Former Lexington County deputy George Brothers has more sand in his shoes these days than he ever imagined after Hurricane Matthew.
Brothers is busy overseeing security for cleanup and recovery as police chief in this small coastal town that’s a popular escape for many Midlands residents.
“He’s got his hands full,” Lexington County Sheriff Jay Koon said.
The storm left tons of sand on roads and in yards and damaged an undetermined number of the 2,500 homes in the town 135 miles southeast of Columbia.
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But Brothers, who has been chief for 16 months, said conditions were better than expected after he returned from evacuating shortly before the storm came Friday.
“I was concerned I was going to come back to nothing,” he said. His return trip, though, required several stops to use chainsaws to get around fallen trees.
Town residents and owners of rental homes are being allowed in through security checkpoints to look over dwellings in selected neighborhoods as fallen trees are removed and downed power lines put back up.
“We’ve got to make sure people don’t get themselves in a mess,” Brothers said.
The goal of town leaders is to be in shape to handle the usual influx of 3,000 weekly visitors on top of the 500 year-round residents when spring arrives.
Cleanup is off to a fast start, Brother said.
And he’s using lessons he learned about hurricanes gleaned from 21 years of training as a Lexington deputy who rose to oversee emergency preparedness.
“He’s up to the challenge,” said West Columbia Police Chief Dennis Tyndall, a long-time associate.
Edisto’s six-officer force Brothers normally oversees has increased temporarily to 75 with help from National Guard members and Colleton County deputies.
Brothers is dealing with a situation very different than the noisy beach parties and tourism-related traffic jams that are the usual problems in an oceanfront community nicknamed “Edislow” by some visitors.
It’s not the retirement the 60-year-old Brothers and wife Jackie, a former second-in-command of West Columbia police, envisioned.
But the demands left by the hurricane aren’t overwhelming, he said.
“I’m not a sit-around kind of guy,” he said. “I’m a hands-on guy.”
Tim Flach: 803-771-8483