After Gov. Nikki Haley ordered an evacuation of Beaufort County just a few days before Hurricane Matthew hit the Lowcountry, thousands of people from the area packed up their most prized possessions and headed inland.
Vicki Cobey of Bluffton went to Clemson with her children and grandchildren to stay with her son, who is a coach at Clemson University.
While out of town, Cobey took advantage of the time with her family and made some memories. They went to the Greenville Zoo, to a pumpkin patch, an apple farm, local parks and even visited the BabyLand General Hospital in Cleveland, Ga.
“We had fun playing games and just being together as a family,” Cobey said. “We kept the kids busy so they wouldn’t worry about the hurricane.”
Not knowing what was happening at home or if their friends who stayed were safe, many people – young and old – were worried.
Christina Vicaro of Bluffton said her children were a little anxious about the hurricane but she said, “Knowing we were headed back to our old hometown helped. We stayed with my brother, so it was nice to have that visit.”
Vicaro was determined to check out all of their old favorite spots in Greenville. Like Cobey and her family, the Vicaros took their three children to the Greenville Zoo. They also made a trip to Jones Gap State Park.
“We made the best of it, and we got in some special family time as well,” she said. “There’s always a silver lining to bad stuff.”
Rebecca Turner took her three children and two dogs to Augusta, while her husband, who is a firefighter with Bluffton Township Fire District, stayed home to work.
Turner and the children were able to meet up with friends from Bluffton who had also evacuated to Augusta. They visited Steed’s Dairy Farm in Grovetown, Ga., which actually opened just for evacuees.
They also took a side trip to Columbia to go to the South Carolina State Museum, which was offering free admission to evacuees.
The Gillinder family was invited to stay with a friend of a friend in her three-story lakefront home in Greensboro, Ga. So, on Friday morning, they prayed together as a family and began their adventure.
While there, the Bluffton family kayaked, played games and explored the area together. On top of the quality family time they had, the Gillinders made a new friend in the woman who graciously opened her home to them.
“Ms. Betsy was a sweet hostess,” Kristy Gillinder said. “She was there for us but also gave us time alone to process the evacuation. We made a special new friend. Our children will tell this story to their children someday.”
Amy Coyne Bredeson of Bluffton is a freelance writer, a mother of two and a volunteer with the Tuberous Sclerosis Alliance.