SOUTH CAROLINA—Hurricane Dorian left the coast of South Carolina and the Diocese of Charleston with far less damage than many originally feared it would.
The storm brought high winds, storm surge, heavy rain and flooding as it moved north along the state’s coast on Sept. 5, but diocesan officials joined state leaders in breathing a sigh of relief after it passed through.
South Carolina came through relatively unscathed, especially compared to the devastation Dorian caused first in the Bahamas and then the heavy flooding it brought along the Outer Banks of North Carolina on Sept. 6-7.
Flooding did occur in parts of Charleston, Georgetown County, and near beaches in Horry County, but it was nowhere near the damage caused by Hurricane Matthew in 2016 and Hurricane Florence in 2018.
As of Monday, Sept. 9, no significant damage to churches or schools had been reported, according to Eric Meister, Catholic Mutual’s claims risk manager for the Diocese of Charleston.
“Everything we’ve been hearing has been pretty minor; mainly wind damage and no flooding,” Meister said.
He had received only four claims for storm damage by Sept. 9. Bishop England High School in Charleston reported some roof leaks and damage to light poles on the athletic fields. A tree came down on a fence and concrete wall near the rectory at St. Patrick Church in Charleston. St. Benedict Church in Mount Pleasant reported roof leaks and some damage to siding, and Meister said there was also a report of damage at Charleston Catholic School, but he had no specifics.
Sandra Leatherwood, superintendent of Catholic schools, said she was extremely thankful that none of the state’s schools were severely damaged or flooded.
“So far God has blessed us this year,” Leatherwood said.
Schools along the coast had experienced major flooding in recent years, especially after Hurricane Florence. That storm forced Holy Trinity School in Longs to permanently relocate after it was inundated by water from the Waccamaw River. The school is now located on the campus of Our Lady Star of the Sea Church in North Myrtle Beach.
For the first time in four years, workers at Catholic Charities of South Carolina were not being inundated by calls for help after a storm.
The agency had helped hundreds of residents in the state get supplies and repair their homes after a slew of storms including the “thousand-year” flood in 2015, then hurricanes Matthew, Irma and Florence. The worst impact came from Florence, which left hundreds homeless in Horry County and the Pee Dee region of the state.
“We made it through Dorian and now we are trying to figure out what response is needed from us,” said Michele Borbely, site administrator for Catholic Charities of the Pee Dee. “From what I am hearing and seeing, there wasn’t as much damage as we had feared. It really could have been a lot worse.”
Borbely said staff members were on conference calls with other organizations around the region the weekend after the storm and on Sept. 9 to get an idea of how they can help.
Agency workers were especially concerned about the type of assistance that may be needed near North Myrtle Beach and Longs in Horry County, where two tornadoes touched down the morning of Sept. 5.