COLUMBIA, S.C. — Three people have died in South Carolina from Hurricane Matthew, including a Richland County man who was pinned after falling from his electric wheelchair into a puddle of standing water, authorities said.
The other two deaths occurred in vehicles swept off flooded roads in Florence County, Sheriff Kenney Boone said Sunday.
Gov. Nikki Haley couldn’t guarantee those would be the only deaths. Search and rescue teams were still checking remote areas and waiting for flood waters to recede.
But as the sun came out Sunday, South Carolina turned toward recovery. Crews re-opened all the interstates and were working to remove trees or inspect bridges along the 250 or so roads that remained closed.
Haley lifted evacuation orders in Berkeley, Colleton, Charleston and Dorchester counties Sunday morning. She lifted the evacuation orders in Beaufort and Jasper Counties at 6:30 p.m., but most residents will have to wait until Monday morning to return to their homes because Beaufort County has a 7 p.m. curfew in place.
Hundreds of people in the two counties spent hours near checkpoints hoping to go back home. They were being sent to hastily arranged shelters to spend the night.
And people who live on Hilton Head Island and other barrier islands in Beaufort County will have to wait even longer to return. There is still major damage to clean up and infrastructure that must be repaired, including a sinkhole on the Harbor Island Causeway leading to Hunting and Fripp islands, the county said in a news release. It didn’t give a timetable for when residents might return.
The evacuation orders continue in Georgetown and Horry counties.
“A lot of people are going to try to go home today,” the governor said. “Do not drive through the barricades. It’s dangerous for law enforcement, it’s dangerous for you.”
In Richland County, 66-year-old David L. Outlaw drowned after he was found under his electric wheelchair in standing water at the National Health Care facility in Columbia around 7:45 a.m. Saturday, Coroner Gary Watts said. A person who answered the phone at the skilled nursing center Sunday hung up on a reporter after saying she could not comment.
A witness in Florence County called 911 after seeing the vehicle disappear around noon Saturday. But the swift current and heavy rain prevented rescuers from getting to the vehicle for about four hours, Florence County Emergency Management spokesman Andrew Golden said.
Also in Florence County, divers on Sunday found the body of a man who drove into waters that had washed away a bridge, Boone said in a news release. The coroner hadn’t release the names of the two victims.
More than 10 inches of rain fell in parts of the county, which was trying to recover from numerous roads closed from downed trees and flooding. “I talked to first responders, and a lot of them are saying this was worse than (Hurricane) Hugo,” Golden said.
There was a lot of good news too. All 100 people on Daufuskie Island who ignored pleas from emergency officials to leave were safe. The island, assessable only by boat, suffered structural damage from the storm surge, the governor said.
Power crews are also hard at work. There were 625,000 customers without electricity Sunday afternoon, down more than 200,000 outages from the peak as Hurricane Matthew came ashore near McClellanville.
A Charleston County Sheriff’s Office bomb squad was called to Folly Beach on Sunday after Civil War-era cannonballs were found on shore, washed up by the hurricane, Maj. Eric Watson said.
The squad had to wait for the tide to go back out before they could make sure the cannonballs were safe, Watson said.