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Shrimpers Weigh Future in Hurricane-Ravaged Town With PM-Hugo, Bjt

September 27, 1989

McCLELLANVILLE, S.C. (AP) _ Shrimpers whose families have made a living off the sea for generations are vowing to return, even though Hurricane Hugo wiped out shrimp beds and tossed around their trawlers like toys.

″I’m going to have to get my house straight and my boat straight, and I reckon I’ll have to go south for shrimping,″ said Charles Sellers, 37, a shrimper for 14 years.

But, he added, ″I’ll be back.″

Generations of families have made their livelihoods shrimping the marshes and creeks of the Intracoastal Waterway. Hugo, with its 135 mph winds and 17- foot tidal surge, destroyed the shrimp beds in this fishing village of 500 at the height of the season.

Shrimpers said the harvest this year had been one of the best before Hugo struck, with daily catches running at 300 pounds to 500 pounds, which is double last year’s. The shrimping season runs from May to November.

Shrimping is a $30 million a year industry along the coast, and the fishermen aren’t the only ones to suffer.

″The biggest thing is people who buy the shrimp - the packing houses - they’re all wiped out. They’re destroyed,″ said Jimmy Scott, 45, a shrimper for the past 21 years. ″By the time they get it built back, the season is over.″

His 68-foot boat, the Mary Margaret, lay stranded on the main approach to the dock. Its riggings were tangled with a battered oak tree.

Scott said he’ll still live in McClellanville, but will have to find another place to shrimp.

″I’m born and raised here. I’ve got to stay here,″ he said.

The town, three miles from the ocean, was founded in the early 1800s by planters who wanted to escape the intense summertime heat. It evolved into a quaint village of moss-draped oak trees and narrow streets, with many of its residents making their living catching shrimp, oysters and fish.

Thomas Colleton and his family of nine weathered the storm in their home two miles from the water. Colleton, 57, who works for other shrimpers, said he was unsure when he would work again.

Wayne Potter’s 60-foot trawler was destroyed and he lost his house in the storm. But Potter, who has been a shimper for 35 years like his father and grandfather before him, cannot imagine a life away from the sea.

Nor can other shrimpers, he said.

″They’re going to stick with it. As soon as they get their boats back in shape, they’re going to get right back into business,″ Potter said.

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