Jimmy Cutter wheeled his pickup through the parking lot of a roadside ice machine Monday, ready to buy a bucket for his home.
But he didn’t get any ice. Without power, the machine would not run. It was the latest challenge in recent days for Cutter, who was among thousands of eastern South Carolina residents dealing with the effects of a weekend hurricane.
“It’s not bad for a few days, but after a while it gets old,’’ Cutter said Monday.
Like Hurricane Hugo 26 years ago, Hurricane Matthew knocked down so many trees it caused widespread power outages throughout Clarendon, Williamsburg and nearby counties. Parts of the area also flooded from torrential rains – just one year after an historic flood crippled central and eastern South Carolina.
The weekend storm left this small city along Interstate 95 struggling Monday to recover. Folks sought to repair leaky roofs, and cleanup work began in places that flooded from the soaking rains.
The biggest impact of the hurricane, however, was from high winds that knocked out power, rendering many businesses in Manning unable to open.
Most gas stations were closed, forcing long lines from motorists at the handful of stations lucky enough to have power. Traffic lights didn’t work, and some streets near the downtown courthouse were blocked off.
Johnny Lawson was exasperated.
The Summerton resident needed gasoline so he could get to Marion to help his daughter, whose home flooded during the hurricane. While waiting in line to fuel his truck at the TA/Jimmy Ardis Travel Center on I-95, Lawson learned that the store had run out of gas at his pump.
“I need gas really bad,’’ he said about midday. “Right now, we are going to move whatever is acceptable from her house to our home. But we’ve got to get gas.’’
The local Piggly Wiggly sold bread, potato chips, canned goods, charcoal and other grocery items from its parking lot to hungry customers. The items for sale were all the store had left that had not spoiled when the electricity went out during high winds Saturday.
“We don’t know when the power is coming back on, so we’re trying to get some food together,’’ said Jennifer Williams, who bought bananas, charcoal and bread at the Piggly Wiggly sale. “This storm was a very bad one. Mother Nature did a job on us.’’
Meanwhile, the city of Manning served a hot meal Monday at the fire station for about 125 people who’d been subsisting on cold food for two days without electricity.
Mayor Julia A. Nelson, a social worker who helped needy people after Hurricane Hugo, said the wind from Matthew made the storm the worst the city has experienced since Hugo in 1989.
Nelson said many people were surprised by Matthew’s force. The city of 4,200 is more than 70 miles from coastal South Carolina, where Matthew’s eye passed by Saturday afternoon.
“I’ve never seen so many trees down since Hurricane Hugo,’’ she said. “Hugo was more massive, but Matthew gave us a good punch.’’
It wasn’t known when all power would be restored in Manning, but lights were slowly starting to come on Monday night as utility crews worked to bring electricity back. Much of the failure had to do with problems in a main electrical supply line, she said.
Monday’s problems in Manning were also found throughout areas between Columbia and the coast.
After the storm, power was out in many parts of Georgetown, Williamsburg and Clarendon counties between the town of Andrews and U.S. 378.
A drive along S.C. 261 revealed dozens of downed trees, many of them hanging on power lines. In the nearby city of Kingstree, a power line had fallen into the rising Black River, the result of a fallen tree. Other wires dangled near the water. Most businesses in Kingstree were dark. In rural Clarendon County, a tree that fell on a power line caught fire, but it caused no major problems, said firefighter James Kindell.
On Highway 261 beyond the Black River, a massive pine tree had fallen across the road. Someone had cut a piece away that was just wide enough for a car to fit through in one lane.
Jeff Singleton, a spokesman for the Williamsburg County Emergency Management Divison, said wind left a bigger fingerprint than flooding, although officials continue to watch the rising Black River.
Cutter said Monday night that things were improving in his small community outside of Manning.
“We are a small little community and we kind of pull together and help each other out,’’ he said, noting that “we have power back now.’’