Perspective: When a Storm Hits

By now you have heard Hurricane Matthew left his mark at several of our state parks.  Once tall, stately oaks lay uprooted and broken, and pine trees that once leaned with the wind are now twisted into splinters. Roads and campsites once covered with pollen and pine needles are now covered with water.  Sand that covered miles of beach now buries a campground.  Hurricane Matthew has left his mark. Several inland parks sustained damage from Matthew, such as Santee with significant tree damage and Little Pee Dee with the failure of the dam at Lake Norton, but it is without question the parks along the coast took the hardest hit. 

          Myrtle Beach sustained damage to the decking of the pier but the structure is sound and repairs will be made this winter.  Huntington Beach’s causeway has been damaged and repairs are underway with plans for the park to reopen just in time for our annual Halloween festival.  At Edisto Beach, the trees are broken and the ocean campground is covered in three to four feet of sand that was once part of a beach filled with shells and visitors enjoying a day in the sun. Then there’s Hunting Island.  Trees fell in patterns as the counter-clockwise motion of a Category 2 hurricane made its way along the Carolina coast.  Sand and water was found in places where it is not supposed to be and some facilities that were supposed to be in a certain place are not. The damage is devastating and I must admit after my first few days of assessing damage and seeing Matthew’s destruction, it was discouraging. 


          Then I started to see things I missed while focused on the negative impacts of the storm.  I started seeing what makes these parks special in the first place- the resources and the people who take care of them.  Myrtle Beach Park Manager Jerry Ives said, “We’ll take care of this,” and as if on cue, the watchful eye of the park’s bald 
eagle called out from high above. I felt better already. And then it was off to Huntington Beach.  As we stood on the causeway, we were joined by several very tired Royal Terns. We watched the marsh turn those magical shades of gold and green as the sun began the set. The following morning I watched an amazing sunrise at Edisto Beach over a shell covered beach. As I looked back to the park, I saw what has stood for 80 years through Gracie, Hazel, Hugo, and now Matthew- the historic CCC Bathhouse. There are a few shingles missing but it’s still standing as the CCC motto says, “Solid as a rock, tough as nails.” Off to Hunting Island, where I walked with Park Manager Daniel Gambrell and Regional Chief Ray Stevens for hours through the storm soaked island to check on our guiding light.  We arrived with smiles on our faces to see the iconic lighthouse standing tall, unscathed by the storm, and seemingly keeping a watchful eye over a battered Hunting Island.  Yes indeed, we’ve got this. We’ll be back. Our team has already responded like I knew they would- with passion, confidence and a resilience that is second to none.          

         
           The challenges are real and we’ll need your help and support. How can you help? Keep an eye on our website as we continue to reopen parks. Visit your state parks, buy a park passport and be patient with us as we recover. And as always, continue to enjoy and make memories at your state parks.