The wrath of Mother Nature has no respect for the living or the dead.
Hurricane Irma’s winds brought down a massive oak tree in the Palmetto City Cemetery, 900 14th Ave. W. As the ancient tree toppled, its widespread root system tore apart several grave sites.
Some were split apart, some were shifted and others still sunk further into the ground carrying headstones with them.
“You are kind of speechless when you see something like that,” Palmetto Mayor Shirley Groover Bryant said. “You can get a mental figure in your head about replacing a door or even a roof, but this is a little outside our scope of reasoning for a multitude of reasons.”
Bryant said there is a lot of thought that is going to be put into restoring the cemetery in the coming days.
“We have to be very sensitive to this situation,” she said. “We are thinking about reaching out to local people that deal with internment. This is a very unusual happenstance and we may need resources available to help guide us through this. We want to do it as quick as we can, but do it the right way.”
Bryant said any other plans would be speculation and the city likely will try to contact surviving family members to keep them informed.
“That’s something we have to hone in on specifically,” she said. “But we are working on the big picture right now. Our community and our staff is working on everyone else’s issues to bring the city back, which is why our city has been so fortunate to have so many people and groups who have come to help us. It is a city cemetery and our first duty is to the citizens and then we take care of ourselves last.”
Bryant said the city likely will get cost estimates to restore the graves that were damaged and that while it may be unusual situation, the work could possibly qualify for reimbursement from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
“Our staff is continuing to assess overall storm damage, but filing those claims is something we started on day one as soon as our computers were operable again,” she said.