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‘I hope I never see another like this’: Longs community reeling from Florence impacts

Floating on a jon boat at the intersection of Heath Drive and Iree’s Way, John McGarva was snapping photos of his neighbor’s homes.

With nearly 5 feet of water in some sections of the Polo Farms neighborhood, the pictures and videos were the only lifeline most residents had to their homes and vehicles.

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A car sits flooded in the middle of S.C.905 in The Red Bluff community. Red Bluff flooded along the Waccamaw River and Simpsons Creek under Hurricane Florence’s deluge with entire neighborhoods underwater. Monday, Sept. 24, 2018. Jason Lee jlee@thesunnews.com

The neighborhood, off of S.C. 905 in Longs, is underwater, the only way in by boat. Simpsons Creek, a tributary of the Waccamaw River, is flooding the homes in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence.

Some homes still looked picturesque with outdoor furniture set up on the porch and others decorated for fall with scarecrows and wreaths donning the windows.

But partially flooded vehicles sat in driveways with caution tape floating in the water. Most mailboxes are completely submerged, the only signs of fences are the white tips breaking through the water.

Waterlines ring around some of the homes, hinting at a slow recession.

McGarva, a firefighter with Horry County Fire Rescue, was packing up his boat with clothes and toilet paper from his home Monday morning. He described the scene as “eerily quiet,” the only sound coming from chirping birds and a distant fire alarm.

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John McGarva, an Horry County firefighter looks over his his flooded home in the Polo Farms neighborhood off S.C.905. After a 36 hour shift with the fire department, McGarva was making pictures of each of his neighbors homes to share on a community facebook page. The Red Bluff community off S.C.905 has flooded along the Waccamaw River and Simpsons Creek under Hurricane Florence’s deluge with entire neighborhoods underwater. Monday, Sept. 24, 2018. Jason Lee jlee@thesunnews.com

Working 36-hour shifts when Hurricane Florence hit the Grand Strand, McGarva said he had limited time to prepare his home for flooding. Seeing his house underwater, McGarva said he was “speechless.”

“It sucks, but we’ve got insurance so what are you going to do?” McGarva asked.

Despite having to work again in the morning, McGarva was out in the neighborhood, taking pictures of the 173 houses to post on their neighborhood Facebook group.

Neighbors, who drove down S.C. 905 until they reached the water, expressed their gratitude at having the opportunity to see their home, even through a photograph.

“Neighbors are still sticking together,” said Judy Delong, who lives on Iree’s Way in Polo Farms.

Judy and her husband, Dan Delong, are staying in a Myrtle Beach hotel until the water recedes and they can restore their home.

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The Polo Farms neighborhood off S.C.905 is largely under water on Monday. The Red Bluff community off S.C.905 has flooded along the Waccamaw River and Simpsons Creek under Hurricane Florence’s deluge with entire neighborhoods underwater. Monday, Sept. 24, 2018. Jason Lee jlee@thesunnews.com

The couple, who retired from Connecticut a year and a half ago, drove almost an hour to bypass flooded roads in order to look down S.C. 905 in the direction of their neighborhood.

A partially submerged car at the start of the flooding suggests some of the damage done to their home.

“It’s a first time for us, but our neighbors have been through Matthew so they’re helping us through this,” Dan Delong said.

Some homes were flooded when Hurricane Matthew hit the Grand Strand in October 2016, McGarva said, but the water mainly stayed in the roadways.

McGarva’s phone rang several times, neighbors calling him to check in on the status of their homes.

Farther down S.C. 905, Lee Bertrand and his wife, Fran, are staying on the second story of their home. The bottom level is flooded, forcing the couple to crawl through windows to get into their boat to keep an eye on their property.

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Lee Bertrand, gun strapped to his hip, is staying in his home off S.C.905 with his wife Fran and dog Dorothy. The Red Bluff community off S.C.905 has flooded along the Waccamaw River and Simpsons Creek under Hurricane Florence’s deluge with entire neighborhoods underwater. Monday, Sept. 24, 2018. Jason Lee jlee@thesunnews.com

Three trucks and cars, along with a camper the couple was using for a restroom, sat in front of their home. Lee Bertrand was floating around outside in a boat with his pit bull, Dorthy, beside him, a .357 gun strapped to his hip.

“What the hell did I get myself into?” Lee Bertrand said. “I retired and bought this house to retire to. Now look at the mess I got.”

The couple moved to the area from Virginia about two years ago. Now, chairs were stacked up on the front porch, equipment from a former construction business spread across the front lawn, water lapping around them.

“I hope I never see another like this,” he said. “I’ve been through hurricanes before. This is ridiculous.”

Paddling down S.C. 905 in kayaks, the water was still, sticks and debris floating to the surface. The occasional plant would poke through the water, housing balls of fire ants.

Residents warned of alligators and water moccasins.

Two Geico insurance agents paddled past. The duo was finding flooded vehicles, checking on the damage after claims were filed.

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The Polo Farms neighborhood off S.C.905 is largely under water on Monday. The Red Bluff community off S.C.905 has flooded along the Waccamaw River and Simpsons Creek under Hurricane Florence’s deluge with entire neighborhoods underwater. Monday, Sept. 24, 2018. Jason Lee jlee@thesunnews.com

Allen Jackson, one of the agents, said he has been working since Florence hit, starting in Nichols. He said he’ll move into Georgetown when flooding starts there.

The point, he said, is to follow Geico’s motto of first in, first out. When asked if he was worried about dangers in floodwaters, Jackson said, “It’s just river water, darlin’. It’s the Waccamaw.”

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