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Returning to Dewees after Dorian with Gratitude

We are back on the island, and working our way back to normal.  The kids are back in school.  Evacuating isn’t my favorite part of living on an island. For my longwinded tips and thoughts on evacuation, click here. (I decided to write it all out so maybe, if there’s a next time, I’ll remember how to do it.)

As always, our first reaction on returning to Dewees is gratitude.  Gratitude that the storm didn’t wobble 20 miles to the west, and gratitude that by the time it arrived on our shores, the winds were pushing the current and surge away from the mainland and offshore, rather than the 4-7 foot surge we were expecting.  And gratitude for the village of staff, local emergency officials, and neighbors who helped us weather the storm. 

The governor ordered an evacuation at the 6:30 press conference on Sunday night.  By this time, the community was pretty much finished up with the dammit!ball tournament (Thanks Michael and your crew) over on the front beach. Despite king tides which reached almost to Ancient Dunes Boardwalk, there was a pretty good crowd gathered.

Because it was a holiday weekend, the island was pretty crowded.  Everyone began preparing to leave.  On Monday, the last run of the big ferry was at 9:30: It was crowded.


Meanwhile, the staff was preparing the community buildings and doing all sorts of things for us that we are probably not aware of.  For instance, did you know that Lori evacuated the animals in the nature center?  At her home, there will be four turtles, a lizard, a fish, and a handful of horseshoe crabs in addition to her family and pets?  I took this photo of her and Cora last year when they were taking all the critters home.

The DUC team also secures the water plant and makes sure we’re ready to get back online quickly.  Meanwhile, the staff puts all the Huyler House porch and pool furniture in, and puts up shutters where necessary:

Fire chief Richie McWethy operates the lull while Nathan secures the shutters.

I always thought that part about the sheriff showing up and telling everyone to get off the island was an urban legend.  Not at all: here is the Charleston County Sheriff’s office arriving (with the Breeze) to discuss evacuation with the island manager and the fire chief:

Once the big ferry was headed to the boatyard to be pulled out and placed safely in dry dock, there were still a lot of people on the island who needed to get off.  The breeze began running continuously (in very high tides) and people who were lined up on the dock all got off the island relatively quickly.  David took some people over on the Scout, and the skiff also carried passengers and gear to the dock.

Catherine was stationed on the dock to help facilitate all the transitions.  While this was a bit of hurry-up situation, everything was pretty calm and friendly~ neighbors looking out for each other, helping with golf cart transportation, offers of assistance from everything to moving cars and carts to places to stay.  We are fortunate to be surrounded by this atmosphere of kind consideration.  

Evacuation is not my favorite activity~ more on that here.   It was fun to catch up with some Dewees friends while in Atlanta, and fun to hear about other impromptu Dewees gatherings.

Because the wifi stayed up, we could even watch the impoundment from our Dewees friends’ house:


The island manager kept us informed with regular updates during the storm.  AND got the island opened very quickly on Friday morning.  We arrived just after the island opened on Friday, and were stunned to see how well organized and tended everything was.  The dock (and waterways) were free of all debris:

Compared to previous storms, the waterline was relatively low at the base of the ramp:

The newspaper was still there from the day we evacuated:

And all the shuttle carts were ready to go:

The warning flag was still up, reminding us of what a near miss this was:

The breeze was returned to service on Friday afternoon, and until then the ferry crew made regular runs on the skiff:

It’s strange to see the causeway basically empty:


The roads had been basically plowed of the general coverings of pine straw, sticks and branches that covered them. You can see where the staff dragged the debris over to the sides of the road. Several of the water oaks on Old House Lane split and broke, and some pines were down but obviously cleared up already.

The islander was back in service quickly as well: here she is on Saturday coming past the marina:

Over on the beach, there were some big changes:

This is Osprey Walk. We took a bunch of drone photos to show the before and after of some of these locations.

There are lots of broken shells on the beach, and its hard to tell whether some of the erosion is from the storm or from the holiday weekend king tides.

section of boardwalk washed up

The south end of the beach is pretty much the same, but the north end has definitely experienced some significant change:

Looking south from Osprey Walk, where the deep stumps that have been covered for the last few years are now uncovered again.

I am putting together some before/after shots from the drone; stay tuned.

For now I want to conclude the way I began: with gratitude. For all the staff has done and is continuing to do for our community. For the timing and direction of the storm that spared us a direct hit or destructive surge. For the good wishes, texts, emails, and inquiries from friends near and far. For the resiliency of the island and the creatures that call it home. Our hearts go out to those whose lives are forever changed by this storm~ we support the efforts of Water Mission in the Bahamas.