Expecting the storm to only be a Category 2 or 3 and aiming for Savannah ... and then Myrtle Beach, sticking around seemed like the thing to do. But as the evening wore on, the storm strengthened and its course shifted, put it coming ashore just north of the Charleston area, aiming the brunt of its force right at those of us who stayed.
It was a hell of a ride that night, and words really don't describe the sights we saw the next morning, as we emerged to see a city which had been blasted and ripped apart by the midnight visitor. Devastation was everywhere: trees stripped bare or snapped at about 30' above the ground, debris everywhere, cars and houses ripped by fallen trees, and everyone milling about, not quite sure where to begin in untangling such a horrific mess.
My night was bad, but it could have been worse - such as the last police and fire personnel to leave Sullivan's Island, crossing the Ben Sawyer bridge just moments before it toppled in the wind, or my father and many other police officers who rode the night out at the downtown police station which had become an island, or the people in McClellanville who climbed into attics, ceilings, and roofs to escape the storm surge wave which swamped the town.
The experiences were memorable, and many of them not pleasant - including weeks without power, city water which smelled like pine trees, seeing the "Goat Island Yacht Club" - the jumbled pile of boats from the Wild Dunes Marina which had been swept into the trees of the island across the Intracoastal Waterway, and seeing the homes of friends which had been wrecked by wind, falling trees or flooding.
Oddly enough, my oldest daughter, just a few months old, slept through the entire storm.
The Lowcountry has faced dozens of disasters before this one - hurricanes, fires, plagues, and wars - and survived. Those shared experiences have much to do with forging the identities of true Lowcountry people. If you meet someone who has grown up here, you'll hear about Hugo, as well as Hurricanes David, Hazel and Gracie from years past, or of life during World War II, where German subs occasionally prowled off-shore. Being long-time Lowcountry, my family has those stories too.
But next time a major hurricane comes this way, I'm heading inland. One major hurricane is enough for me.