Matthew brought out the best of Barnwell County and South Carolina

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Overall, Barnwell County weathered Hurricane Matthew pretty well.

This is due in large part to the preparation, patience and generosity displayed by so many folks in our area. There are definitely a lot of thank-yous that need to go around.

We believe S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley should be commended for issuing the evacuation orders for an estimated 500,000 residents along our state’s coast days before Matthew made landfall. She pleaded with folks during multiple news conferences to evacuate in advance of the hurricane. While only about 355,000 of coastal residents heeded Haley’s warning, her decision for a mass evacuation of the coast no doubt saved lives. Her emergency operations team implemented a plan that worked almost flawlessly to get people evacuated - fast and efficiently.

Lives were also saved due to many folks listening to emergency management and law enforcement officials who encouraged residents to stay off the roads before, during and after the storm came through. While there are many downed trees and thousands of residents lost power, there were no lives lost in Barnwell County because of the storm.

While Gov. Haley and other state officials played a role, Barnwell County Emergency Management Director Roger Riley along with the Emergency Operation Center team and volunteers should be credited with monitoring local conditions as the operated the EOC around the clock. It was a team effort. We also appreciate their open line of communication as they answered questions from the public and kept The People-Sentinel and other media informed so we, in turn, could keep the public updated.

Even as high winds and rain were rolling into Barnwell County, a number of folks worked out in the elements to keep the public safe, especially by clearing roads of downed trees and power lines. As most of us were safe inside our homes, a group of men and women were away from their families putting their lives at risk. This group includes Sheriff Ed Carroll and his staff, the three police departments and other local law enforcement officers, S.C. Department of Transportation, firefighters, EMS, utility workers and the S.C. National Guard.

Though they weren’t out in the elements, we also must thank the team of 911 dispatchers who provided a vital lifeline during this disaster. You don’t see them, but they are the ones who are always there on the other end of the phone in times of need. They worked non-stop during the storm to alert officials of downed trees and other unsafe conditions.

We also want to thank the volunteers who worked at the emergency shelter located at Barnwell Elementary to help the evacuees. This includes folks from the Department of Social Services, Axis 1 Center, the American Red Cross, S.C. Disaster Relief and local law enforcement.

While the folks mentioned above worked to keep so many people safe during the storm, we also want to thank the people who displayed so many acts of kindness and compassion. There’s a phrase that says something about bad times bring out the best in people. We believe that is true, especially here in Barnwell County.

This was especially evident at the emergency shelter as Barnwell County welcomed the evacuees as part of the community for the few days they were here. After hearing evacuees needed meals, a number of families, churches, organizations and individuals brought a feast of sweets and other treats. Food was also taken to first responders, area nursing homes to help evacuees there, emergency management officials and many others. People also donated cots, air mattresses, toiletry items, board games and many other items to help the evacuees feel more at home.

We also saw people volunteer to walk evacuated dogs staying at the Friends for Life Foster and Adoption Center, answer phone calls at the emergency operations center, provide activities for residents at nursing homes, create rest areas for evacuees, offer freezer space to people who lost power, and offer places to worship for churches that were without power.

It would be impossible to name each person or group that has responded to help after Hurricane Matthew because there were so many folks who lent a hand.

So, we say “thank you” to each person who played a role in successfully making it through Hurricane Matthew - no matter how small or large a part you played.

We survived the storm and now must help our fellow South Carolinians in the long road to recovery.

Together, we can make a bigger difference than we can alone.

Bless you, all.