ST. SIMONS ISLAND – When the water rose here Monday, it hoisted massive stones and slung them from the beach, ripped porches off shore-front homes and deposited one small crab in Alex Binkney’s house.
The 67-year-old woman, who had sat with her husband and a neighbor couple watching Tropical Storm Irma pound the coast, was one of the few residents on the island hours later. People were ordered to stay out of all of Glynn County until “further notice,” officials said, because of widespread flooding and mass power outages.
Anyone who even tried to leave this island was stopped by county police Monday night and ordered to figure out a way to stay, because the Causeway leading back to the mainland was closed after being covered in water. The road was dried out mostly by 7 p.m., though it was unclear when it would reopen.
The county was even asking the residents who remained in its borders not to shower, because the sewer capacity was stretched so thin.
On St. Simons, the few who were left killed time Monday night by surveying the damage.
At Binkney’s house on the beach, at least a foot of water had risen in the yard but mostly stayed out of the house, except for when it brought the crab.
Across Glynn County, residents will be frustrated and, in some cases, devastated by the damage they find when they return, due to countless toppled trees and creeping waters. But Binkney was just happy to still be here.
“I’m alive!” she kept saying.
She recalled watching the storm surge in the early morning. She was horrified as the rocks came rushing toward the plate-glass window.
She took a video of her neighbor running outside shirtless and heaving the stones back at the sea. This was an act of defiance against the encrouching storm. But, also, he didn’t want them to smash open the window.
The couples watched two porches from a neighbor’s home fall. They saw their own docks torn from the beach. They hoped the water would calm down.
It took several hours for Irma’s brunt to pass and several more for the ocean to recede. But it did, and then Binkney and others could go out and see how the tide had made it at least 100 yards on shore, carrying the remants of docks and sprinkler systems and rocking chairs.
When Binkney saw the damage, she was amazed that Irma had such force after forecasts called for it to head farther west.
Those projections were part of why she stayed. She also remembered with frustration last year’s Hurricane Matthew. She heeded warnings to leave and was upset that she was then told she couldn’t come back immediately.
Binkney and her husband had a friend bring them home in a boat from Brunswick after the 2016 storm. Seeing the effects of Matthew when they climbed on the land was jarring, but nothing like witnessing Irma live.
“It was kind of stupid,” Binkney said. “I won’t do it again.”