They never thought it could happen to them. After all, they lived nowhere near the ocean, and the torrential rains that had disrupted life in Georgetown County had given way to blue skies, leading many to think the worst had passed. But within hours the waters that had wreaked havoc on the Midlands of South Carolina began flowing stealthily toward the coast, swelling rivers to flood stages practically unheard of. And just as quickly, lives were turned upside down. But six Tidelands Health employee partners soon began putting their lives back together, thanks in part to the generosity of the South Carolina Hospital Association CARE Fund. Here are two of their stories.
Chelsie Singletary • Radiologic Technologist • Tidelands Georgetown Memorial Hospital
When Chelsie Singletary, a radiologic technologist at Tidelands Georgetown Memorial Hospital, woke up on the morning of October 5, she was shocked to see five feet of water in her front yard just feet from the Black River near Kingstree. “The ground that we could see the night before was covered in water. It was only a few inches from rolling into our home at that point.”
Panicked, she and her boyfriend, Chad Freeman, called their fathers, who showed up within 30 minutes with an enclosed trailer. Slogging through waist-deep water, the four retrieved Singletary’s dachshund, some clothes, two TVs, and her computer as the ocean-going boat that the couple kept in their backyard began to drift down river due to the swift current. They caught it just in time to drive it to the front yard, where they secured it.
Eventually, the water rose to the roof, where it lingered for a week before retreating to porch level. Singletary was in shock. In an area that has experienced its share of hurricanes and high winds, she never dreamed such flood devastation would occur in her own neighborhood.
“Of course you see the horror stories on the news about things like this happening in other places, but here? I was absolutely heartbroken,” said Singletary. “I could do nothing but watch everything that I had worked so hard for over the years just sink.”
For a few weeks, they couple stayed in a camper in the elder Freeman’s backyard. In November, they moved into a doublewide while they settled insurance claims. Just recently, they closed on another home with plans to move in early spring.
Singletary, who is taking additional classes online while working full time, says the assistance provided by the CARE Fund and SCHA helped relieve some of the stress she felt over losing so much and enabled her and Chad to purchase necessities.
“In such hard times like this it’s hard to keep your head up and go on about your day without thinking about the destruction where we used to call home,” she said. “I am so very proud and happy to know that I work with individuals who make resources like this possible. Some people are struggling, and there’s so little generosity left, so being on the receiving end of this generosity was overwhelming and amazing at the same time.”
Tracy Howard • Receptionist • Tidelands Winyah Women’s Center
On October 5, Tracy Howard and her family went from living a normal life in Andrews to one turned upside down in less than 24 hours.
“We saw water in our yard, but we didn’t think water would actually get into the house,” Howard said. “By the next morning, it was up to our front steps and rising.”
Within minutes, she and her husband Brian, daughter Taylor, and son Tucker piled onto an ATV owned by a neighbor who lived on higher ground. They fled to her cousin’s house several miles away. At the time she they thought they would need shelter for a few hours, or at the most a couple of days. However, a trip back to their home late that day–this time by boat—revealed the grim news. Their house was lost to the floodwaters.
“We were able to get some photographs and some clothes that were hanging in the closet, but we lost everything else,” Howard says. “We lost our home, all PTO from work, most of our belongings, and 13 years of mortgage payments. Thankfully we still have our family.”
They stayed with her cousin until Thanksgiving, when they were able to move into a rental property. In early March, Howard and her husband were expecting to be back into a new home, with many of their belongings replaced. Howard says the funding from the SCHA has been instrumental in helping her family get back on their feet.
“We now have two mortgages because insurance didn’t pay off the other mortgage, so the funds really helped us to buy essential items to tide us over,” she said. “The CARE fund has helped us replace so many things that we lost in the flood. For that we are very thankful!”
Howard says the tragedy definitely tested her and reordered her priorities. “It has helped shape us tremendously. Now I really know what is important and what isn’t. You don’t think something like this could ever happen to you. Thanks to God, prayers, family, friends, and a great community we will shortly be back to normal!”