A snapshot of a Charleston suburb’s brush with Hurricane Ian

I live outside of Charleston, South Carolina, the state in which Hurricane Ian made its second landing. Its landfall was 90 minutes away from Charleston in historic Georgetown, so Charleston missed the worst of this Cat 1 hurricane (compared to the Cat 4 that hit Florida). I live about 20 miles outside of Charleston itself. My neighborhood had some gusts that hit about 75 miles an hour, and even that created a mess.

I like a good rainstorm, which is probably a product of having lived through several California droughts. As long as I’m not driving (especially at night), rainstorms fascinate and invigorate me. What happened this afternoon was neither fascinating nor invigorating; it was intimidating—and yet the wind that hit us, at its peak, was only about half as strong as what plowed into Fort Myers (there, gusts hit up to 155 miles per hour), while our local rainfall was only two or three inches, with Charleston itself getting 5 inches of rain in some areas. That’s compared to the 17 inches of rain that fell in central Florida.

By 9 a.m., although the storm wasn’t even close to hitting, the house was already as dark as if dusk had fallen. There was no rain yet, and the wind was hitting at only about 20 miles per hour, but it felt very ominous, perhaps because we knew that worse was to come.

The storm’s progression was slow but steady. As the wind picked up, we heard what sounded like pellets striking the house. It turned out that the wind was launching acorns from the oak trees that fill our neighborhood. Then, the rain started falling, a powerful, heavy, and vertical rainfall.

By 1:00 p.m., the storm was moving in at full force. According to the local paper, wind gusts in Charleston itself hit 85 miles per hour and were probably only somewhat less here. Heavy branches were bouncing off our roof and windows, the rain was blowing horizontally, a pond formed in our backyard, and we heard thuds and bangs from the houses around us. Our power and our internet abruptly stopped

The loudest noise was the storm itself. I managed to capture a few moments. (Incidentally, only the smallest part of what you’re seeing is my garden; most of it is community land):

And then, suddenly, it was over. The rain stopped, and the wind dropped back down to occasional 20-mile-per-hour gusts. Impressively, our power and internet resumed as soon as the storm stopped.

Naturally, I had to see what happened, so I put the leash on the dog and headed out. The most obvious thing was that my neighbors were already out on their properties cleaning up. My guess is that by mid-afternoon tomorrow, except for the downed trees, no one will be able to tell that there was a hurricane here.

Thankfully, no one in my community seems to have been hurt. As far as the eye can see, the ground is littered with shredded leaves, fallen branches, and the occasional downed tree. However, no houses were destroyed, although a couple of houses had trees fall across their roofs, a neighbor’s sun deck was damaged, a large section of fencing separating the subdivision from a neighboring property fell down, and several people suffered leaky roofs and windows. Although a few streets were seriously flooded, the houses here are built about three feet above ground, which may explain why the community Facebook page doesn’t mention floods inside of homes.

I took pictures of the damage within a few blocks of my home. (I blurred out the houses to protect my neighbors’ and my privacy.) Staying on the street, I was only able to get photos of downed trees with trunks that were, at most, about 20 inches in diameter, although I know that much bigger trees fell behind people's houses, including an old oak at least 50 inches in diameter. Fortunately, that last grazed a sundeck, rather than falling on the house. The fallen branches you see in the photos were all big enough to have caused death or serious injury if they'd fallen on someone.

And again, as you contemplate how much havoc our Cat 1 storm wreaked, remember that it was inconsequential compared to Florida’s Cat 4. 

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