flooding

Coming Home to Conway after the Flood

Oct 5, 2018
Bill and Diane Parker sit outside their flood ravaged home in Conway.
Victoria Hansen

Two weeks after the president visited their neighborhood in Conway, Bill and Diane Parker sit on a sofa in their front yard, surrounded by furniture.  They’ve just come home for the first time since Hurricane Florence’s flood waters ravaged their Sherwood community, east of downtown.  The damage is worse than they imagined.

“I would lie in bed at night and think about each room,” Diane Parker said.  “What did I leave?  What’s there that is possibly going to be ruined”.

Raised house at 42 Rutledge Avenue back on a new foundation.
Victoria Hansen/SC Public Radio

How do you raise a large, historic home?  Better yet, how do you put it back down?  Should such an old  home be raised at all?  All are tough questions in a city that until recently had never lifted one before.

“There’s a lot of head scratching going on,” said long-time contractor Gary Walters.  He’s been working on a massive home at 42 Rutledge Avenue in Charleston, S.C. since last fall.  That’s when  its owner, Jack Margolies, finally got approval from the city’s Board of Architectural Review to raise the 1859 structure.

Charleston Chief Resilience Officer Mark Wilbert at the Battery.
Victoria Hansen/SC Public Radio

Mark Wilbert has been the man the city of Charleston has turned to in case of emergencies.  He helped people prepare for Hurricanes Matthew and Irma.   He was there after 9 parishioners at Mother Emanuel were killed.   Last August, he planned for a crowd of thousands in town for the solar eclipse.  Now the former city Emergency Management Director has a new job.  He's Charleston's first ever Chief Resilience officer.

Once Irma hit, Joseph Jones of had second thoughts about his decision to ride out the storm at home.
Victoria Hansen/SC Public Radio

The blistering sun is back.   But Monday's swollen flood waters from Tropical Storm Irma are slowly seeping away,  leaving a once anxious Charleston community relieved, yet tender.

"When the wind got a little stronger, nothing compared to Hugo, but I started to think my son might be right.  I should have left," said 76 year-old Joseph Jones.  He lives two blocks from the intra-coastal waterway and rode out Hurricane Hugo in his small, ground level, one story home.  "But after a while, when the water started receding after Irma, I knew I made the right decision."  He says his home saw no real damage.  But mentally he feels raw.

Now Tropical Storm Irma is going to cause widespread flooding in Charleston at high tide today.

Flooded dunes on Sullivan's Island before Hurricane Irma hit the Carolina coast.
Victoria Hansen/SC Public Radio

Tourists are attracted to Charleston not just for its history, but also for its beautiful ocean views and beach access. But the ocean’s rising levels also pose a major threat to coastal cities like Charleston, especially when they combine with large rain events like the hurricanes the city has weathered over past years. Since 2014, Charleston’s streets have been flooded consistently more often, from 11 days in 2014, to 38 days in 2015 and 50 days in 2016.