BLUFFTON, SC (WTOC) - On the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Matthew, many are looking back at the storm that left a trail of destruction along the southeast coast, including first responders in the South Carolina Lowcountry.
"I think what surprised me the most out of the entire experience was talking to people afterward," said Capt. Randy Hunter of the Bluffton Township Fire District. "We talked to several people who didn't evacuate after Matthew. Those people said not again. We will not ride out another storm because the aftermath was a lot worse, trying to live without power or going through the storm and hoping your house doesn't get torn up."
After Matthew, the Town of Bluffton, like other parts of the Lowcountry, had thousands of downed trees, major power outages, loss of cell service, as well as flooding in areas like Palmetto Bluff, the Farms and Old Town.
"You don't have power, you don't have ways to keep your food refrigerated, to cook. There's a lot of things people don't think about," said Hunter. "You've made it through the storm. Now you have to live through the flooding and power outages, which eventually takes a toll on everybody."
Matthew's wake left damage and lessons, like the importance of heeding evacuation orders.
"The hardest thing is to leave, especially if the storm is not that bad, but we want people to learn it's the aftermath we're hoping to keep you out of," said Hunter. "We want everybody to treat every storm that's coming to us as a danger. Don't get complacent. Don't drop your guard. You might have ridden out Matthew and had no problems, but we don't want everyone to think I survived Matthew, I'm going to be good no matter what."
Capt. Hunter said Hurricane Matthew put the Fire District's emergency response plan to the test, and it served them well.
"Our department came together. Our plan, when it fell into place, it worked," said Hunter. "It goes to show that everything we've done, all the meetings we've had, tabletop exercises, all the things that come in a binder, worked."