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Thawing Out

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Photo by Janice Sauls

 Colleton County is still reeling from last week’s heavy ice storm, now prompting the question: were Colleton residents ready for what came?

While the storm – being called Pax – was bad for residents, it was good for business. Many of Walterboro’s hotels stayed sold out for at least one week. Comfort Inn’s front desk Manager Alicia McCall says the hotel was booked solid, with their staff turning away residents seeking shelter. “We were also booked the last time we had a storm ice, about two weeks ago,” she said. The Comfort Inn stayed booked at capacity with all 96 rooms filled through Monday morning. “We are normally congested this time of year, with Valentine’s Day, but the storm and the wreck on I-95 added to the congestion,” she said.

Many of the gas stations in the inner-regions of Walterboro ran out of gas by Friday morning, with reports of price gouging with some stations charging $4 per gallon, according to Colletonian readers. Restaurants also were booming with business: Shoney’s had lines of hungry patrons wrapped around their restaurant, and workers at the McDonald’s near Exit 53 in Walterboro scurried to supply customers with breakfast. But not all businesses flourished from the storm. Deborah Stone with Gladys Murray Flowers says her Valentine’s Day orders were less than normal, and most orders to schools were having to be delivered on Monday.

IMG_5479 Jan Gatch

Photo by Jan Gatch

S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley came to Walterboro Friday to assess the damage from the storm. Haley called the storm “worse than Hugo,” referring to the 1989 hurricane that shredded much of the coastal counties. She also praised the county’s emergency response teams, saying their efforts in helping bounce back from the storm were commendable. “What you are seeing in Colleton County is great,” she said. Haley said she held Friday’s press conference in Walterboro to “get everyone on the same page” and to assess the damage. As of  Friday’s press conference, more than 18,000 people were still without power in Berkeley County, with more 8,000 people in rural Colleton County without electricity. Power crews from Texas and Georgia were moving into Walterboro to assist Colleton’s local crews. “We are a tough community,” said Haley. “The way we are helping each other, the way we are working. We have a lot of fight in our small state.”

Crews with Colleton County Fire-Rescue, Walterboro Public Safety and the Colleton Sheriff’s Office worked around the clock to remove debris from roadways. CCFR Director Barry McRoy was busy moving a tree from atop a Colleton residents’ home on Friday when he did an interview with this reporter about the storm and its damage. According to McRoy, the western end of the county was hit the hardest – Lodge, Williams, Ruffin and Smoaks. The fire-rescue department was also busy dealing with an unusual side-effect of the storm: carbon monoxide poisoning. The department received multiple emergency calls for people with carbon monoxide poisoning, said McRoy, but had two serious calls: a family of four were transported to Colleton Medical Center after fumes from a gas generator in a garage seeped into their house. CCFR also flew a man to MUSC for carbon monoxide poisoning: according to McRoy, this man was unconscious when fire-rescue personnel arrived. His wife, also a victim of carbon monoxide poisoning, crawled from their house and to a neighbor’s house for help. In this case, the couple was using a charcoal grill inside their house as a heat source. “Carbon monoxide is odorless and colorless, and you don’t know it’s got you until it’s got you,” he said.

Heather Walters (1738 Posts)