Growing up, I spent a lot of time in coastal South Carolina. My late father worked as a golf course irrigation contractor. Many of his projects were in and around places like Myrtle Beach, Charleston, and Hilton Head Island.
By my estimate, between 1972 and 1997, my father installed systems on perhaps as many as 100 courses in the area. Over those years, I got to know coastal South Carolina pretty well. And I love all of it—from Little River all the way down to Daufuskie Island.
In September 1989, my dad and his brother were working on a project in Charleston when Hurricane Hugo arrived. They almost waited too late to secure the larger construction equipment on site, load the 18-wheeler lowboy trailer with smaller items, and drive inland back to their company base near Athens, Georgia. It was a harrowing drive, Daddy said. Even with all lanes on Interstate 26 designated westbound-only, the six-hour drive still took a miserable 14 hours.
Daddy told me how, from his seat high in the cab of the truck, he could see people’s entire lives crammed into their cars. Children’s toys, photo albums, color TVs. For the lucky: suitcases for clothes. For the not-so-lucky: garbage bags for clothes. Some people, he said, had thrown into the back seat whatever shirts and pants they could grab as they fled the storm.
Weeks later, Daddy and Uncle Joe returned to the job site. Despite some equipment losses, everything was in relatively good shape. The surrounding area, however, was almost unrecognizable. Hugo came ashore as a Category 4 storm, with sustained winds of 140 mph.
As Hurricane Florence nears, I remember my dad’s Hugo story. I think of all my friends who live in Florence’s path. I hope they know I love them. I hope they can stay safe and dry, away from harm.
And I think of the South Carolina coast—the Lowcountry, the Grand Strand, the Sea Islands, the Pee Dee, the Waccamaw, US Highway 17, the Intracoastal Waterway—all of it. And I hope it knows I love it. Even though I fear the worst.
© R.S. Williams (all rights reserved)