Recovery

'Your Whole Life Is in the Front Yard': Longs, S.C., Residents Face Aftermath of Florence Waters

A Bob Ross painting hangs on the wall leading to one of the bedrooms. Ladonna Stockwell said she regrets not taking it with her when she originally left the house to stay at Compass Cove with her husband, three dogs and two cats.

by Megan Tomasic, The Sun News (Myrtle Beach, S.C.) / October 2, 2018
Shawn Lowrimore, Pastor Willie Lowrimore of The Fellowship With Jesus Ministries', son, wades into water near the church in Yauhannah, S.C., on Monday, Sept. 24, 2018. The church is on the bank of the Waccamaw River which has already risen above its record crest and is expected to keep rising for several days, forcing thousands of evacuations in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence. AP/Jeffrey S. Collins

(TNS) — John Kearney stood in his garage Monday morning, scraping pieces of Sheetrock from his walls.

Most of his house is gutted. What was once wooden floors is now visible concrete. Wooden beams are the only items separating rooms as the Sheetrock has been removed. Hurricane Florence’s evidence is in a pile of mold-ridden baseboards and furniture in the driveway.

“My wife’s not doing too well,” Kearney said. “I keep telling her it’s just material things. We’ll get it done, and we’ll move on. That’s what you do.”

Flooding from Hurricane Florence has left much of the neighborhood reeling as the community works to rebuild their homes. Most of the houses were filled with almost 5 feet of water, after Simpsons Creek, a tributary of the Waccamaw River, crested.

The neighborhood has never flooded, leaving the majority of residents without flood insurance. Most people have reached out to the Federal Emergency Management Agency for assistance.

Now, the sound of saws and music fills the streets with dumpsters placed in driveways. Contractors and air conditioning repair trucks drive from home to home.

“We could all have a garage sale,” Ladonna Stockwell said, looking at the storage containers and piles of items that once filled the closets in her home. “Your whole life is in the front yard.”

Stockwell, who lives on Heath Street with her husband, Andrew, said they are moving out of the neighborhood now that their house has flooded.

When the couple finally was able to get into their home, Ladonna Stockwell said, “I cried. I cried so hard. You don’t think it’s going to happen to you until it does.”

Last Friday, about 11 inches of standing water still filled the house. Andrew Stockwell worked to remove flooring and drywall. The couple didn’t expect their house to flood after they made it through the thousand-year flood in 2015 and Hurricane Matthew in 2016.

Now, the standing water has warped the blades on their ceiling fans, and wooden doors are swollen from sitting in water for days.

Despite raising the furniture up on blocks and buckets, most of the couple’s belongings were ruined by the water, with lines marking the inside of their home.

A Bob Ross painting hangs on the wall leading to one of the bedrooms. Ladonna Stockwell said she regrets not taking it with her when she originally left the house to stay at Compass Cove with her husband, three dogs and two cats.

Two houses down, Living Water Baptist Church Pastor Josh Moss was working with a disaster recovery group to get his house in order.

Moss was able to rent a U-Haul before the waters hit, saving about 70 percent of his family’s belongings. But with a new baby due in a week and a half, much of his home is still disheveled.

Members of the South Carolina Baptist Convention Disaster Relief group are helping with the cleanup, moving from house to house, helping people tear out cabinets, carpet and drywall for free. Moss said people can call the hotline at 843-331-6852 or visit the church of they need recovery help.

The group is starting in the Polo Farms neighborhood, but will move to the Socastee area once the water starts to recede.

“It’s a pretty cool thing,” Moss said about the group.

Farther down the road, John McGarva was walking through his house with members of Full Steam Ahead, a mold restoration company.

A week earlier, McGarva bobbed up and down in a jon boat at the intersection of Heath Drive and Iree’s Way. The Horry County firefighter puttered through the neighborhood, taking pictures of each house to post on the Polo Farms Facebook page.

“This is one in a million,” McGarva said. “It’s not every year we flood.”

Last week, S.C. Highway 905 was covered with water, leaving several houses only accessible by boat. Now, the road is open for people to get to and from their homes.

A submerged car seen last week that apparently tried to drive through the water was gone Monday morning.

Lee Bertrand and his wife, Frances, live off the road. During the flooding, they stayed in the second story of their home and used a motor home sitting in their driveway for a bathroom.

Now, the couple is working on tearing out baseboards with wet carpet piled in their front yard.

“My barn is a total disaster,” Lee Bertrand said.

As floodwaters started to recede, the couple was able to leave their home Sunday. Water still surrounds them on the sides and back of their home.

The couple thinks they only lost one car after they moved most of their vehicles and old construction equipment to higher ground.

“We were very blessed,” Frances Bertrand said.

The Bertrands do have flood insurance, but they also reached out to FEMA for additional assistance.

“I’m pretty sure this is going to go down in history as a fluke storm,” Lee Bertrand said.

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