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Hurricane cleanup reaches its final stages

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Photo above: Beaufort County is finishing up cleanup from Hurricane Matthew, but there are still abandoned boats throughout the county. A recent ruling by the state Attorney General’s offices said the law puts the burden on the county to clean up marsh areas. The county is hopeful FEMA will reimburse the $5 million cost. Photo by Bob Sofaly.

By Lisa Allen

Nearly five months later, there are still plenty of reminders to illustrate the mess that Hurricane Matthew made.

Green, blue or gray tarps are still strapped to houses awaiting repair on Hilton Head, Dataw and Fripp islands. Boats tossed ashore like toys still line Sea Island Parkway in Beaufort.

Mounds of mulch 20 feet high and 100 yards long were finally hauled from Dataw’s driving range and along Polowana Road.

“We lost 300 trees from the golf courses alone,” said Dataw General Manager Ted Bartlett. “We decided it would be easier and faster to mulch the trees where they fell. That’s where all of the mulch came from. We mostly lost water and laurel oaks and pine trees. The pines blew over and since the oaks rot from the inside out, they snapped at their weakest points.”

At Dataw Island Marina, only the pilings that anchored the docks remain, an eerie reminder of the size of the marina field that is no more. At one point hundreds of plastic garbage bags were stacked in the marina parking lot filled with chunks of foam that once supported the floating docks.

Along the ocean, Hunting Island State Park hopes to reopen its campground and the north beach between Memorial Day and mid-June, according to park manager Daniel Gambrell.

Countywide, crews have collected nearly 1.5 million cubic yards of debris stacked along roadsides, according to a recent report from Beaufort County officials. They’ve hauled 30,184 truck loads and they aren’t quite done.

Fires have been burning for five months straight at three of the four debris fields from Daufuskie Island, Henry Sod Farm on St. Helena, Ihly Farm north of the Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort and Pinckney Point near Okatie.

“They piled the debris in wind rows and dug a trench alongside it,” said Colton Rucker, assistant manager of Henry Farms. “They pushed the debris into the trenches and burned it. They’ve been burning it since a couple weeks after the storm and I think they’ve got a month or more to go. It was 600,000 cubic yards of debris.”

Some of the debris was chewed up into mulch, part of which will be used for a firing range in Yemassee. Meanwhile, logs from Hilton Head Island’s 100,000 downed trees were sold to a paper mill, a firewood supply company, a lumber yard, a sawmill and exported to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, according to a presentation Feb. 20 to the Beaufort County Council, subtitled Day 136. In all, Hilton Head removed 2.5 million cubic yards of debris.

The third and final pass to remove debris and mulch is winding down, from 122 trucks running non-stop in the weeks after the storm to 17 now.

In the next 40 days, county officials plan to close out the last damage reports, clear out the debris sites and release contractors.

The next task will be to haul out boats and other debris that are not in navigable waters. An SC Attorney General ruling stated that  the law puts the burden on the county to clean up marsh areas. The county is hopeful FEMA will reimburse the $5 million cost.

Photo by Lee Scott.
Photo by Lee Scott.
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