COLUMBIA, S.C. — As Irma’s winds and rain subsided, South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster breathed a sigh of relief it wasn’t worse, even as he mourned the four people who died because of the storm.
Tuesday was a day to clean up and return home along the coast, with officials promising schools would be back in session and life should return to normal on Wednesday.
“We’re very happy the hurricane went someplace else — the main force of it,” McMaster said at what he planned to be the last briefing on Irma.
Crews were fanned out across the state trying to repair the more than 100,000 power outages that remained. By Tuesday afternoon, they were confined mostly to the Upstate, where Irma’s wind gusts of around 50 mph reached last. The state peaked at around 250,000 outages Monday night.
Four deaths were blamed on the storm, including Columbia Public Works Department employee Arthur Strudwick, who the city said died in a crash Monday night as he drove to help workers with a fallen tree.
William McBride, 54, died from carbon monoxide poisoning when he ran a generator inside his home on Tuesday, Sumter County Coroner Robert Baker Jr. said.
Troopers say 21-year-old Zhen Tain was driving too fast when he died in a wreck on wet Interstate 77 on Monday afternoon, and Charles Saxon, 57, was killed when a tree limb fell on him as he cleaned debris outside his Calhoun Falls home, Abbeville County Coroner Ronnie Ashely said.
As for clean up, Charleston sent 200 city employees to clean up after the surge from Irma, running 4 feet above normal, sent ocean water over the Battery and nearly a mile inland.
Mayor John Tecklenburg said there were no serious injuries and the city would be back to normal Wednesday.
In Beaufort County, residents of Hilton Head Island returned after McMaster lifted his evacuation order Tuesday morning.
Beaufort County also didn’t report any serious injuries, similar to Hurricane Matthew last October whose eye just brushed by the county. Irma’s center moved some 200 miles to the west, but its circulation was much stronger.
“Matthew was a lesson in wind for us. Irma was a lesson in surge,” sheriff’s Lt. Col. Neil Baxley said.
Baxley praised the National Weather Service in Charleston for its accurate forecast of 4 feet to 6 feet of surge, which seemed hard to believe at first with the storm so far west of the area.
But even as local and state officials patted each other on the back for their Irma response, they were also looking out in the Atlantic, where Hurricane Jose spins. The current forecast has Jose coming about 500 miles away from the South Carolina coast by Sunday, moving due north and staying well offshore.
“There’s attention being paid to Jose and whatever else,” McMaster said as he ended his briefing.