CHARLESTON – Richard and Celeste Billington hadn’t planned to ride out Hurricane Matthew aboard his shrimp boat.
But that’s what happened, she said, after the McClellanville couple came to the docked boat Saturday morning for coffee and some breakfast.
“We didn’t mean to be on the boat,” she said laughing as the couple prepared breakfast Sunday morning on the boat. “It was an accident.”
Richard Billington, who was aware of the storm and had taken special precautions with his boat, Village Lady, said the couple did not have cell phone service and they had lost power so they weren’t sure where the storm was.
Unbeknownst to them, the hurricane was aiming for a landfall near McClellanville, the same spot where Hurricane Hugo made landfall in 1989 with a 20-foot storm surge and devastating consequences.
“We came down here to make coffee and cook breakfast and all of a sudden the storm surge came in and we couldn’t get off,” he said.
McClellanville Mayor Rutledge Leland said he believes the storm delivered about a 5-foot storm surge Saturday morning.
Celeste Billington said the couple had sent their three grown children out of town for safety. But she never planned to be on a boat in a hurricane.
“It was scary,” she said.
Richard Billington, a Clemson graduate who flies a Clemson flag above his boat, said it was windy and full of unusual sights during the storm.
“The most amazing thing was right during the worst of it, I looked across the creek at a dock and there was about 20 seagulls with 95 to 110 mph winds blowing and the seagulls were still holding onto the dock,” he said.
He also noticed an army of bugs coming out of the water and climbing onto the pilings.
During Hugo, the village’s shrimp boats did not fare well as the winds and storm surge hurled the boats across and up the street. This time, Billington said, the boat’s captains secured the boats with long anchor lines to live oak trees.
He used his smart phone to video some of what he saw, showing another shrimp boat bobbing in the water and the winds whipping across the creek.
“The most important thing was that Clemson won,” he laughingly said in reference to the 56-10 victory over Boston College Friday night.
Celeste Billington hasn’t yet told her children where their parents were when the storm hit.
Her husband said the storm doesn’t compare to the one that slammed the town in 1989. “This wasn’t a Hugo by any means,” he said.
He said he doesn’t plan to go back out to sea until the town’s power is restored and the tourists return to the Lowcountry to buy seafood and shrimp.
“Tell everybody to buy local shrimp,” he quipped.