DNR officers assist in evacuation, recovery

  • A DNR officer makes his way through a flooded road on Edisto Beach with the help of his four-wheeler.

Barnwell County’s four S.C. Department of Natural Resources officers recently assisted in hurricane evacuation and recovery efforts.

Sgt. Rocky Salter, Lt. John Bedingfield, PFC Matthew Smith and LCPL Steve Terry were assigned to different coastal communities in advance of Hurricane Irma’s arrival to the Palmetto State. They joined other DNR officers from across the state in the evacuation and recovery efforts.

“Our first concern is safety,” said Salter.

Salter was sent to Edisto Beach to work with the State Law Enforcement Division. On Saturday, Sept. 9, she was part of a team that went door to door to see who had evacuated and who was staying behind. They had those who decided to stay on the island to sign a next of kin notification form.

“That really got people’s attention,” said Salter, adding how many chose to leave after hearing about the form and being encouraged to leave.

However, not everyone heeded the officers’ advice to leave. After the storm, Salter spoke with several residents who stayed behind. She said they all told her they would never do that again because their houses shook and the sound was loud.

Salter also helped with security on the two-lane road onto the island. This road was impassible by regular vehicles after the storm due to the sand dunes that formed; however, her four-wheeler was able to maneuver just fine.

The island experienced a good bit of flooding as water got trapped on the roads that run off the beach. She said there were countless pieces of shells that had been broken in the storm. Thousands of dead starfish were also strewn along the beach, but Salter said she didn’t notice any other wildlife affected.

In Beaufort County, Bedingfield helped in the emergency operations center while Smith worked with the S.C. Highway Patrol on traffic control points. Terry was stationed in Moncks Corner where he helped with evacuation efforts.

All DNR officers were told to prepare to be away from home for two weeks, but Barnwell County’s officers were only away about four or five days.