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Hugo Drives Thousands to Shelters; Some Stay in Seaside Homes

September 22, 1989

CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) _ Thousands of coastal residents huddled together in emergency shelters today as Hurricane Hugo roared outside, but some, including a congressman, ignored the governor’s orders and rode out the storm in seaside homes.

″I wouldn’t miss it for the world,″ said Rep. Arthur Ravenel, R-S.C., who was staying with his wife in their harbor-front home in Mount Pleasant, five miles east of Charleston. ″I’d like to see it. So, I’m going to stay right here and keep a diary.″

His wife, Jean, wasn’t as excited. ″We’re right on the harbor,″ she said. ″But Arthur doesn’t seem to think we need to board up. He’s a Lowcountry boy. So I guess he knows what he’s talking about.″ South Carolina’s south coastal region is called the Lowcountry.

Gov. Carroll Campbell issued a mandatory evacuation for coastal residents, but officials apparently did not forcibly move people who wanted to stay.

Officials said today that more than 38,000 people crowded as many as 121 shelters throughout the state. Hotels were full as far as 270 miles inland.

″We came ’cause I’m scared to death of Hugo,″ said Jeanette Hardee, who was with her husband and two children at a shelter in Socastee, a few miles inland from Myrtle Beach. ″Our house is half mobile home. We boarded up all the windows before we left.″

Damage on the coastal area included roads blocked with debris and downed power lines, mobile homes that were damaged or destroyed, damage to waterfront buildings and structures, and boats washing ashore.

On Pawleys Island, south of Myrtle Beach, authorities said at least 14 houses had been washed away. Three piers disappeared in North Myrtle Beach, Cherry Grove, and Garden City.

State highway patrol officials said the agency lost 32 vehicles parked in North Charleston when the roofs of buildings fell onto them. Also in the Charleston area, the Ben Sawyer Bridge, connecting Mount Pleasant and Sullivan’s Island, was twisted and impassable.

Thirty major buildings in downtown Charleston were leveled, houses collapsed all over the city, the roof caved in at a shelter for 200 people and several people were trapped beneath a collapsed condominium complex, said Elizabeth Tam of the Charleston County Police. At least five people were repored dead in the Carolinas.

Near the northern South Carolina coast at Conway High School, evacuees continued to arrive late Thursday even after the shelter had officially closed with 2,000 people.

″We tried to close the doors but people are sneaking in side doors,″ said Elaine Skelton, a registered nurse.

As the storm bore down on Charleston, some kept a sense of humor about them.

On plywood boards protecting the windows of the Audubon Shop and Gallery in the historic downtown section, someone painted the sign: ″We’re wild, but not as wild as Hugo.″

Mary Emily Boggs, who was among about 700 people in Gaillard Municipal Auditorium in downtown Charleston, said she she just returned to the city after spending several years away.

″I came home the first of September and this is a heck of a welcome,″ she said as she kept her ear to a radio for the latest storm news.

Maggie Burghoff, a Red Cross volunteer manning the shelter, said Hugo was her first hurricane since moving to Charleston from St. Louis.

″I’m anxious to see what it’s all about,″ she said. ″We get tornadoes out there, but of course I’ve never seen one of them either.″

State Rep. Tim Wilkes of Winnsboro, meanwhile, said he was concerned about what the storm might do to his house on Cherry Grove Beach, north of Myrtle Beach. He drove there Thursday, but spent most of his time surfing.

Police finally chased him away.

″I wanted to be able to tell my grandchildren that I surfed Hugo,″ he said after three hours on the surfboard.

In the shelters, many seemed serene about possible damage from the hurricane.

″We have medicine, blankets and friends. There is nothing else we really need,″ said Kathy Peters, who huddled with 22 family members in a Beaufort High School shelter.

Tony and Sanny Wartko left Hilton Head Plantation Thursday morning and headed for Columbia, the state’s capital about 115 miles inland. They drove both of their cars and carried a Turkish rug, a Chinese rug, their cat, and photos of their wedding and a recent round-the-world trip.

″At first, we said, ’We’ll take this and this and this,‴ Wartko said. ″Then we saw how much we had. So we just decided to take the personal things that can’t be replaced.″

Louise Skolfield took some photographs of her North Myrtle Beach home, a block and a half from the ocean, ″so I’d have something to remember my home by if it’s not there when I get back.″

In Myrtle Beach, Costa Rica resident Fernando Vega and his family were forced to spend part of their vacation in a high school shelter.

″We came about 6,000 miles to get here, and look what we find,″ Vega said. ″We wanted a suntan.″

Gov. Campbell urged people not to head back to the coast until the storm had completely passed, and then only if they owned property. He said about 3,200 law enforcement officers and armed National Guardsmen would be guarding property.

″We’re going to come down on them (looters) like a ton of bricks,″ he said.

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