Edisto Beach roads likely reopening by Sunday, Gov. McMaster praises recovery efforts

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State officials praised Thursday the ongoing recovery efforts on Edisto Beach following Tropical Storm Irma, and say roads on the island should be fully reopened by the end of the weekend.

Storm surge from Irma on Monday overtook dunes along the beachfront on Edisto, swamping much of the Colleton County island town and burying parts of the island's infrastructure under several feet of sand.

The storm surge wrecked a multi-million dollar beach renourishment project Edisto Beach completed earlier in 2017 after similar devastation by Hurricane Matthew, which leveled houses and left sand piled as high as 5 feet in some places on the interior of the island in Oct. 2016.

RELATED | Edisto Beach open for business; Gov. McMaster to survey damage

"Edisto was hit pretty hard," Gov. Henry McMaster said in a press conference Thursday, offering an update on the situation Edisto is facing. "This was one that got hit the hardest. ... There’s a lot of sand. The drainage systems are full of sand. There’s still a lot of water back in the woods and around the houses."

But, McMaster says great progress is being made in clean-up and recovery, thanks to the "highly coordinated and skilled efforts" of local and state agencies.

"It will take a little while to fix it, but it can be fixed," McMaster said. "As you can see, the machines are moving all over the place, they’re getting the sand off the road. We’re making some progress. This is a good example of how all the different people, including those who have property here, working together can respond to a storm, a disaster or a hurricane and get back on their feet real quick."

Edisto Beach Mayor Jane Darby echoed Gov. McMaster's praise of the coordination and effective work to get Edisto back up and running.

"I think that when there’s a crisis, you can depend on the state of South Carolina," Darby said. "My council members, I cannot praise them enough. Sometimes we may disagree, but when it comes down to a crisis, we join together, and nobody’s going to defeat us."

State transportation secretary Christy Hall said during the press conference 60 Dept. of Transportation workers are on Edisto Beach removing sand and making repairs in order to get roads reopened.

"We estimate that by sundown today, we’ll have about 50 percent of the sand removed from Palmetto Boulevard," Hall said. "Weather permitting, we expect to complete our sand removal operations by the end of the weekend and return the roads back to full service."

Edisto Beach was one of eight populated barrier islands along the South Carolina southern coast that McMaster ordered to evacuate ahead of Irma. McMaster praised the community's response to that evacuation, and the state DOT's handling of traffic during it.

"Evacuations were managed so well," McMaster said. "There were very few obstacles, very few places where cars weren’t moving. We paced that. We were able to pace the leaving with our evacuations from the coast into the flow that we were seeing come up from Georgia and Florida."

McMaster said he thinks South Carolina qualifies to receive federal disaster relief assistance following the storm, based on several criteria. McMaster said FEMA agents are out in the state now assessing damage, and expects it may be another several weeks before an announcement is made.

State parks officials said during the press conference Edisto Beach State Park will reopen next Friday, Sept. 22, for daily use, beach and boat ramp access. Cabins available for rent on the beach will reopen, as well, but state parks officials say the campground may be closed for another couple months.

"This community is really responding very well," McMaster said. "The coordinated work being done by the local officials and the people is taking a lot of the pain out of what could’ve been a lot worse. ... We’re resilient, our people are strong and we are highly coordinated. We have good plans, and good people, and we can handle it, as has been demonstrated this time."

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