The surge swept away personal belongings of the owner's family — even his father's wheelchair. And it wiped out the investment that three brothers from
"We put all our life savings in there," co-owner
Now, he's not sure what will happen. He said the property in
"We have regular insurance, but I know for a fact there is no way they are going to cover this," he said. "Hopefully the state government or
Depani, 50, who's a
Photos from before the storm show the single-story brick motel stretched out parallel to state
The motel built six decades ago sits with its back to the
As Florence approached, Depani sent his family to stay with relatives in nearby
Flooding predictions became direr, and an evacuation was ordered. Depani went door-to-door telling the 40 or so people in the motel's 20 rooms to find shelter elsewhere. A handful had been renting there for months. He thinks some went to stay with friends, others to shelters, but he's not positive: "I didn't have time; I couldn't ask"
Renters fled in such a hurry that they left belongings still hanging in one closet, a suitcase in another and golf clubs on one floor.
"I'm so happy they were able to evacuate, because if they didn't, it would have been really, really bad," he said.
Then he went to
"We saw on the news, from the chopper, that the water was touching the roof," he said. "My mind went blank — could not think, could not function."
On Wednesday, the waters had receded and Depani went back to survey the scene. He and his wife walked past torn-out bricks, window frames and shattered glass. They went back into their apartment — now uninhabitable — to look for what they could salvage. Lost were a new refrigerator and dishwasher, television, two laptops, phones and his father's wheelchair.
The three brothers had hoped the motel would be an early piece of a growing collection of businesses they could expand into other cities. They made a down payment of about
"It was what we saw as a good starting point for other future businesses,"
He said business was great at the motel, where he charged
What is left standing now, he believes, will have to be demolished. He was optimistic that he and his brothers would bounce back despite the uncertainty of government assistance. But that doesn't mean it won't be painful.
"It's hurtful because this was the foundation," he said. "But I'm hoping God will help us create a bigger, better and a stronger foundation."
Drew reported from
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