There is an emergency room and some power, and businesses are creeping back into operation as northern Beaufort County works to return to normal following a devastating Hurricane Matthew.
Sunday brought the sound of chainsaws as crews and residents continued to clear roadways and yards of trees. Utility crews worked on power lines in Beaufort, Port Royal and the Sea Islands.
A 7 p.m. curfew remained in place Sunday evening throughout Beaufort County.
A plan for limited re-entry was laid out by emergency officials and expected to be in place by Sunday night.
When re-entry begins, those trying to get back into the county will be brought to Whale Branch Early College High School and Bluffton High School, where there will be restrooms and water. People will be asked for their address and purpose for coming back, and if their home is an area without power or is unsafe, they remain at the school.
Beaufort City Manager Bill Prokop urged residents not to return until Tuesday afternoon or risk waiting at the school for hours.
State transportation officials cleared all of northern Beaufort County’s bridges for travel except Harbor River Bridge.
Government offices and Beaufort County schools will be closed through at least Tuesday. Beaufort’s City Council meeting scheduled Tuesday was canceled.
Beaufort Memorial Hospital’s emergency room reopened at noon Sunday.
Opening the facility and restoring power to essential areas were among the issues Beaufort County emergency personnel addressed ahead of re-entry.
Beaufort County opened entry early Sunday to those who already possess primary, secondary or security re-entry passes. The passes only apply to individuals, the county emergency hotline said.
Power crews worked throughout northern Beaufort County to clear trees from power lines and restore the power grid. Power has been restored to some areas.
Beaufort Memorial Hospital experienced some leaking due to rain, but the issues have been repaired, hospital spokeswoman Courtney McDermott said Sunday. The hospital is running on full power and outpatient medical services could reopen by Tuesday, president and CEO Russell Baxley said.
Gov. Nikki Haley at a news conference Sunday said the hospital sustained structural and flooding damage, though she didn’t provide specifics.
Beaufort-Port Royal firefighters went door-to-door assessing damages to homes and businesses, keeping a log at their Ribaut Road headquarters. The city’s building code contractor will follow up on the list and arrived Sunday morning to begin looking at flood damage in problem areas like Mossy Oaks and the Point neighborhood downtown.
Port Royal’s building inspector will conduct a similar process, but there is less damage than in the city, Town Manager Van Willis said.
The highest water mark they had found as of lunchtime Sunday was 2 1/2 feet in a garage on Battery Creek Road.
The Port Royal Public Works Department worked with the Greenery to clear about 30 locations where trees are blocking roads, Willis said. In most cases, there is access to homes and businesses, he said.
Greenery employees picked up debris in Naval Heritage Park and throughout Old Village on Sunday.
The town remains under a 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. curfew.
Meanwhile, some businesses began showing signs of life.
The Shell gas station at First Boulevard and Ribaut Road began pumping Sunday, and some gas was reported on Boundary Street. Lady’s Island Publix was open Sunday, restricting the number of customers initially and later only accepting cash and credit cards.
Lowe’s, Walmart and Golden Corral on Robert Smalls Parkway were working to reopen Sunday. Beaufort Pharmacy and Compounding across from Beaufort Memorial Hospital is open.
Emergency officials are also working to establish local shelters for those whose homes are uninhabitable when they return. Residents who know their homes are damaged should have a plan in place.
Emergency officials expect medical calls to begin once people return and begin working around their homes or living near trees weakened by the storm.
“Beware you might come back to a home you can’t stay in,” Beaufort-Port Royal Fire Chief Reece Bertholf said. “Now what do you do?”