BEAUFORT COUNTY, S.C. (WSAV) – When many people saw the images of Matthew’s punch for the first time, they said it was like a bomb went off.
Beaufort County Sheriff P.J. Tanner uses that expression, too; but he felt the hit before the first gust of wind.
“The social media bomb went off not only prior to the storm, but post storm, and that pretty well caused us the majority of the problems,” Tanner told News 3.
Tanner said his staff simply wasn’t prepared for the confusion that would stem from social media and blames it as the root of practically every problem with the reentry process into the county.
“People were hearing what they wanted to hear,” Tanner said. “‘Oh, it’s OK to return–I just saw Fred on Facebook,there wasn’t a branch in his yard; the sun was shining. I’m going home.’ And they get to the road block and say, ‘Hey, wait a minute, my neighborhood’s clear.'”
Matthew’s evacuation and reentry was the first the county’s handled since 1959, and it brought obstacles they had never faced.
While getting out of town was seamless, Tanner said their main focus now is getting on one page with one voice so that coming home next time isn’t such a headache.
“To kind of channel Facebook and Twitter and all the other outlets that are out there to make sure that what’s true is said and what’s said is a combined effort with everyone that is involved,” Tanner said.
Beaufort County is also changing the way it distributes “re-entry passes.” Until now certain business owners and contractors could apply for a pass that would remain valid for three years .
Now the passes will expire after a year.