The benefits of retiring in South Carolina’s low country are clear to Joyce East. Her home, sandwiched between the Atlantic Ocean and downtown Charleston, overlooks 120 acres of lush marshland. Palm trees and Spanish moss dot the property.
But the drawbacks of retiring only a few meters above sea level have also become apparent to the 91-one-year-old retiree. Since 2016, her home within Charleston’s Bishop Gadsden Retirement Community has weathered one snow storm, one ice storm and three hurricanes. She has had to evacuate twice in two years.
For East, these evacuations are just the cost of growing old on the coast. Three decades ago, East and her husband decided they wanted to retire somewhere warm on the waterfront. Four days after arriving in Charleston, the couple was forced to flee inland as Hurricane Hugo ravaged the coast. East would evacuate again for Hurricane Matthew in 2016, and once more for Hurricane Florence this past September.
“Now that we’ve done it this much, it’s more of a routine,” says East. She packs her belongings in a navy evacuation suitcase with her name printed on it in white lettering. “I have to kind of look at it as a mini-vacation now.”
As unpredictable weather starts to feel inevitable, staff at Bishop Gadsden have worked to make evacuations feel as routine to residents as Monday night’s pub trivia. This year’s personalized suitcases were a new touch.