Hurricane Hugo

July 31, 2009

Touring Garden City

The dazzling sunlight and brilliant blue waves pounding the sand vividly gave contrast to the chaotic scene that lay along the way as we gingerly walked down Waccamaw Avenue.

The dazzling sunlight and brilliant blue waves pounding the sand vividly gave contrast to the chaotic scene that lay along the way as we gingerly walked down Waccamaw Avenue. Houses were askew of their foundations and bore an assortment of smashed roofs, decks, and boarded-up windows. The ubiquitous condos, mostly on the ocean side of the street showed similar damage but, due to their multi-floor construction, presented even more bizarre awkwardness.

Ten days earlier Hurricane Hugo had ravaged South Carolina before wreaking havoc all the way to New England. Now the state government was allowing property owners on the barrier island of Garden City Beach to inspect their property. A National Guard post was set up at the mainland side of the Atlantic Avenue bridge and those that could prove ownership were being allowed to walk across the bridge, which spans the marsh and back flow of Murrell's Inlet, to the island. The marsh as far as one could see in either direction was littered with household possessions; sofas, washing machines, refrigerators, etc.

We traversed the bridge and Atlanric Avenue to the intersection with Waccamaw Avenue, where the Kingfisher Inn still held forth with little visible damage. The next-door fishing pier was not so lucky, essentially gone. We turned north on Waccamaw to reach our oceanside condo that was .4 miles away. The street had been scraped by a road machine but about a half foot of sand remained on the roadbed. The sand that covered two to three feet of every yard or parking lot was six feet high along the street edge, as they were recipients of the street scrapings; thus creating a kind of moonscape ambiance.

When we reached our building, one of two that made up the complex, we could see some roof damage and noted about half of the outside stairs were gone or dangling. Two cars in the parking lot were smashed and upended. The swimming pool located between the two buildings was demolished, as was the huge deck that surrounded it. We had moved this pool back from the shoreline several feet when we replaced it after the high tide storm of 1987. We would ultimately replace it again but situate even further back toward the street. Our "front yard" with it's crosstie seawall was gone and the incoming tide lapped to the first oceanside pilings under our building. Several oceanside terraces in our complex were heavily damaged.

Although the first floor was above the ground level breezeway we could easily see into and through the first floor condos. They were bare of all furnishings and we could see the ocean on the other side. These units were as bare as looking through a shotgun barrel.

The stairs for our access to our unit on the second floor were destroyed but we found some usable stairs on a nearby wing. When we reached the second floor we had to step around some missing hallway floor to reach our front door, which showed no signs of calamity.

Upon entering we were just astonished. Not one sign of damage. Perfect condition. Ready for a magazine shoot. Our terrace had some floor damage but there was none inside the unit. Incredible. Damage on the floor above and below, but sandwiched in between was.........lucky us.

Then the even more astounding find: all the dishes, still in their cabinets, were undisturbed, but drinking vessels, cups and glasses were, about half filled with water! How could this be when there was absolutely no other visible damage?

It would be another nine months before we could gain occupancy. Now, twenty years later, we still have this little two-bedroom unit and our permanent Columbia residence, and we still watch the weather reports very closely.

-- Theron (Ted) Teagle Sr,. Columbia

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