Flood victims still picking up the pieces

Debbie Ingram has a lot of work to do, but she's already done a lot, she said sitting on a salvaged chair in her home in Rosewood Estates in Socastee on Saturday. Ingram is patching, sanding, laying floor, fixing bathrooms and rebuilding her life after nearly four feet of water from Hurricane Florence invaded her home. But, she said, she knows she's luckier than most. She has a home for her family several miles away until she can finish the work at the Rosewood home. Pointing to house after house on her street, Ingram knows her neighbors aren't as far along in the recovery process. Photo by Janet Morgan/janet.morgan@myhorrynews.com

Debbie Ingram sits on a flood-salvaged chair by the front window of her home in Socastee.

There’s tarp on some windows at the neighbor’s house. There are sandbags left outside from months ago at another neighbor’s house. There are the remnants of Hurricane Florence such as brown gunk caked on Ingram’s custom-made garage door.

But, surrounded by sheetrock-bare walls and a scrapped ceiling, Ingram said she is luckier than most. Friends and neighbors who once shared the Rosewood Estates street on warm spring days like Saturday, are still living in hotels.

Ingram has another home to stay in with her husband, toddler and dog. And, she has the bills to keep up with for two houses as she balances work and recovery.

Flooding in October 2015 devastated the Rosewood Estates home that her parents eventually left to head to Pennsylvania. And last year, the residence saw even more havoc in Hurricane Florence’s wake.

Still, the brown tiles her father installed remain. She’s pressure washed them, scrubbed the grout with a brush and is now buying more.

After her mother and father moved out of the community with their chihuahuas, Ingram decided on relocating her family from their South Strand home.

She began staying in the Socastee home once more last summer.

“I was just moving back in,” Ingram said. “I was supposed to be completely moved in Sept. 1.”

Soon, the floodwaters arrived faster and higher than three years ago.

Many Horry County residents have found themselves in a similar state.

Rocked by multiple instances of flooding in their homes at different times during the past few years, catastrophe has become commonplace.

Floodwater from Florence damaged about 2,000 homes countywide.

As of Friday, the county had issued 298 permits for repairs to flood-damaged homes in the unincorporated areas and 20 demolition permits for structures that property owners chose not to fix.

In Conway, the city issued 160 permits for either repairs or demolition.

Ingram’s was one of several families who were able to receive free bedding items outside Socastee Baptist Church Saturday morning. The giveaway was coordinated by Impact Ministries and sought to help flood victims. 

Thousands of pillows donated to residents in the Carolinas by MyPillow and mattress donations from Tempur Sealy International and charitable organization Good360 has allowed for Impact Ministries to dole out 80 queen-sized mattresses, 128 twin-sized mattresses and 2,000 pillows to more than 100 households.

Not only were Socastee residents able to get the free items, but those from other parts of the county that have suffered like Bucksport and Longs.

“It’s been heartbreaking,” said Conway resident Kristi Updegraff, who saw her community, which includes Trinity Baptist Church near her home, ravaged by Florence’s wrath.

She has lived on Woody Lane for decades. Last year, the home got more than a feet of inundation. Still, she remains grateful for help she’s received from organizations and family members.

“We’ve had a lot of help from a lot of people,” she said.

Through the giveaway, she and her mother were able to acquire eight pillows and a queen- and twin-sized mattress to replace some of what floodwaters ruined. One mattress is for a spare room in her home, the other for her mother-in-law.

“We lost a lot of furniture that had been handed down from generation to generation,” she said. “It’s surreal knowing that you’ve got to start from scratch.”

Volunteers like Bud Tyner, who attends Socastee Baptist Church, worked together Saturday, performing tasks like emptying items from U-Hauls, sorting through donations, loading up vehicles and utility trailers and even delivering dispersed items to locals.

Having fellow members of the church be impacted by flooding, the Murrells Inlet man decided he wanted to help.

“After the flooding, we went and helped clean up,” he said. “It’s just such a disaster.”

One volunteer, David Taylor, an outreach minister with Ignite Church, ended up delivering to homes in Rosewood, the very neighborhood he moved out of after his own residence was devastated. He now lives in Myrtle Beach.

Among Impact Ministries’ efforts is arranging volunteer teams to assist local families with disaster relief. Those who have donated their time have been able to help with things like mudding out homes.

“A lot of families tend to forget,” said Impact Ministries Executive Director Todd Wood of the lasting effects for flood victims. “Eight months goes by and we think things have gotten back to normal, but so many of these families are still left in devastation.”

For Saturday’s giveaway, Wood said families registered on disasterhelp.me with priority given to those in immediate need of help.

“There’s some real devastating situations out there,” he said.

Ingram, who acquired a queen-sized mattress, two twin mattresses and several pillows Saturday, considers her family lucky.

Before the Rosewood home was ruined once more last year, she was able to get items out. Her family didn’t finalize the sale of its Surfside Beach home.

“I wouldn’t have had a home for my kid [had I sold it],” she said. “We’re very fortunate.”

Despite what’s happened, she is adamant that her home will be restored, and noted she has grown fond of the community it’s nestled in.

One neighbor, she remarked, has allowed kids in the neighborhood to shoot hoops on a basketball goal long after his own offspring have become adults.

“It’s a close-knit neighborhood,” she said.

She’s also thankful for volunteers and organizations that have helped with her restoration efforts including putting up drywall.

“I felt guilty taking help because so many other people literally didn’t have a place to sleep,” she said.

Instead of wallowing, she focuses on the positives.

Her family has a place to lay their heads. She’s getting flood insurance. Flowers bloom in her backyard.

“It is what it is,” she said. “It’s all coming together.”

Janet Morgan is the editor of the Myrtle Beach Herald. Contact her at 843-488-7258 or at janet.morgan@myhorrynews.com.

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