Special delivery after the storm

We were on vacation on Edisto Island last week when Hermine came through. She visited on Friday, and we’d been there since Sunday afternoon.

We’d listened to the weather report throughout Thursday. It didn’t look as though anybody knew for certain what was going to happen, but I hoped for the best. We knew Hermine had been downgraded to a tropical storm and she was expected to hit at low tide, which was very good news. So we waited.olivia6-25 Page 4A.indd

Katherine and Fleta set up what they called a hurricane watch. That dragged bar stools next to the windows on the ocean front and watched the wind and waves. My brother, Fowler and Henry watched the weather until the electricity went off. Then Henry paced and checked for updates on his phone.

We’d already gone to the store and bought jug water and a candle, and we had flashlights and ice.

Michael and I sat at the kitchen table and played gin rummy. We decided to play to 250, and it was very close. I won the first hand, Michael won the second and then Matt joined us and we played a third hand.

We’d fastened the screen doors on the porch but saw the wind pull the screen door hook out of the wooden frame, so Fowler secured the door. We put kitchen chairs beneath the door knobs on the ocean side after the wind popped a door open.

Henry’s phone was telling us the wind was gusting up to 55 mph and the waves were around 10 feet high. I got up for a glass of water and saw a piece of siding blow over top of the house and land in the yard street side. Other things flew through the air.

Then there was a lull as the eye passed over before the wind started again. During the lull, we walked outside. The waves were still very high, so I took pictures. Then the wind and rain resumed and we all went in.

This went on until about 5 p.m., when it finally seemed to blow itself out. It was still raining, but Katherine and Fleta and I walked down to the beach to see what we could see.

It looked as though a dump truck had come through and piled load after load of sea shells along the high water mark on the shore. We begin picking up sand dollars, which littered the beach. And conchs were abundant.

Fleta ran up and got us some 10-gallon trash bags, and we began a shell collecting frenzy. It was unbelievable. I’ve never experienced anything like it. You could walk along and reach down into the water and easily pull out two conchs at a time. We were soaking wet, but oblivious to the discomfort. For years we’ve combed the beach each morning searching for shells, but usually have only found fragments of conchs, shattered sand dollars and a few unbroken bivalves. We’d never seen bounty such as this.

As it grew darker, I realized I had so many shells in my bag I could barely lift it. Fleta had another bag. At some point she’d gone back to the house and retrieved more. I slowly made my way up the beach back to the house, stopping at intervals to rest.

I was suddenly aware that I was both wet and cold and could do no more. I left them to it and made my way up, heading for the outdoor shower.

I stepped inside the shower stall and stood under the hot water with all my clothes on until I felt warm, hung my wet clothes on a hook, wrapped myself in a beach towel and walked upstairs to count my loot.

Fleta gathered more than 130 conchs. Most of them were whole. I didn’t have as many because I couldn’t carry that much, and also she went back out.

My shells have been washed and are now back home spread out on the grass in the hot sun. They’ll be a constant reminder of our great adventure and a permanent memento of Edisto Island. It was a vacation to remember.