Families pick up the pieces of storm-damaged lives

NORTH MYRTLE BEACH—When Angel Roesch-Hairston and her family returned to their home in Cherry Grove after evacuating for Hurri­cane Matthew, they found destruc­tion.

Three feet of water from the storm surge had rushed into the downstairs section of the home they share with her parents. Furniture, appliances, pictures and other possessions floated in the water and eventually had to be thrown out because of mold.

Almost all of her two-year-old son Noah’s toys were destroyed — except for one. A small Noah’s ark.

Her family found solace in that toy.

“As hard as it was to look at something else, we got some hope from seeing that ark,” she said.

Roesch-Hairston and her family, like hundreds of others in Horry, Marion and other South Carolina counties, is using hope and resolve to begin the long hard task of recovering from the storm, which brought heavy flooding when it roared up the coast on Oct. 8.

She teaches fourth grade at Holy Trinity School in Longs and is assis­tant director for religious education and is in charge of high school youth ministry at Our Lady Star of the Sea Church in North Myrtle Beach. Roesch-Hairston, her husband Ray­mond and their son have received help from coworkers and friends at the school and church, and also toi­letries, bottled water and food from Catholic Charities .

They have also begun the process of rebuilding their home. The three are staying in one bedroom in her parents’ part of the house upstairs.

They are luckier than many people along the coast. Their cars survived the storm and she and her husband were able to salvage most of the fam­ily’s clothing.

The hardest thing, she said, is wit­nessing daily the storm’s destruction of other people’s lives.

“We never expected this at all — lived here 16 years and even with 2015’s flooding the water never came inside before,” Roesch-Hairston said. “And it’s heart-wrenching to drive down the streets in this area. Peo­ple’s hard-earned belongings, their lives, are out on the street.”

Individuals and families hit by the storm are turning to non-profit or­ganizations, the federal government, and local churches for help. Many, like almost all of the residents of the Marion County town of Nichols, lost everything.

Catholic Charities is one of the main sources of aid in Horry, Georgetown and Williamsburg counties, helping hundreds who are turning to the agency for food, cleaning supplies, shelter and other needs, said regional coordinator Kelly Kaminski. Record-breaking floodwaters from the Little Pee Dee and Waccamaw rivers just recently started to recede and homeowners are beginning to assess damage. Parts of the Socastee community near Myrtle Beach were particularly hard hit.

Miscellany/Keith Jacobs: Residents affected by Hurricane Matthew and the resulting flooding collect support boxes from Catholic Charities. Non-governmental organizations and government organizations were on hand at the relief event held at the Socastee Baptist Church Oct. 27.

Kaminski said Catholic Chari­ties has been asked by emergency management officials in Horry and Georgetown counties to start work­ing with families who have contacted them or other agencies seeking help.

“We’ve been asked to begin case management, to start creating a comprehensive list of Horry and Georgetown county households that have been impacted so we can figure out who needs food, clothing, cleaning supplies, mud cleaned out of homes,” Kaminski said. “The important thing … is a complete needs assessment to see where people are right now. There are some people who just needed groceries after their power went out for a week, and there are others who are going to need long-term care because they lost everything or have severe dam­age. We’re focusing on long-term recovery now.”

Kaminski said that according to statistics compiled during the week of Oct. 24, so far 2,697 people in Horry County have applied for assistance from FEMA, along with 587 in Georgetown and 658 in Wil­liamsburg counties.

Recovery, damage assessment, and repairs have been going on at churches and schools that were impacted.

So far, 16 locations around the diocese have reported damage, ac­cording to Tracy Bates, Catholic Mutual’s claims risk manager for the Diocese of Charleston. New reports include damage to the rectory at Sts. Frederick & Stephen Mission on Edisto Island after a tree fell on it, shingles off the roof and indoor water damage at the Shrine of Our Lady of South Carolina/Our Lady of Joyful Hope in Kingstree, and roof damage and water damage to the parish hall and rectory at Our Lady of Good Counsel Church on Folly Beach.

The cleanup and recovery will take some people weeks, but others will need many months to return to nor­mal. Meanwhile, families like Angel Roesch-Hairston’s will continue to pick up the pieces and go about their daily lives with a new awareness of how wind and water can disrupt people’s worlds.

“We’re going to do our best with what help we get and money from insurance so that we can rebuild,” she said. “We definitely know now what any storm that comes our way has the potential to do.”