Business owners recall close call with Hugo

09/15/2009 12:00 AM

09/14/2009 11:44 PM

Terry and Bobbie Smoak have been selling Charleston- and Lowcountry-themed gifts at their Charleston Collection stores for 27 years. When Hugo hit, they had several stores in the Lowcountry, including downtown Charleston, Isle of Palms and Kiawah Island. They now operate one store, in West Ashley across from the Citadel Mall. In the hours before Hugo hit, Terry Smoak and his daughter, Ashley Smoak Corley, were photographed boarding up the stores against the wind and water.

"We heard the hurricane was an imminent threat, and we were scurrying around. We had several stores at the time, so we were hurrying, trying to board everything up. Downtown (on East Bay Street) needed to be boarded up first. We found plywood and went to work.

"My daughter (Ashley, then 10) wanted to work. I said, 'Here's a hammer; grab a few nails.' But I was watching her close.

"... We stayed in Spartanburg, where they got a lot of wind damage up there. They had 55, 65 mph winds. Then we got back to Charleston after two or three days. Our home (in West Ashley) had a tree down on the garage area, no huge damage, just a hole in the roof. We had about 13 trees down.

"... (The downtown store) came through beautifully. It was a sunken store; you walked two or three steps down into it. We knew it would be flooded, but there was no damage at the store at all. We thanked God it was protected. It was His hand.

"We also had a store on Isle of Palms. We knew that one was going to be terribly messed up. We had to get there by boat (because the bridge was out). There was debris piled up 6 feet high in front of (the store's) doors. We were afraid to go in. But when we did, there was a spot on one T-shirt. That's it. That's all we lost."

- Compiled by Megan Sexton

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