Mount Pleasant Magazine Sept-Oct 2023

56 | | flashlights and the like. I thought, These folks clearly are not from here. We’ve seen enough hurricanes to know that there will be a day or two of no power and a few tree limbs down in the yard – minor inconveniences – but nothing to become alarmed about. Boy, was I wrong! Pictorial books, videos and countless news articles have captured the terror, trauma and devastation that “the storm” brought to the Lowcountry. The eye of the Category 4 hurricane targeted Breach Inlet, but as any armchair meteorologist can tell you (and numerous local residents have since had the misfortune of becoming one), the area to the northeast of the eye gets the worst of it. That meant northern Mount Pleasant, Awendaw and McClellanville were sitting ducks. As bad as things were for the more populated areas south and west of the eye, including the cities of Charleston, North Charleston and Summerville, the damage east of the Cooper was utterly unimaginable. Before Hugo, flood zone maps hadn’t been updated in decades, so countless homeowners were unaware they were sitting in harm’s way. The maps have since been revised and broader swaths of the area are now considered flood zones. Even so, folks who have no mortgage on their homes can opt out of purchasing flood insurance. Such was the case for many when Hugo arrived and they were left with no coverage to repair or rebuild their homes. Particularly affected were residents in rural areas as well as some long-time island homeowners whose modest beach houses were washed out to sea. Having lost nearly everything and lacking an insurance safety net, some people were left with no recourse but to sell the empty lots where their houses once stood and move inland – putting the past, along with their memories and belongings, behind them. And then there were the renters. Diane Owens and her family were living on Sullivan’s Island, near Breach Inlet, at the time. “We had renter’s insurance but that didn’t cover flood damage – and there was a 6-foot tidal surge in our apartment,” Owens explained. “I ended up getting $2,000 from my insurance company, but that didn’t cover our losses. It gave us enough to get a meager start, but we had nothing.” In the aftermath, a lot of the storm’s victims looked to the federal government for assistance. But due to the “red tape” and massive number of applicants who needed aid, it was slow in coming. So, local churches and organizations such as East Cooper Community Outreach stepped up to fill the void or provide immediate assistance. And for those who did have the financial means to make repairs, it wasn’t easy to find someone to do the work, as local contractors were swamped with job requests. Some contractors from around the country relocated to the tri-county area to fill the demand. But there were also grifters who came purportedly to assist, but instead took advantage of the situation. Many desperate homeowners paid unlicensed or unscrupulous contractors who took money yet didn’t complete – or sometimes even begin – the work. Newspapers and radio reports warned the public of such scams, but by then, it was often too late. our town