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Wolf Moon makes us howl in delight

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By Lee Scott

On the morning of Jan. 12, as we were leaving Beaufort to attend an out of town event, my spouse and I spotted one of the most beautiful moon settings we had ever seen since moving here.

This occurred about a half an hour before sunrise. It was so bright it looked like a setting sun with its orange-yellow color. It lit up the entire pre-dawn sky.  We marveled at the sight; once again appreciating the area we chose to live.

As we were driving, I opened the Farmer’s Almanac online site and learned that this incredible moon is called the “Wolf Moon.”

Evidently, the wolf packs would howl hungrily outside Indian villages during cold snowy nights and so the Native Americans called it the Wolf Moon.

The next evening, after we checked into our hotel and went back outside, I looked up and realized I could not see the night sky. I should have been able to see the moon along with stars because it was a clear night, but the high-rise buildings and the lights made it impossible.

Well, I decided, I might not be able to see anything, but I could figure out where the moon and stars should be located.

I opened a free app that I had downloaded on my phone, SkyView (one of the many free apps for people interested in celestial bodies). It allows me to point my phone up to the sky and tells me what is up there; even if it is not visible.

It was comforting to know that behind all that light pollution was the full moon.

A few days later, when we returned home, I stood on my back porch with the Sky View app.

I pointed the phone at a bright star and discovered it was Sirius, the Dog Star, as it is known. I then scrolled over to other stars and constellations and realized another bright light I was seeing was the
planet Jupiter.

I could eyeball the waning Gibbous moon that night and it reminded me of the Wolf Moon we had seen the previous week.

So, if by chance you were up early that morning, driving along Sea Island Parkway, and saw the Wolf Moon, there is a chance you might have heard some strange noises coming from a black and red RV.

That was us, howling at the moon.

Like the wolves, we could not help ourselves.

Meeting passionate people is part of the Beaufort experience

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By Lee Scott

Throughout the year, I have met so many passionate people in our community, wonderful people who belong to nonprofit organizations helping our community; teachers who shine at educating children; and business people who love to talk about their products.

It is very inspiring to listen to any of these people talk. Recently I heard a couple speak about their nursery farm business.

George and Sandy Cannon own Cannon Farms and are just one of the many vendors at the Port Royal Farmer’s Market on Saturdays mornings.

George was the primary speaker, but Sandy was right there to help.

The thrust of the talk was camellias, although they sell other plants. This is a plant I had never come across until I moved to Beaufort. George said it was not surprising that I was not familiar with them, because they are mostly grown in the Southeast.

Before the presentation, I had a chance to talk to George and knew right away that I would like him. He had a confident attitude that was not pretentious.

His wife Sandy sat fairly close to me during the lecture, leaning forward in her chair and nodding her head as he spoke. And occasionally she would get his attention to remind him of a topic he wanted to cover. He would gesture a look of appreciation to her. “Oh, that’s right.” he would say and expand on whatever she had mentioned. A good team.

The talk was very informative. George taught us all about camellias and how to take care of them. He talked about how many variations of camellia plants he raises (about 25-30), and then talked about raising his three sons on the farm.

Afterwards, he allowed time for questions and willingly answered the host of questions thrown at him.

But the best part of the talk was his enthusiasm and obvious love of his camellias. He touched the plants he had brought like they were friends. I know this feeling because I touch and talk to my indoor plants all the time, begging them not to die

It was a good start of the new year to hear this information. My yard is full of camellias and I needed to understand how to care for them.

I thanked George and Sandy for coming and said they would be seeing me more often at the Saturday Farmer’s Market.

An uninvited guest makes an appearance

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A few days before Christmas, my spouse heard a knock at the front door. He opened it up and then slammed it immediately. I heard him shout, “Quick. Lock all the doors. Pull down the shades. There is an unwanted guest out there.”

I peeked out the window and didn’t see a thing. “What are you talking about?”

“It’s a cold. I feel it,” he said. “It’s knocking on the front door!”

We went into action. We swallowed down Airborne pills (a blast of Vitamin C to ward off the common cold) and drank hot herbal tea. I also made a pot of chicken soup for us. It worked at first. We could keep the common cold at bay and enjoy our company during the holidays.

Then just as we were putting away the Christmas decorations and celebrating the New Year, it happened: My spouse woke up with a sore throat. “He’s here!” he shouted.

I scrambled out of bed, popped in a few more Airborne pills, made some turkey noodle soup and pulled out the cherry throat lozenges … to no avail. The cold came on him with a vengeance.

Before you knew it, he had Vapo-rub out and boxes of tissues everywhere. In the meantime, I washed my hands raw with anti-bacterial soap and changed the air filters in the house, anything to make sure I did not catch the cold.

Before long, my medicated spouse started walking around the house reciting an old Dr. Seuss poem that I did not recognize. “Marvin K. Mooney, Will you please GO NOW. The times has come, the time is now. Just go, go, go! I don’t care how. You can go by foot, you can go by cow.”

Anyway, you get the idea. He was seriously ready to have his cold end.

So, with cough syrup in hand he headed back to bed muttering about Marvin K. Mooney, while I continued to scrub everything he had touched.

Then I found myself muttering to our uninvited guest myself. “The time has come, the time is now.”

A few mornings later, he wandered into the living room with a cup of coffee in his hand and a smile on his face.

“Now I am ready to recite the last few lines of the Marvin K. Mooney story.” he said, “The time has come. So Marvin went.”

At last, our uninvited guest was gone.

So … uh … what’s the plan, Beaufort?

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Photo above: The top of page 8 of Beaufort’s 1959 Annual Report shows the initial concept drawing of what would later become the Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park. On the right are the municipal accomplishments the group wanted emphasized.

By Bill Rauch

Contemplating a new year and new beginnings, as we do this week, gives rise to recalling times past.

In my estimation the most forward-thinking Beaufort City Council of the past century was the 1958-59 group that was led by Mayor Angus Fordham. The other four were banker and Mayor pro tem (later mayor) F.W. (“Willie”) Scheper III, pharmacist Charles Aimar, and Bay Street retailers D.L. Koth and Meyer Schein. Uniquely, and to their credit, the group published an “Annual Report,” that was distributed in the April 30, 1959, Beaufort Gazette.

These guys had their act together.

Saying “Today’s Dreams are Tomorrow’s Realities,” their report called for, among other civic improvements:

• The construction of a municipal sewer system that they got right on and opened soon after on the Waddell Gardens parcel where the city’s beleaguered Southside Park stands now;

• An improved waterfront that 15 years after they called for it became the Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park;

• “Improved Municipal Docking Facilities” that would become the downtown marina;

• A street sweeper that wouldn’t finally be purchased until 2001;

• And “construction of a modern City Hall” that would finally be brought online almost exactly 50 years after they called for it.

Compare this to the current group’s long-term planning efforts. The most recent plan that is published on the city’s website is the now-discredited five-year-old Civic Master Plan that is actually little more than a proposed future zoning map.

But where’s the plan for how the new Boundary Street will be marketed and should develop once the construction is complete? There’s precious little about that in the original Boundary Street Plan.

The 1959 group, their annual report shows, had an Annexation Committee comprised of five civic leaders, two of whom were sitting city council members. The present group acts like “annexation” is a dirty word. Bluffton and Hilton Head each have their current strategic plans up on their websites. Both are actively growing, or trying to grow, their boundaries. So certainly is Port Royal. Is Beaufort’s current informal “make it like it was” approach a realistic strategy?

Mayor Fordham’s 1959 report says the city quadrupled yacht traffic from 1955-1958.

The city has gotten a grant to remake the outermost pier of its downtown marina. Good. The marina operator’s lease is up in two years.

Where’s the plan for maximizing Beaufort’s extraordinary natural advantage as a desirable stop-over location along the Intracoastal Waterway?

The city’s leaders say they want to create an atmosphere in Beaufort so that Beaufort’s young people don’t have to leave to get good jobs. Good. They’ve tried industrial development at the Commerce Park and high-tech development with the Carteret Street digital corridor project. More than $3 million has been spent on those initiatives with little, if any, tangible return.

Both decisions looked from the outside like spur-of-the-moment real estate buys.

Stepping beyond whim to professionalism, and trying to get the cart back behind the horse, if that’s the priority, why not put in the effort to get serious industrial development and high-tech development approaches into place? Get the school board, the Technical College of the Lowcountry, the chamber of commerce and the business community on board.

We can disagree on whether this is local government’s appropriate role.

If it’s the group’s priority, as it seems to be, then what better time than now to put the pieces into place?

With the flawed penny sales tax measure down the drain, a new administration in Washington and a new city council, what better time than now to look ahead? If we don’t, to paraphrase the 1959 group, “No dreams today will be no realities tomorrow.”

New class of glaucoma drugs in development

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By Dr. Mark S. Siegel

Primary Open Angle Glaucoma is the most common type of glaucoma. An increase in eye pressure, intraocular pressure (IOP), occurs slowly over time, leading to vision loss. Higher IOP is thought to be the result of changes in the eye that lead to an obstruction in the outflow of fluid, called aqueous humor.

Large clinical studies have shown that, with reduction in IOP, optic nerve damage and progressive visual loss can be slowed or minimized.

Glaucoma therapies

Current drug treatments are directed towards lowering IOP. Treatments to reduce IOP rely on topical eye drop medications, laser and or conventional surgery.

Many patients require more than one drug to control IOP, and despite effective current therapies, they don’t work for all patients.

Current glaucoma medications reduce IOP by either reducing the production of fluid in the eye, or by increasing its outflow. Prostaglandins, which increase outflow, are now the most prescribed glaucoma treatment worldwide.

Glaucoma drugs

A new class of glaucoma drugs promises to act specifically on the eye’s drainage canals, called the trabecular meshwork, a main outflow and blockage site in glaucoma.

Rho kinase (ROCK) inhibitors target cells in the trabecular meshwork to enhance aqueous humor outflow. Aqueous humor is a clear fluid that maintains the intraocular pressure.

In research models of glaucoma, ROCK inhibitors have been shown to reduce cellular “stiffness” and enhance outflow through the trabecular meshwork, thereby reducing IOP. No drugs currently on the market enhance the eye’s fluid outflow in this way. Therefore this is a novel and unique target and approach to lowering IOP.

ROCK inhibitors are not yet approved and available for glaucoma patients.

Two U.S. companies, Aerie and Altheos, are currently in clinical research development with topical ROCK inhibitors to lower IOP.

Research data has shown that ROCK inhibition has the potential to offer neuroprotective and anti-inflammatory effects as well as enhance blood flow to the optic nerve, all of which could benefit glaucoma patients.

The ophthalmic community looks forward to and awaits the clinical research data as it becomes available for this potentially exciting class of drug compounds.

Perfect weather is often a state of mind

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By Lee Scott

Have you ever gone someplace on a trip and it’s raining and the taxi driver says, “You should have been here yesterday!”

I always hated hearing that line and felt it was marketing propaganda spoken to tourists to explain away the bad weather.

But the day after Christmas, I found myself saying the same thing to my guests, “You should have been here yesterday.”

Christmas Day was gorgeous. The weather was sunny and warm with a delightful breeze that kept the bugs away. It was perfect Beaufort weather.  Yet when they arrived, the clouds and humidity rolled in too.

But despite my chagrin with the weather, my relatives were satisfied with the 60-degree temperature. They had left 20-degree weather and loved walking outside without wearing coats.

I started to look for things to do around Beaufort. Of course, they wanted to go see the Hunting Island State Park Lighthouse, but were told the park was still closed due to Hurricane Matthew. Instead, we went to Hunting Island Visitor Center and the kids loved it. They saw two little alligators, some fish, lizards and walked the pier (what remained) and marveled at the sand and sand crabs below. It was misting a bit out, so a walk on the beach would have probably been messy anyway.

Next was a tour of the Beaufort waterfront and a stop at the playground where the kids could run around and play. Then off to the Saint Elena History Center on Bay Street. The Virginia relatives with their Jamestown knowledge were amazed they had never heard about Saint Elena or Pedro Menedez. The children’s archeology dig there kept the little girls busy and allowed the adults to learn more about the early history of Parris Island.

Our next excursion included visiting the Port Royal Sound Foundation’s Maritime Center on the Chechessee River. The turtles were a riot to watch as they climbed out of the salt water, crawled over the sand and slid into the fresh water to clean up. The pictures of the young children working in the oyster sheds before they went to school were eye openers to all of us.

So, despite the clouds and misting, my company left Beaufort with happy memories. There are still so many things they want to see.  And as it turns out, the weather was perfect after all.

Do you make mistakes? Welcome to the human race

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By Lee Scott

Recently I attended a dinner and was seated next to a woman who kept reaching to the back of her shirt during the speaker’s presentation. I assumed she was concerned her tag was sticking out.

After leaning over and assuring her the tag was indeed hidden, she looked at me and said, “It wasn’t the tag I was worried about. I wanted to make sure the shirt wasn’t inside out.”

At which point I burst out laughing. Oh, how many times I have worried about the same thing!

“Welcome to the human race!” I said to her.

We all think everyone else is so put together, only to discover we all do embarrassing things.

After our speaker had finished, I told her I had recently seen a movie called “Bad Moms.” At one point in the movie, other mothers started to confess some of the “bad” things they had done as mothers. It was hysterical, but great because although the mothers all thought that the “other” mothers were doing everything right, it turned out that none of them were perfect.

It was not long before we started to share silly and embarrassing things we have done over the years.

I told her about the time the Pilates teacher informed me that my pants were on inside out. Others at the table heard us laughing and joined in with their own stories.  We discovered some typical “faux pas” like driving by the Convenience Center with trash still in the back seat or calling someone by the wrong name.

Some admitted to leaving groceries out in front of the store and driving home without them. One woman said she had put cumin in her cookie batter instead of cinnamon. There was the experienced boater who found himself sitting on a sandbar because he wasn’t paying attention.

The dinner that night was especially entertaining. It was a great reminder we are not all perfect.

This might be a good thing to remember for the coming year.

Stop beating yourself up for not being dressed right for an occasion; or coming on the wrong night for a party; or for re-gifting a present to someone who had given it to you the previous year.

Lighten up. You are part of the human race, a good thing to remember as we enter 2017.

Happy New Year!

Sometimes it’s good to step out of your comfort zone

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By Lee Scott

Each of us has our own comfort zone. That space where family, community and home feels safe and comfortable.

When we were children, we had our parents, teachers and coaches to push us.

“Go!” they would exclaim.

Now, as adults, we need those same people to remind us we are capable.

It happened to me recently.

Nancy Day, the president of Dataw Island Garden Club, asked me and another member, Christine, if we would be willing to participate in decorating the parlor at the Verdier House for the Dec. 2 Night on the Town event. This was a joint effort with six other garden clubs.

My initial response was, “Why me?”

Nancy assured me we could do it. “Go!” she said.

Truthfully, we questioned her judgment, but decided it was time we stepped out of our comfort zone and accepted the challenge.

We began our assignment by visiting the Verdier House and meeting with Jackie Wedler, the curator.

It’s always a good idea to pick the brains of someone who knows the subject matter.

She gave us the background of the house and told us what the owners would use to decorate it, which was mostly plants and fruit, but no Christmas tree.  Evidently, people would go to the Town Square to see a Christmas tree. It also meant no plastic, no fake plants, no glitter or sprayed pine cones. The 200-year-old house was to be decorated like it would have been in the early 1800s.

We sought advice from Maggie, the owner of Sweet Bay, and then a neighbor lent us a black wrought iron piece for our holly. We gathered magnolia leaves, pine needles, sweet grass, oranges, a pineapple and a host of evergreens to fill baskets and bowls to arrange into acceptable displays.

On the morning of the Night on the Town event, we pulled up to the Verdier House and joined the other garden clubs. The Sea Island Garden Club members were very encouraging.

After a few hours, we viewed our display with satisfaction and were pleased that we had accepted the challenge.

So, if you are sitting there in your own little comfort zone, you may consider stepping out of it and doing something new. You can always start by visiting the Verdier House on Bay Street. It is a comfortable zone.

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Meeting Miss Lovey is an experience not soon forgotten

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By Lee Scoot

What better activity on a cool Sunday afternoon than to join friends for an afternoon of football?

Recently, our friends, Chris and John, invited us over not just for football, but drinks and companionship too. It was one of those gorgeous fall days, upper 60s, blue sky and cool breeze. While we were sitting there watching the game, a commercial came on and Chris said, “Oh, there’s Miss Lovey. Come out to the screened porch and see her.”

Now this couple’s house sits next to a beautiful pond along a golf course green.  Outside their screened porch there is a stone patio which is surrounded with flowers and shrubbery; nature’s own fence.

As I started out the patio door, Chris said, “Oh no. Just stay here. You don’t want to wake her up.”

She pointed to a spot between the pond and the flowers.

“Who?” I asked.

“Lovey,” she said, grinning.

There, spread out on the bank, was a 10-foot alligator sunning. I stepped back on the porch quickly, but Lovey did not move.

“How long has she been there sunning?” I asked.

“About six hours.” said Chris. “We adopted her when we first bought the house. We have an agreement. We leave her alone and she leaves us alone.”

I surmised that Lovey must have known it was a Sunday afternoon and decided she needed a day of rest too.

Like many communities, ours has been full of people using chainsaws and blowers to clear away debris. But on a Sunday afternoon, when people deserved a break, it seemed like a perfect time for Lovey to relax.

As we observed her, I thought of the many hours I have spent relaxing on a beach or pool sunning myself. How many times have I opened my eyes and just said, “Not yet. I just need a few more minutes?”

I connected with Lovey at that moment.

She continued to rest as the football game played on that day. I think the open windows, along with the sound of the football announcer’s voices reciting each play, lulled her to sleep as has happened to my spouse on numerous occasions. Even the golfers playing through did not faze her.

So, a word of caution: If you get invited to Chris and John’s, be sure to meet Lovey, but please do not get off the porch.

Beaufort County’s hurricane gamble pays off

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By Bill Rauch

When the dust has settled on this year’s hurricane season, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) conventions, conferences and seminars begin early next year, the presenters will be talking about Beaufort County and its County Council chairman, Paul Sommerville.

Why?

Because Sommerville sniffed out a FEMA loophole, swiftly and expertly exploited it, and within days of Hurricane Matthew’s departure won for Beaufort County’s taxpayers an estimated $15 million prize. Moreover, here and only here in South Carolina today the debris Hurricane Matthew left behind in private communities is being picked up at government (local, state or federal) expense.

Meanwhile none of the other coastal disaster-declared South Carolina counties — Colleton, Charleston, Georgetown and Horry, nor Gov. Nikki Haley — are today even in the game. The debris is piled high along Horry and Georgetown’s private roads, and no one is picking it up. And in Charleston and Colleton counties today in the private communities, it’s every man for himself.

Here’s how it happened.

Half of Beaufort County’s roads are private, gated, and/or controlled by property owners’ associations. That means the cost of removing post-Matthew debris brought to the roadsides of half the roads in the county would not under FEMA’s regulations be reimbursed by FEMA.

There are only three exceptions to the FEMA policy: if there is a health emergency, if the county typically picks up debris from these places or if the county’s finances are such that it would go broke if it had to pay for the debris removal itself.

Beaufort County does not typically pick up yard waste along its privately-owned roads, and with a $30 million emergency reserve fund and additional borrowing capacity, the county would not face bankruptcy if it were forced to pay a $15 million unexpected bill.

But what about the health emergency angle?

After Hurricane Matthew moved on up the coast on Oct. 22, knowing the three exclusions, Sommerville reached out to State Sen. Tom Davis to ask Davis to ask Haley to declare a health emergency for all the affected counties. It was a reasonable request although had the governor granted it, it would have been unprecedented.

The governor’s office explained to me last week that it is their view that health emergencies are things like terrorist bio-medical attacks, rogue viruses and major chemical spills or releases. Not hurricanes. And that is what the governor told Davis in the days after the storm.

As the early signs back from Columbia appeared negative, Sommerville doubled down and called on former-Gov. Mark Sanford to intercede with Haley. Sanford now represents Beaufort County and much of the Carolina coast in the U.S. Congress.

But the governor continued to demur.

Leaving half of Beaufort County to fend for themselves was not an option for Sommerville. The county was going to pick up the debris on all the county’s roadsides, but would the county have to pay?

Or was there another way to get FEMA to pay for the removal of the estimated half-million cubic yards of debris that Hurricane Matthew left behind in Beaufort County’s private communities?

On Oct. 23, with a regularly scheduled county council meeting scheduled for the next afternoon, Sommerville wrestled with that question with Deputy County Administrator Josh Gruber and county attorney Tom Keaveny. Together the three settled on Beaufort County’s Code of Ordinances Sections 22-28, the local law that enables county council to issue proclamations and regulations concerning health, safety and disaster relief during civil emergencies. Proclaiming a health emergency would at least permit the county to change its own policy and start picking up on the private roads, and it might meet FEMA’s test to enable the federal reimbursement.

Sommerville started calling his council members to bring them in on the plan. That’s when he found most of them were still evacuated and wouldn’t be able to get to the Monday meeting. Some proposed canceling it, but Sommerville knew he had to get the health emergency declared before the county’s contractors could start picking up the private roads. So, speaking one-by-one with his members, he determined he could probably get a quorum together on Oct. 26, so he postponed the meeting.

At the postponed meeting, still with two of his 11 members absent, a lively discussion of the emergency health measure ensued both in the executive session period and later in open session. Some members who represented poorer districts were uncomfortable putting up to $20 million at risk. In fact no one much liked it.

But the alternative — telling the residents who live in POAs, and/or behind gates, and/or on private roads, telling half the county that they were going to have to go it alone — was worse. No one had a better idea, so Sommerville’s plan was finally passed by a vote of 8-1.

The following morning the county’s debris removal contractors started rolling into the county’s dozens of private communities, including hard-hit Fripp and Harbor islands that are represented by Sommerville.

That was a big step, but the big dollar question remained: Would the county be reimbursed by FEMA at the standard public roads level of 75 percent for the cost of the debris removal on the county’s private roads? Would the local Health Emergency Proclamation gambit work?

It didn’t take long to find out. On Nov. 1, FEMA sent word the agency would reimburse Beaufort County for its private roads debris pick-up costs. Current estimates are those costs will be about $20 million. Of this FEMA has agreed to reimburse at the standard 75-percent level.

A FEMA spokesman told me last week that Beaufort County’s Health Emergency Proclamation had been “an important factor” in the federal agency’s unusual and swift decision.

If the current value of the county’s mil is $1.75 million, Sommerville’s out-of-the-box health emergency proclamation saved Beaufort County’s taxpayers the equivalent of 8.6 mils on their property taxes next year.

Meanwhile, neither Colleton nor Charleston counties have even applied to FEMA to be reimbursed for private road debris pick-up costs. Colleton officials didn’t respond to repeated calls, but Edisto Beach residents have told me the residents on private roads there have been told they are on their own. That is also the case in Charleston County, a spokesperson for Charleston County confirmed last week.

In Georgetown and Horry counties, the debris continues to pile up along private road roadsides, spokespersons for those counties confirmed last week, because the county councils there don’t want to risk having to bear locally the costs of those cleanups. In Georgetown County, debris disposal site fees are being waived for private communities, a spokesman said. But both counties were still waiting at press time for word back from FEMA whether the federal agency will reimburse them. Neither Georgetown nor Horry have passed local health emergency measures.

Beaufort County announced last week that countywide debris pick-up will be handled in three “passes.” The county now has over 100 contractors working its debris removal job. Their enormous black trucks and trailers are a commonplace sight on Beaufort County’s roads — both the public and private ones — these days.

By week’s end, Beaufort County officials predict, their team will be approaching the conclusion of its “first pass,” and by then about half of the of countywide post-Matthew debris will have been picked up.

And Sommerville, a die-hard college football fan, can enjoy Saturday’s Clemson-Pitt game with his daughter, a junior at Clemson University, knowing Beaufort County’s army of debris removal contractors are hard at work at home picking up the rest … and on the feds’ tab.

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