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Debris is scattered along East Bay Street in Charleston by Tropical Storm Florence on Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018. Matthew Fortner/Staff

Across the tri-county area Saturday, people awoke to rain and some fallen trees but little else to hint at the devastation not far away in Myrtle Beach, the Pee Dee and North Carolina.

"We got lucky," said Amanda Knight, Mount Pleasant's emergency management director. "There were no reports of damage, other than the power outage (Friday night) and a few trees down."

In Berkeley County, which was forecast to see the worst of Florence's rainfall, officials had not received reports of anyone needing to be rescued or major flooding as of Saturday afternoon, said county spokeswoman Hannah Moldenhauer.

Officials with Charleston and Dorchester counties gave similar reports.

Instead of a predicted 2- to 4-foot storm surge on the barrier islands, inshore tides were 2 feet below normal, Sullivan’s Island reported, as Florence winds blew out to sea. On Isle of Palms, the Police Department reported only “light rain and wind” Saturday, and no significant damage.

The storm did not appear to damage the beach, as previous storms have, prompting costly renourishment efforts to rebuild the dunes. 

"The beach did exceptionally well," said Sullivan's Island Administrator Andy Benke.

On U.S. Highway 17, from Mount Pleasant to the South Santee River above McClellanville, water pooled on the pavement and traffic was light Saturday, including a few large trucks rushing north with municipal-sized 150-gallon generators. Wet pine straw dusted the highway, a testament to the gusting winds overnight.

For days Mount Pleasant had hundreds of employees on duty, working 12-hour shifts and sleeping at Town Hall and local schools to be ready for Florence. By 11 a.m. Saturday, the town stood down its emergency operations.

By then, Florence was a tropical storm crawling across South Carolina with maximum sustain winds of 50 mph, located 35 miles west of Myrtle Beach at mid-day and moving at 2 mph.

Charleston and other local governments were shutting down their emergency operations and making plans to resume normal services.

"The National Weather Service told us this would be a very dangerous storm, and unfortunately that turned out to be true for many just to our north," said Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg. "Here in Charleston, we were blessed to be spared the direct hit, but we're praying for those who were not, and stand ready to send help in the coming days to assist with recovery efforts."

In North Carolina, the hurricane that made landfall Friday caused massive flooding that closed a portion of Interstate 95 and sent emergency workers scrambling to rescue hundreds from chest-high waters in New Bern. 

Stuart and Gina Hardee evacuated from Loris, north of Myrtle Beach near the North Carolina border. On Saturday they were gassing up in Moncks Corner for the trip home.

Stuart Hardee said they were glad to have been out of harm's way and said Gov. Henry McMaster's call for evacuations beginning Tuesday "was the right call." Hardee said a neighbor told him that his house suffered minimal damage.

Authorities are still urging the public to be vigilant, but McMaster announced he was lifting evacuation orders for Berkeley, Charleston and Dorchester counties, and Edisto Beach, at noon Saturday. A curfew was lifted on Folly Beach, as were restrictions on access to Kiawah Island.

The runways at Charleston International Airport were reopened before noon, and the Berkeley County airport was expected to open Sunday morning. The National Weather Service's Charleston office lifted a tropical storm warning and flash flood watch for the area, according to Neil Dixon, a forecaster with the agency.

"Even though the storm is weaker, the total rainfall may accumulate to pretty big amounts," he said. 

That could translate into flooding in some areas as well as falling trees. The northeastern part of South Carolina is expected to see catastrophic river flooding, as feet of rain that fell in North Carolina makes its way downstream, to rain-swollen rivers in South Carolina.

The difference in impact between the northeast corner of South Carolina and the greater Charleston area was dramatic. In the Santee Circle community near Moncks Corner, resident Miriam Reid said she saw little besides mild wind and rain.

"I came out today so I wouldn't go stir-crazy," she said Saturday.

During the height of the storm, overnight between Friday and Saturday, there were thousands without power in Berkeley, Charleston and Dorchester counties, but most had been restored by morning.

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Reach Gregory Yee at 843-937-5908. Follow him on Twitter @GregoryYYee.

Gregory Yee covers breaking news and public safety. He's a native Angeleno and previously covered crime and courts for the Press-Telegram in Long Beach, CA. He studied journalism and Spanish literature at the University of California, Irvine.

David Slade is a senior Post and Courier reporter. His work has been honored nationally by Society of Professional Journalists, American Society of Newspaper Editors, Scripps foundation and others. Reach him at 843-937-5552 or

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