Evacuees Return, Clean Up Begins in South Carolina After Deadly Irma

September 12, 2017

Tuesday officials and residents began trying to return things to normal in South Carolina, where Irma contributed to at least four deaths during its assault on the Southeast. 

People who evacuated Hilton Head Island returned to their homes Tuesday after Gov. Henry McMaster lifted his evacuation order, the Associated Press reports. McMaster ordered the island and six of the state's other barrier islands to evacuate ahead of the storm earlier in the week. Approximately 44,457 South Carolina residents were affected by the orders.

In Charleston, 200 city employees worked to clean up after the storm surge from Irma, while utility crews spread across the state continued trying to restore power to the hundreds of thousands who remained in the dark, reports AP. 

(MORE: The Latest Impacts in Florida from Irma | Georgia)

Gov. Henry McMaster told WYFF as of Tuesday afternoon just under 200,000 customers were without power, most of them in northern South Carolina.

A City of Columbia employee was killed Monday on his way to a help remove a downed tree. Arthur Strudwick was critically injured in single-vehicle crash during the height of the storm’s impact, Columbia City Manager Teresa Wilson said in a statement.

“Arthur was a wonderful employee who always maintained a positive attitude and cooperative spirit,” Wilson said. “He will be missed by his co-workers and colleagues at the City of Columbia. Everyone is deeply saddened by this devastating loss.”

Sumter County Coroner Robert Baker Jr. told the Sumter Item that 54-year-old William McBride was pronounced dead Tuesday of carbon monoxide poisoning after running a generator inside his mobile home for several hours, with only a single window cracked for ventilation.

South Carolina Public Safety Director Leroy Smith said 21-year-old Zhen Tain died in a crash on Interstate 77 south of Columbia Monday afternoon. Smith says Tain was driving too fast for the wet and windy conditions.

In Calhoun Falls, 57-year-old Charles Saxon was killed by a falling limb as he worked outside to clear storm debris at about 3 p.m. Monday, Abbeville County Coroner Ronnie Ashley told the Associated Press. He died at the scene, the report added.

Just before 1 p.m., the flooding exceeded levels seen during Hurricane Matthew last year, weather.com meteorologist Christopher Dolce said.

The surge put White Point Garden under water and sent water coursing through downtown Charleston's historic neighborhoods, the Charleston Post and Courier reports. Residents could be seen wading through hip-deep water; a john boat with four people aboard cruised down South Battery, sending a wake into people's yards. Flooding was so severe that police in Charleston told people to avoid downtown until floodwaters recede.

In Mount Pleasant, the parking lots on both sides of Shem Creek were underwater, swamping some cars whose owners had the bad luck to park there.

"I've never seen anything like it," Town Administrator Eric DeMoura told the Post and Courier.

(MORE: When Can Irma Evacuees Go Home?)

Isle of Palms was hit hard with flooding. The city tweeted Monday afternoon that numerous roads are impassable, and roads normally used for detours are also flooded so there is no way to avoid the flooded roads.

"Citizens should stay off @IOPCity," the city tweeted. "Those who are on the island should shelter in place and stay off the roads."

Charleston city opened two shelters for those with nowhere else to go, the Post and Courier said, one at 3765 Leeds Ave. in North Charleston which accepts pets and another at 3841 Leeds which does not.

Gov. Henry McMaster told the AP a massive oak tree fell on an apartment building he owns in Columbia around noon Monday.

McMaster says the college students living at the apartments are safe. The governor says "no one suspected it might fall," but the tree destroyed two apartments in the two-story building.

A Charleston, S.C. resident puts plastic up over his apartment door as a car rests in floodwaters near East Bay Street in Charleston, S.C., Sunday, Sept. 10, 2017.
( AP Photo/Mic Smith)

(FORECAST: Get the Latest on Irma's Track)

North Carolina

Roughly 45,000 were without power Tuesday after Irma blew through the Tar Heel State.

Gov. Ray Cooper said about 75,000 were powerless at the height of the storm, with most of the outages affecting western counties, WRAL.com reports. 

There is still the potential for severe weather across all of North Carolina, says weather.com meteorologist Christopher Dolce.

"Heavy rain, flash flooding, tornadoes and scattered power outages are possible in western and southern parts of the state Monday and Tuesday," he said. "Landslides are possible in the mountains and coastal areas will see strong rip currents."

State transportation officials announced that vehicles left unattended along interstates I-26, I-77, I-85 and I-95 in North Carolina will be towed to help keep traffic moving as traffic volume has increased tremendously as residents from other states evacuate, Cooper said. Also, additional Incident Management Assistance Teams will be positioned along those interstates that are more congested. North Carolina transportation officials are working with their counterparts in Georgia and South Carolina to coordinate evacuation traffic.

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