Diamondback terrapin Irma

Sandye Williams, of James Island, found a diamondback terrapin turtle in her yard Tuesday as she removed debris from her front yard. Photo provided by Sandye Williams.

Sandye Williams stood outside and looked at what had become of her home on James Island.

For 15 years, the structure overlooking Clark Sound had survived it all, including what Williams called the "wild toad ride" of weather events her family experienced during the past three years: The October 2015 floods, Hurricane Matthew in 2016 and, now, Irma. 

On Tuesday morning, she stood in the yard that felt like Irma's graveyard. In her driveway sat piles of debris swept in by torrential rain. In her yard, pieces of her neighbor's dock were strewn everywhere. 

"How do we even begin?" she thought.

"One board at a time," her mind answered back.

Williams began cleaning up the yard, picking up each board. Then, she thought she saw something move.

Then it moved again.

She reached down and saw it was a diamondback terrapin turtle that had washed into her yard during the storm. The creature was tenacious despite whatever it had endured during Tropical Storm Irma.

"He was so cute," Williams said, her voice rising with joy. 

Minutes before, Williams had been talking fast on the phone about what her family experienced during the storm. She ran down the list that still floated in her mind: How her family put what furniture they could upstairs, how they had put sandbags out and wrapped certain items in plastic.

"But we were lucky even though we are very vulnerable when storms come through," she said.

From the back of her home, Williams can see the Morris Island lighthouse. During the storm, she watched as water lapped up to her front steps. 

When she found the turtle Tuesday morning, she smiled at what Mother Nature had brought to her home. Heeding her father's advice, she then put the terrapin close to what remained of the dock. She set the creature in the mud, but the turtle squirmed and landed on its back.

"But then, he flipped himself over and scooted off," she said. "You just think about all the stuff washing around, and him floating in all of that lumber. How in the world did he make it?"

But he did.

Reach Caitlin Byrd at 843-937-5590 and follow her on Twitter @MaryCaitlinByrd.

Caitlin Byrd is a political reporter at The Post and Courier and author of the Palmetto Politics newsletter. Before moving to Charleston in 2016, her byline appeared in the Asheville Citizen-Times. To date, Byrd has won 17 awards for her work.