JOHNS ISLAND, S.C. (WCSC) - People who live on James and Johns Island are advocating for more grand oak tree maintenance to make the roadways safer.
This comes just days after a tree branch fell on a vehicle along an oak tree-lined road on Johns Island, sending a couple to the ICU, according to family members.
The family of the injured couple said they were not ready for an interview, but that the situation was the “worst of their worst nightmare” and that they are taking each day minute by minute.
This is not the only time a falling tree branch has created hazardous roadway situations for James and Johns Islanders.
Rich Thomas, a 15-year Johns Island resident, said a falling tree branch caused him to get into a crash a couple of years ago while driving down River Road on Johns Island.
“The lights blinded me from an oncoming truck and as soon as I could see again there was a tree about 40 feet ahead of me,” Thomas said.
Thomas said he hit the branch at about 30-40 mph, causing damage to his car and his airbag to go off, but no major injuries.
A James Island resident, Deb Britt, said she had a similar occurrence earlier this year.
Britt said she was driving along Riverland Drive on Johns Island when she heard a loud boom.
“All the sudden there was this loud boom, that something had hit us, totally out of the blue, and my windshield shattered,” Britt said. “It’s scary, I try to avoid going up Riverland Drive.”
Garrett Milliken, a Council Member for the Town of James Island and the Council Liaison to the town’s Tree Advisory Council, said more needs to be done to take care of grand oak trees across James and Johns Island.
“There’s nobody really looking at the trees in the first place, giving an assessment of their health, and then suggesting any types of mitigation,” Milliken said.
He said James Island, along with other local municipalities, could use more help from the state’s department of transportation with funding, equipment and the onboarding of arborists.
“Unfortunately, SCDOT doesn’t really pay that much attention to taking care of trees on the roadways and are usually apt to eliminate trees that have fallen, rather than doing anything proactive for the health of the trees,” Milliken said.
The South Carolina Department of Transportation says they are aware of the safety concerns regarding the grand oak trees along the roadways. A spokesperson for the department provided the following statement on Tuesday:
When SCDOT is aware of a specific problem, we work quickly to address it by trimming vegetation or otherwise clearing the roadway. SCDOT works cooperatively with local government agencies to address vegetation and other roadway safety issues. We also welcome the public to contact us any time they have roadway safety concerns, by calling us at 855-467-2368 or filling out a maintenance work request on our website.
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