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Stories of people and communities going about the work of recovery from the floods of 2015 and Hurricane Matthew in 2016.00000177-2120-db48-a97f-fb222fb50000In October of 2015, South Carolina received rainfall in unprecedented amounts over just a few days time. By the time the rain began to slacken, the National Weather Service reported that the event had dumped more than two feet of water on the state. The U.S. Geological Survey reported that the subsequent flooding was the worst in 75 years.Then, one year later, rain and storm surge from Hurricane Matthew dealt a blow to many in South Carolina still at work recovering from the 2015 floods.SC Public Radio Flood Coverage from the Beginning

Flood Survivors Still Getting Their Lives, and Homes, in Order

Nearly six months after the catastrophic floods of Oct. 4, 2015, Columbia residents whose homes were ruined are still coping with the aftermath. Lindsay Langdale of the Glenhaven Manor neighborhood revisits the tri-level house that was devastated by the flood, and to which she will not return. Next door, neighbor Mark Rowland also has no plans to come back to the two adjacent houses he owns. But while Rowland has found a new home, Langdale has not, after looking at scores of houses.

"At five in the morning, we woke up and saw about six feet of water in the basement... then realized it was slowly rising. Then it started quickly rising, so we got our dogs and headed out," says Langdale.  When the historic flood occurred on October 4th, Lindsay Langdale's home in the Glenhaven Manor neighborhood was devastated. She lost almost everything that day: family photos, notes, letters, furniture.  Months later, Langdale plans her next steps.  She's looked at over a hundred homes, but hasn't yet decided on a place to live.  Other survivors recount their experience after the flood.

Mark Rowland is another flood victim living in Columbia.  He says it wasn't clear how bad the flood would be until water rose over his back porch, "so we went up and sat in our car on the hillside there... and watched the water slowly rise." After the storm, Rowland says his neighborhood looked like a war zone with piles of trash on the street as tall as a person. Almost everything in his house had to be thrown away from water damage. 

Star: Williams-Brice Stadium, Diamond: Former neighborhood of both Langland and Rowland, Circle: Current Neighborhood of Langland, Rectangle: Current Neighborhood of Rowland
Star: Williams-Brice Stadium, Diamond: Former neighborhood of both Langland and Rowland, Circle: Current Neighborhood of Langland, Rectangle: Current Neighborhood of Rowland

When it came to recovery, Rowland didn't have flood insurance.  He had to rely on grants and loan money from FEMA and the Small Business Administration (SBA). He says they were very helpful, but there was so much red tape in the process of acquiring funds, "filling out all their forms and making sure you can get them what they want, you better keep real clear, concise, detailed records of everything that goes on." He says it will probably take another year or two before things get back to normal.

Langdale did have flood insurance, though, which she says helped a lot.  She was able to pay off her mortgage and replace some of what was lost in the flood.  Now she has to decide whether to keep the house or tear it down.  If she keeps it, she would have to raise the home to meet the county's new elevation requirements.  The important thing for Langdale right now is finding a new place to live, though that's proving more difficult than expected. "We're living in Forest Acres right now, with a friend... we thought we'd only be there a couple months, but it's not that easy to find a house... we've probably seen over a hundred houses," she says.  

Rowland has since found a new home, though he still has two storage units packed full of stuff, not to mention the boxes of things still at the homes of friends and family.  He says it'll take time get everything under one roof.  As for his old house, Richland county has already expressed interest in buying it out for use as green space. 

Both Langdale and Rowland have kept a positive attitude about the recovery process.  Langdale says she doesn't see any other option, "of course I reflect and I get said and I miss it. But then I just think to myself, well, we're here now.  Everything happens for a reason.  And that's really the only way you can look at it." Rowland agrees, "I just feel like we're really lucky. We got out of it alive, the dogs didn't drown, neither one of us even caught cold. It was great, we got out, and the stuff is stuff... it's just real estate."


Resources

Small Business Administration - Columbia

Federal Emergency Management Agency - South Carolina

Richland begins to identify which homeowners could get flood buyouts - The State