The torrential rain and ensuing floodwaters that drenched the state last October have long since receded, but the needs of recovery remain for more than 100 Horry County residents. Several say that the Federal Emergency Management Agency denied their petitions for help.
So, they wait.
With rotting floors and leaking roofs, they wait.
With decaying walls and a bottle of bleach to fight off the mold, they wait.
A double rainbow stretched over the Longs community Thursday evening as Stanley Tryskuc, a 74-year-old retired veteran of the U.S. Navy, stood outside his tented trailer on Gore Road.
Blue tarps stretched over the trailer’s front and back sides, cloaking a problem that was exacerbated, he said, by last year’s heavy rains.
The trailer’s siding was constructed of “pressed cardboard,” Tryskuc said, as he broke off a chunk of rotten particle board that feebly clung to the front of his home.
The siding disintegrated under the pressure of last October’s historically heavy rains. The damage wasn’t, however, caused by flood waters.
So, FEMA denied his request for help, Tryskuc said.
And he wasn’t alone. Tryskuc’s home is one of more than 100 still damaged in Horry County after a one-two punch of torrential rain and wind led to a state of emergency last October.
FEMA denied me. I don’t know if I didn’t have enough damage or what, but it pours rain, when it rains real hard, in this house.”
Wanda McCray of Longs
“FEMA carefully reviews all of the applications that were not eligible for assistance,” said Danon Lucas with FEMA Region IV External Affairs. “FEMA programs are intended to help those whose homes are not livable, safe, sanitary, functional and not to repair all existing damages.”
Many of them still need help to repair damages a year after the flood.
The tarps on Tryskuc’s home were installed by parishioners of Living Water Baptist Church, he said.
Local charitable agencies have a list of families they want to help, but those groups say they, too, struggle with a lack of volunteers and manpower needed to assist all of the people still waiting for relief.
Wanda McCray still waits.
The flat roof over McCray’s house on Plantation Drive first started leaking in last year’s heavy rains, she said.
“I’ve been here about five years in this house,” she said. “It never rained in this house up until then.”
It continues to leak today, trickling and sometimes pouring through the blackened ceiling of a bedroom in her house when it rains outside. Mold became a problem, but McCray said she was given cleaning materials to fight it.
Buckets and pans lined a wall inside the bedroom, holding rainwater from the afternoon showers that drenched Longs on Thursday and invaded her home through the sieve her roof has become.
Tarps on the flat roof haven’t stopped the problem.
Moisture-absorbing sheets were draped over the bed and a nightstand table.
“If you come close, you can see this water that’s dripping,” she said, pointing to an overhead droplet temporarily unspoiled by gravity. Thursday’s rain had stopped at least an hour before, but the ceiling still leaked.
FEMA carefully reviews all of the applications that were not eligible for assistance. FEMA programs are intended to help those whose homes are not livable, safe, sanitary, functional, and not to repair all existing damages.”
Danon Lucas, FEMA Region IV External Affairs
In the weekend washout last October, McCray said the water outside her home was up to her shins. The rainfall in Longs was measured at 23.74 inches after most of the downpours passed Oct. 5.
“I couldn’t even get out of my house,” said McCray, who drives a school bus for Horry County Schools. She was stuck inside for at least a day, until the flood waters from the flash floods subsided, mopping up leaks that saturated her carpets, she said.
“FEMA denied me. I don’t know if I didn’t have enough damage or what, but it pours rain, when it rains real hard, in this house,” she said.
Lucas said several factors come into play when deciding FEMA assistance. Since the agency can’t duplicate coverage, insured homeowners have to prove their insurance companies refused to cover their losses.
Applicants also have to prove the damaged home was their primary residence before the disaster and that the damages occurred during the disaster.
Some applicants are required to obtain flood insurance with awarded funds. Those who were helped in the past, but didn’t follow through or keep up with flood insurance coverage weren’t eligible for repair funds, according to Lucas.
Other reasons for denials range from missing insurance or ownership information to missing or incomplete information.
McCray couldn’t remember what reason she was given with her denial, only that she was turned down for assistance.
The ceiling in her living room now also shows black spots like the ones in the bedroom, but it hasn’t started leaking there yet, she said. Between car payments, insurance and other household bills, McCray hasn’t had the money to make the repairs herself, she says.
But Hearts & Hands Disaster Recovery, an organization that is working to repair homes still damaged in the area, is working on her case.
Other families on Freemont Road in Longs said they, too, had damages from leaking roofs and sinking floors, but didn’t see any glimpse of relief coming anytime soon from local agencies after FEMA turned them down.
But local groups, like Hearts & Hands, Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Charleston, The Salvation Army of Horry County and Impact Ministries of Myrtle Beach, say they plan to help, but they need help, too.
Kelly O’Leary, Hearts & Hands program manager for the Pee Dee region of South Carolina, says they need more long-term volunteers, rebuild partners and people who can conduct construction assessments in Horry County.
Michele Borbely, a case manager with Catholic Charities, echoed the need of volunteers to help rebuild homes, supervise construction and help see rebuild projects through the permitting phases to get people back into safe housing.
Todd Wood of Impact Ministries says they need volunteers to serve on a rebuild or redevelopment committee to help them prioritize projects and allocate the funds to pay for them.
“The state doesn’t recognize you” and other grant providers “won’t recognize you unless you have a rebuild committee,” Wood said.
“Until we’ve got volunteers willing to do it,” the relief work may have to stop, he added, citing the number of families still waiting for help.
Want to help?
Here are some local agencies looking for volunteers:
Hearts & Hands Disaster Recovery, 803-851-5551; email: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.heartsandhandsrecovery.org/volunteer.php
Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Charleston, 2294 Technology Blvd., Conway; 843-438-3108; http://charitiessc.org/pee-dee-conway
Impact Ministries of Myrtle Beach, 843-628-5300; email: email@example.com; http://www.goimpactmb.org/
The Salvation Army of Horry County, 210 Laurel St., Conway; 843-488-2769; https://www.salvationarmycarolinas.org/horrycounty/contribute