Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Hurricane Irma: Flooding swamps Sumter, snake-bit Pulaski, Fort McAllister

Hurricane Irma’s huge storm surge closed numerous Civil War sites in Florida, South Carolina and Georgia, including Fort Sumter National Monument in Charleston and Fort Pulaski National Monument and Fort McAllister State Historic Park in the Savannah area.

The latest calamity is a particularly cruel blow to Fort Pulaski, built between Savannah and Tybee Island, which was swamped by Irma. Hurricane Matthew shut the federal site in fall  2016 and a tornado caused additional damage and another closure in late May.

A Cockspur Island assessment by boat on Tuesday found Irma produced a near-record 12.24 foot tide and caused a considerable amount of flooding outside the walls.

Matthew surge level top line, Irma below (NPS photo)

“The fort is still inundated by water and not yet accessible. Over the next several days more in-depth assessments of the flood damage will take place,” the Pulaski staff said on the park’s Facebook page. “Once those are complete the recovery phase will begin. Visitor safety is paramount and the park will remain closed to the public until further notice.”

One social media commenter said: “So sorry y’all have to go through this …. Again! Hang in there.”

The park said damage inside the fort, while significant, appears to be less than from Matthew.

At Fort McAllister, southwest of Savannah, staff will reopen parts of the park at noon Thursday following significant storm surge flooding.

Cottages at Fort McAllister (Georgia State Parks)

"We are pleased to announce that portions of the park will open today at noon. This includes the museum/visitor center, the fort, day use with the exception of the pier, and the campground. Areas that will still be closed are the cottages, pioneer camping, Red Bird Creek and backcountry sites, and the group shelter. If you do choose to visit, please excuse our mess."

Commenters on its Facebook page lamented the crisis so soon after Hurricane Matthew.

Old Fort Jackson in Savannah has been closed since last Friday and cleanup continued late this week.

The park grounds and visitor center at Andersonville National Historic Site were closed for a few days, though the national cemetery reopened Wednesday and the prison site and visitor center were reopened on Thursday.

Damage at Andersonville cemetery (NPS photo)

"We were lucky with the damage. A lot of trees came down blocking roadways and only one caused structural damage," Andersonville park guide Jennifer Hopkins said on Sept. 17. "A huge tree fell on our cemetery wall, which is a historic structure. All monuments and headstones remained untouched, aside from tree limbs on them. it took two days to clean up the park will all staff hands on deck. The museum remained without power for three days -- we're still assessing whether or not any water leaked into the building."

Pickett’s Mill Battlefield Historic Site, northwest of Atlanta, closed for several days. It saw heavy fighting in 1864 during the Atlanta Campaign.

Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor and the Liberty Square visitor center and departure center for the fort remain closed until a more extensive assessment of damage is conducted and repairs completed, the federal site said in a press release.

“At this time, Fort Sumter remains flooded. A preliminary evaluation of the exterior of the fort revealed damage to the dock and other infrastructure. Fort Sumter and Liberty Square will re-open to the public when it is safe to do so.”

Charles Pinckney National Historic Site in Mount Pleasant and Fort Moultrie – which is near Fort Sumter – will reopen Thursday since they sustained minimal damage in the storm, officials said.

Closures in Florida Wednesday included Olustee Battlefield Historic State Park in Baker County and Fort Clinch State Park in Nassau County.

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