 105 MPH.

  • A Town advance team was back on the Island around 9:30 am. The bridge was secured by law enforcement and patrols were begun. Five teams of tree clearing, fire/rescue, and utility assets arrived and fanned out; more followed. The Island EOC was operational by early afternoon.

  • Tree clearing began immediately. The initial focus was on cutting a swatch through the Island's roads. On 278, that meant a two lane path that weaved between the inbound and outbound lanes depending on which was the path of least resistance. We had a pre-identified list of priority facilities we wanted to reach: the hospital, the PSDs, our fire stations, storm water pump stations; the airport. We headed to those facilities first and reached all but three of our top 25 targets before dark.

  • Search and Rescue Teams began going door-to-door on Sunday. County, State and Federal officials began reaching out to us soon after the storm.

  • The President issued a federal disaster declaration on Tuesday, clearing the way for FEMA reimbursement of qualifying local government expenditures.

  • Damage to utilities (water, sewer, power) was particularly severe. The work done over the succeeding days to restore service was nothing short of miraculous.

  • Palmetto Electric had three major transmission lines and all of their on-island substations out of service following the storm. The underground utilities performed well except where trees and flooding damaged lines and service boxes. Despite all this, more than half of the Island had power by Monday night and the vast majority of the Island had power by Tuesday night. Scattered outages remain and more isolated outages will continue as debris is cleared and uprooted trees are dealt with.

  • All of the PSDs had some level of water service by Sunday, albeit sometimes extremely limited. Sewer services were overwhelmed as people returned; but by Thursday all the PSDs were at or near full capacity and boil water orders were being lifted. Isolated service interruptions continue and more will occur as uprooted trees are cleared and lines are further damaged.

  • All public roads were open by Monday evening and the vast majority of private roads were open by Tuesday afternoon.

  • Reentry began at 3:00 pm on Tuesday and proceeded very smoothly. Many people heeded the warnings to stay away longer if they could afford to do so; and a steady stream of returnees arrived on the Island over a period of days. Again, the fear of hours-long back-ups did not materialize.

  • Neighbors began helping neighbors, the Red Cross and other aid organizations arrived, state and federal officials jumped in to assist. The cooperation and caring has been amazing. More assistance for those in need will be arriving next week.

  • Damage assessment teams began fanning out on Sunday. So far, the vast majority of structures that have been inspected have sustained little or no damage. Damaged structures account for less than 25% of the total and those with at least 50% damage account for just over three percent of all structures inspected so far.

  • Town Hall opened Wednesday for building permits and business licenses. We are open 7:30 am to 7:00 pm weekdays and from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm on Saturdays and Sundays until further notice.

What has been accomplished in one week is amazing! The progress continues and every day this community is coming together and getting better!