News 2 I-Team: Options available for families recovering from Hurricane Matthew

The Woden's first floor flooded during Hurricane Matthew, just as the family finished renovations from October's Historic Flooding.
The Woden's first floor flooded during Hurricane Matthew, just as the family finished renovations from October's Historic Flooding.

CHARLESTON COUNTY, SC (WCBD) — Many people still recovering from October’s historic flooding took another blow with Hurricane Matthew. That leaves some in the lowcountry looking for options to once again restore their homes.

After dealing with last October’s historic flooding, the Wordens thought they could handle a category 1 hurricane.

“We had sandbags to block the drive way … we elevated all our furniture, because we knew Matthew was coming. We thought we were ready,” said Karen Worden. She and her husband, Donald, own their West Ashley home.

Last year, the couple spent $60,000 to renovate their home after the first floor flooded in October.

Insurance wouldn’t cover the majority of the ruined space because it was below the flood level.

The large family, plus two dogs, was living in only half of the house.

They reached out to FEMA.

“FEMA basically said since we have a bathroom up here, and another living room, the family room and sun room are non-essential living spaces,” said Donald.

FEMA only gave them money for a dehumidifier.

“That’s good, but I have 3 dehumidifiers already,” Donald said.

As a last resort, the Wordens took out a small business loan to pay for renovations.

“We used equity in our house, and so we have a lien on the house, so now we have no more equity,” said Karen.

They also built a $16,000 retention wall around their home.

“To try to protect the property,” Donald said. “But, the wall wasn’t high enough.”

Hurricane Matthew hit, and the water rose higher than last year’s flood–about10 inches above the retention wall.

“It made it back in the house again. This time we thought we were more prepared, we put everything on buckets, tried to get it out of the way, but the water came in deep enough that it really didn’t make any difference,” said Donald.

The Worden’s first floor again became a pool.

Water soaked their sunroom, living room, garage, mother-in-law suite, and bathroom.

“There was nothing left to do but stand and watch,” said Karen.

They filed an insurance claim. It would provide only minimal coverage. Then, they filed a claim with FEMA, but once again, the space was not considered “essential”.

“When you have a family of 6, they are essential. Some of that space is just required because of the size,” said Donald.

Donald and Karen say they don’t have the money for another loan.

“It’s hard, because my house is like my heart. So, to watch it just fall apart like that, and knowing there’s nothing I can do about it, it’s really been emotional,” said

Civil litigation attorney Ryan Neville offered possible options for families like them.

“The people at FEMA are good people. They want to help, you just need to help them help you,” said Neville.

He says once FEMA responds to your claim; you have 60 days to appeal.

“Often times you’ll get a different result on the appeal because you can provide the decision maker at FEMA with more information to answer their questions,” said Neville.

Neville also says you may be able to fight for insurance money, as well.

“Also, just because an insurance company denies something, doesn’t mean that it was a rightful denial,” said Neville.

Neville says volunteers from the Young Lawyers Division of South Carolina are available to those in FEMA-declared disaster zones to help families who can’t afford legal help,

“They will be placed in an attorney-client relationship, that’s not going to send them bills, and they can walk through the appeals process of FEMA,” said Neville.

If you need help, call the hotline: 1-877-797-2227 ext. 120.

People can also email admin@scdisasterrelief.com.

 

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