Merle, the Great Dane puppy, stands on the front porch, looking as the S.C. Department of Natural Resources boats ride right up to get him.
One by one, the Milligans — with chickens and cats and a wild rabbit they just rescued — come from their blue home on stilts on Waccamaw River Drive. It’s Friday morning and the family has not left their home once since the water from the Waccamaw River has risen after Hurricane Florence hit about a week ago. The water is nearly two feet from touching the bottom of their home, and it’s not projected to crest until Wednesday.
“It’s just unbelievable,” said Willie Milligan.
Underwater in their yard is a boat trailer that can not be seen and a trampoline with only the safety net sticking up.
It takes two trips for three DNR officials and one S.C. State Law Enforcement officer who are on two boats to rescue the family and their pets. Officials grab bags, cages with animals and lend a hand to each person stepping onto the boats.
For Milligan and his family — including his wife, son, daughter and 2-year-old grandson — it’s their first flood in this home, which they moved into in December.
The toughest part of the rescue was getting Merle on the boat. It takes three people to lift the dog, a puppy that’s already larger than a full-grown Labrador. Once everyone is on the boat, DNR officials ride away from the home, looking out for mailboxes that are almost covered by water but barely stick above the surface. They occasionally bump into something underneath the water.
Milligan’s wife, Denise, said it’s the family’s first time leaving their home since the water has flooded their yard and the road. Parts of Waccamaw River Road were 6-feet deep on Thursday. Just two days before, the water was about 2-feet deep in the same area.
“I don’t like it,” she said. “I’m just wondering when we’ll get back home.”
Denise Milligan said the family and pets plan to stay with her daughter’s coworker until they can return.
As the boat rides down the road covered by water, stop signs stick out with the water reaching the actual sign.
DNR and SLED work through the morning to bring folks, pets and personal belongings from their homes to the area of Lee’s Landing Circle where the floodwaters stopped.
DNR’s primary job after hurricanes, and as flooding begins, is water rescues, said Lance Cpl. Ezra Arnold. And part of the job is comforting animals that are not used to loud motors and being on a boat.
“A lot of the people thought they would stay, but the water’s coming up,” Arnold said. “Now is the time to get out.”
Hannah Strong: 843-444-1765, @HannahLStrong