‘Flooding is a grief really difficult to describe’: How communities continue to recover two years after Hurricane Florence

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HORRY COUNTY, SC (WBTW) – This week marks two years since Hurricane Florence devastated parts of our area.

“Flooding is a grief really difficult to describe,” April O’Leary, the founder of Horry County Rising and a flood victim said. “It will break through your locked doors and steal your most precious belongings.”

O’Leary lives in Conway. Her home flooded during Hurricane Florence and left her family displaced for months.

“My entire community was flooded and displaced from their homes,” she said. “It was something like I never lived through before and I think just the scale and the scope of it, how many businesses were impacted; made me feel like I needed to do something to take action on my grief and have that experience lead to something more meaningful.”

O’Leary quit her job and became an advocate for flood mitigation by starting the group, Horry County Rising.

She says, flooding is a political issue and she wants to see more flood mitigation plans, for FEMA flood maps to accurately represent flood-prone areas and more storm water storage be established.

“Going after federal grants, getting the state to have a flood plan, or the county to have a flood plan; you know aggressively going after mitigation projects, all of that really does take our political officials as partners,” she explained.

Terri Straka’s home in the Rosewood Community in Socastee also flooded during Florence; for the second time.

“We were flooded out and that was the second time for our family,” Straka said. “We had flooded previously with Matthew and it was twice as bad.”

Straka says her home can’t be elevated and while they were able to rebuild, they want to take part in a buyout program when it becomes an option.

“We have to move, we have to go somewhere else,” she said. “We of course want to stay in the County because this is where we work and live and we love our community, but we have to do something.”

Right now, Horry County is working on a flood resiliency plan that does include a buyout program. County leaders tell News13, that plan should be finalized soon as the goal was this fall or winter.

Unlike a buyout program the City of Conway has, the County’s would be operated using money from the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development which is then distributed by the State.

Since Hurricane Florence, the City of Conway has purchased 41 properties through the FEMA buyout program. An investment that cost about $4.25 million. Right now, the City is working to purchase a ‘handful’ more.

“Once we get those completed, we’ll have a good idea of what problem areas we have left,” City Administrator, Adam Emrick said. “We don’t have many and we’ve certainly made a huge dent in the areas that we know will flood every time.”

For more on Horry County’s Flood Resiliency plan, click here.

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