story by carol lauvray photography by john wollwerth
Everyone living along the southeastern shore was on high alert as Hurricane Matthew devastated Haiti and then stormed up the coast in early October, leaving death and destruction in its wake. Once a Category 4 hurricane, thankfully the storm weakened to a Category 2 before hitting Beaufort at high tide in the early hours of Saturday, October 8. The resulting damage to property here was significant, especially on the Sea Islands, and thousands of lives were disrupted. Beaufort County, under a mandatory evacuation order since Wednesday that week, experienced extensive flooding and thousands here were left without power. Stores, restaurants, groceries, hospitals and gas stations closed their doors for days. Giant fallen trees obstructed many roads, making them impassable, and homes and cars were crushed.
In the aftermath of the storm, social media served as the platform to rally relief efforts within our community. It was a lifeline for first responders and residents, sharing photos of the damage and flooding and providing critical information about people and property in need of disaster assistance. The Reaves family, owners of Sea Eagle Market in Beaufort, used social media to organize their efforts to supply hot meals for first responders—the police, sheriff’s department, firefighters and linemen—who were working night and day to put Beaufort back together after the havoc wreaked by the storm. This is the story of how the Reaves family weathered the storm and helped their community in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew.
Hunkering Down for the Storm: Wednesday, October 5 – Friday, October 7
After spending two days preparing their dock for the coming hurricane, brothers Craig and Cameron Reaves and their father Laten weathered the storm on the Reaves’ two shrimp trawlers, Gracie Belle and Palmetto Pride, along with first mate David King. Local commercial fisherman John Payne was aboard his boat, Buddy Roe. All three trawlers were docked on Village Creek off the Morgan River. The men spent Friday night as the hurricane approached, Saturday (the day that Matthew hit), and Sunday night on the fishing trawlers. Craig’s wife Jana, his family, and his mother Alice all evacuated on Friday, the day before Matthew hit Beaufort. Craig and Cameron’s sister Becky (Woods) and her family hunkered down at their home on Lady’s Island during the storm.
In the Light of Day: Saturday, October 8 – Sunday, October 9
Hurricane Matthew hit Beaufort and the Sea Islands in the darkness of the early morning hours on Saturday, October 8. Later that day, the Reaves learned through postings on social media that local first responders were without hot food while doing their disaster response work, and were instead living on packaged MREs (Meals Ready to Eat). The Reaves had a large amount of perishable seafood stored at their Sea Eagle Market on Boundary Street and the food had to be used before it spoiled. They decided preparing meals for first responders would be a winning solution that would use the perishable seafood and also help those who were helping the community.
However, to implement their plan and get their seafood to first responders, the Reaves had to navigate their way through debris-scattered roads from Saint Helena Island to reach Beaufort. Downed trees obstructed every road on Saint Helena. “As we made our way from Saint Helena Island to Beaufort, we encountered many residents working to clear the roadway on Highway 21” Craig said. “It was amazing. Everyone was working together to help each other after the storm.”
By Sunday, the Reaves were ready to host first responders for dinner in the parking lot of Sea Eagle Market on Boundary Street. Craig had been in contact with Jordan Roundtree, daughter of the chief of the Burton Fire Department, to invite the department’s crew of 60 firefighters to eat on Sunday between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. (Due to a mandatory curfew in force in Beaufort from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m., they needed to serve the meals and be finished before 7 p.m.) The Reaves also contacted Chief Reece Bertholf to invite Beaufort and Port Royal Firefighters for dinner that evening, as well as other first responders. The Reaves set up tables and chairs in Sea Eagle Market’s parking lot to accommodate the crowd. In addition, volunteers delivered plates of food to those staffing the Beaufort County Detention Center and more than 35 meals to the Port Royal Police and Fire Departments. “On that Sunday, with the assistance of volunteers from the community, we served more than 200 meals of fried shrimp, fish and french fries to first responders,” Craig explained.
Expanding First Responder Meal Service: Monday, October 10 – Saturday, October 15
On Monday morning, Craig Reaves and Shannon Erickson, S. C. State Representative from Beaufort, had a conversation about extending the Reaves’ food service to the linemen who came to restore power to the area. As a result, the Reaves family resumed their meal service on Tuesday that week at their Sea Eagle Market from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., while volunteers also delivered to-go meals to linemen around the Beaufort area as they worked. Representative Erickson and Nan Sutton, local businesswoman and candidate for Beaufort City Council, along with other community volunteers, took 10 to 15 to-go meals at a time, drove throughout Beaufort and the Sea Islands looking for linemen at work, and delivered the meals to them. That Tuesday evening, the Reaves family again served more than 200 meals to first responders at their Boundary Street business location.
On Tuesday night, a representative of SCE&G, the local power company, hired the Reaves family to cook dinner for local and out-of-state linemen working to restore power in Beaufort. Craig said that the Reaves moved their meal-service operation to Beaufort High School on Lady’s Island for dinner on Wednesday evening, so they could accommodate more people. “Wednesday night, we served 300 people dinner, with the assistance of many community volunteers who ran the buffet line and who personally thanked the linemen for their work to restore power in Beaufort. Beginning on Wednesday we were working 20 hours-a-day to feed those who were restoring Beaufort’s services,” Craig said. “We served the linemen a buffet breakfast from 6 a.m. to 8 a.m. in the morning and gave them a bag lunch to take with them. Then we served them dinner from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. During the week following Hurricane Matthew, we served more than 4,300 meals to Beaufort’s first responders and the linemen who restored power here!”
People Helping People
Disasters tend to bring out the best in people—something witnessed time and again in Beaufort in the days after Hurricane Matthew struck our town. As for the dedicated efforts made by the Reaves family after the storm, Craig said, “I don’t feel like we’re heroes. The way our community came together after the hurricane was great. The linemen who came here from six or seven other states to restore power all told us they’d never been treated like our community treated them.” His brother Cameron added, “It was a blessing to be a part of it. It was amazing to see everybody here in Beaufort trying to help each other!”