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Editorial: Help each other during storm recovery

We had a week of high anxiety.

Will the hurricane strike? How strong? How much rain? Should we stay or go?

As Hurricane Irma made its devastating way through the Caribbean and barreled toward Florida as a Category 5 storm, there were many possibilities for our county and the Lowcountry.

Each day brought a new forecast and renewed uncertainty. The damage wrought by Hurricane Matthew last year had us on edge. We didn’t want anybody to have to again regroup from the damaging effects like many did after last year’s Category 2 storm.

But early last week we all eyed the maps and listened for hourly updates and watched the eye of the hurricane churn, churn, churn.

“This is not a storm to play with,” Sheriff Chris Malphrus said.

As the county prepared for the hurricane by boarding up offices and stocking up on supplies, we were greeted by an influx of evacuees from Florida.

Never before had so many cars driven through Jasper County. It’s a fair estimate to say at least 250,000 cars rode through Hardeeville and Ridgeland and other parts of the county, jamming many roads, including Interstate 95 and U.S. 17.

That’s probably a low estimate. The traffic volume was extraordinary.

Hardeeville Police Chief Sam Woodward said he’s never seen so many cars in his 33 years in law enforcement.

Malphrus also said he’s never seen so much traffic.

The roads were packed throughout the state, with more than 92,000 extra motorists on South Carolina’s roads because of the storm.

As stunning as it was to see so many cars crawling along the roads, it was a sobering reminder of the severity of the hurricane. So many people had to flee Florida because of the storm’s expected catastrophic impacts.

We headed into the weekend with a little less anxiety — but not much. The governor issued a mandatory evacuation for Knowles Island and the Tullifiny River, but the rest of the county was urged to use their best judgment.

As of our print deadline, the storm was forecast to continue to head west, limiting the most dangerous effects.

However, we were still expected to face tropical storm winds hovering around 60 miles per hour and see about 10 inches of rain. Flooding was a legitimate concern.

No matter the severity of the storm, we are confident the county’s people will be there for each other. Last year the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew led to goodwill as volunteer groups formed, food was offered for those in need, and those who had power offered neighbors a place for a hot shower or a bite to eat.

There were many unselfish acts that helped get the county back on track.

We hope the altruism is extended this year.

Be safe.

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