A man who was cutting up a fallen tree on Kentwood Avenue | Photo by Andy Brack

The Lowcountry dodged a hurricane bullet – this time. Now begins the storm cleanup following harrowing hours of Friday winds and rain from Hurricane Ian, a Category 1 storm that made landfall 55 miles northeast of Charleston in Georgetown County.

“We’ll be back to normal Monday,” said Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg, admitting the Holy City was lucky the storm didn’t hit the peninsula head-on. “We are a resilient city.”

Early Saturday, a clear blue sky, crisp temperatures and sunshine greeted recovery crews sawing a limb that fell across a power line at South Windermere shopping center and cut off power to the adjacent neighborhood. According to Dominion Energy, about 110,000 of its S.C. customers lost power Friday at the peak of the storm. “In fewer than 18 hours, the company had significantly reduced that number to approximately 15,000,” according to a press release.  

On Folly Beach, cars and trucks drove Saturday morning along messy streets and sent standing water spewing onto lawns. Residents walked stir-crazy dogs to get out of homes that had been without power for almost 24 hours. “Gotta do something,” one woman said.

Eva Williamson of Rock Hill Saturday swept up debris left behind by Ian | Photo by Andy Brack

Eva Williamson of Rock Hill, who braved the storm in a friend’s beach house on Cooper Street, said Ian wasn’t too bad as she swept a concrete driveway. At least now, she noted, she’s gone through a hurricane.

A few miles away on James Island, a man chainsawed an oak tree that fell onto Kentwood Circle. A neighbor was thankful that water didn’t get into his home.

“The storm wouldn’t have gotten us at all if it wasn’t for the people driving along the street,” said Ryan Kohlhepp, who explained how cars driving too fast on standing water during the storm splashed waves of water that got past sandbags into his garage.“People just need to be more mindful.”

After such a long, gloomy Friday, crisp air and sunshine made Charleston’s marshes pop, reflecting a brilliant chartreuse from grasses and silvery blue on streams. Other than leaves scattered on soggy yards, it was a Chamber of Commerce morning.

“We were lucky as all get-out,” Tecklenburg told the City Paper today. “There’s no question about it. I was nervous as hell the day before yesterday. Even after the track had changed so many times with this unpredictable storm, we were less than 24 hours out and the best information we had was the track was coming over Folly Beach and straight to the peninsula of Charleston.”

The mayor said he knew things wouldn’t be a worst-case scenario early Friday when he looked at skies at the Battery and saw clouds heading from the peninsula to James Island – the exact opposite of what he expected. And because winds didn’t push water into the city, the storm surge from Ian was less than predicted.

“I knew we were going to have a much better day than had been predicted. But it had to play out.”

City of Charleston officials on Saturday morning asked motorists to drive local roads with caution.

“Since late yesterday, crews have reopened 51 of 66 closed roads and restored 73 of 89 inoperative traffic signals,” a spokesman said.  

Ian hit South Carolina Friday with a vengeance

Ian made landfall 55 miles northeast of Charleston near Georgetown about 2:15 p.m. Friday, according to the National Hurricane Center.  It packed maximum sustained winds of 85 mph and was moving north at 15 mph.

The National Weather Service’s John Farrell on Friday described the impacts of the storm across the state: “Peak wind gusts as of 12 p.m. have reached 83 mph at Fort Sumter, 73 mph at Folly Beach, 60 mph at Murrells Inlet, 58 mph at the Charleston Airport, 55 mph at Georgetown and 53 mph at North Myrtle Beach.”

Former state Rep. Vida Miller of Pawleys Island said today that her beach community got hit hard by the storm.

“Beaches got slammed,” she said in an early morning text. “Pawley’s is a wreck.  Georgetown got a lot of water too.”  She added both causeways to the barrier island were breached by water.

On Wednesday, Ian was a Category 4 tempest that pounded southwest Florida. It weakened into a tropical storm as it tore across the center of the state, only to be resurrected Thursday as a hurricane again as it hit the open waters of the Atlantic Ocean.

As of Saturday morning, Ian was a tropical depression in Virginia with winds of about 35 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center. Its rain bands stretched to Boston.


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Stay cool. Support City Paper.

City Paper has been bringing the best news, food, arts, music and event coverage to the Holy City since 1997. Support our continued efforts to highlight the best of Charleston with a one-time donation or become a member of the City Paper Club.