HORRY COUNTY - As the floodwaters begin the slow process of receding, the impact of a late-winter rain event has brought forward plenty of emotions and concerns throughout the Horry County community - with areas separated by some 30 miles now allies in the never-ending battle with devastating flooding that has reared its ugly head over the past 6 years.
Over the past week, residents have heard that FEMA is unlikely come to the aid of residents - because both the county and state will not hit monetary damage thresholds.
Horry County would need to exceed $1 million in uninsured losses, while South Carolina's uninsured damage at large needs to reach $7 million in order for a presidential declaration to be made to allow FEMA to aid in the process.
"Don't be thinking FEMA will be coming to assistance on this one," said Randy Webster, assistant county administrator for public safety.
FEMA's absence will leave the county responsible for the costs and expenses of this flooding event, with Webster indicating the county is exploring low-interest loans from the Small Business Administration to aid residents in need.
Johnny Gardner, Horry County Council chairman, expressed the council understands the area's continued obstacles with flooding are growing tiresome for all, specifically calling out the Socastee and Bucksport areas.
"There is a permanent solution required for this; this is not the first time that you've had this - it seems to be getting worse every time we have substantial rain," Gardner said. "We're going to do everything we can do to try to fix this. Rest assured, it is not a short process, everybody knows that."
April O'Leary, president and founder of Horry County Rising and member of the county's newly formed flooding subcommittee, said that it's time for residents to make their voices heard.
"Citizens need to demand better flood protection measures," O'Leary said. "And our officials need to aggressively pursue these measures. This is man made. Unless our officials start to invest in doing more protective measures, it's going to continue to be tragic."
As the floodwaters rose over the past week, here are a trio of families that put a face on what is happening in the community:
Socastee: 'Every time it rains, we have to worry'
When Mike and Carolyn Moore purchased their waterfront home along the Intracoastal Waterway in 2004 - a present from husband to wife - it wasn't yet designated a flood zone, nor was flood insurance required.
They traded a Myrtle Beach beachfront property for the serene waterways of Socastee, with their backyard gently touching one of the Grand Strand's most popular bodies of water, complete with a renovated dock with a fan to keep the mosquitoes away.
Fast forward 17 years, and that same body of water has delivered a slew of costly gut punches, to the tune of eight flood events in a six-year span at their Rosewood Estates property - an area now infamous instead of sought-after.
On Friday, the Moores' son, Mark, stared at more than 3 feet of water already sitting in the one-bedroom apartment along the bottom level of their home - a product of a slow-moving rain event drifting south, with the Intracoastal having not crested yet until Feb. 28.
The latest flood comes as Mark Moore hadn't even had a chance to finish the repairs to his bedroom from the floods of May 2020, an event that saw him slip and injure himself as he tried to assess the damage from 14 inches of standing water.
"Every time it rains, we have to worry," Mark Moore said, indicating that the floods have brought as little as 6 inches and as much as 5 feet of water into the home. "You can't even imagine the amount of stress that puts on you. The physical stress, the emotional stress, the monetary stress. It's exhausting."
The financial strain for the Moores is significant, even with flood insurance, meeting a deductible each time - lower than others because Mark and his brother, David, do the bulk of the repairs at the house.
Add in $8,000 in annual insurance - including $2,800 for flood - and Mike and Carolyn Moore are in an unenviable spot.
Both are 80 years old and just celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary; they cannot afford to take a financial bath on their Rosewood property, they said.
"We have a lot of money wrapped up in that place," Mike Moore said.
On Feb. 25, Webster announced that federal buyouts were still under consideration for properties such as the Moores', although no time element was established.
For Mark Moore, the idea of a buyout doesn't sit well, pointing to mostly working-class families in the Rosewood Drive community who can't take anything less than what they owe on their mortgages.
"If you want to pay their debt off for the home so they can walk away debt-free from home, then fine," Mark said. "But if they are going to offer cents on the dollar, then most people are stuck in their homes.
"Buyouts aren't a solution, that's just kicking the problem down the road."
And while some in the community have successfully sold their property at cost, the Moores aren't confident that it will be the case now.
"I've never been that lucky," Carolyn said.
Bucksport: 'Situation so heartbreaking'
For almost his entire life, Kevin Mishoe had never known what it was like for his neighborhood to flood.
Until Hurricane Matthew.
Now, as he stands looking over water across Bucksport Road on Friday, almost two miles from the Waccamaw River, he's seeing yet another flood.
"We've always heard of the 1,000-year flood, but until Matthew, we hadn't gotten any floods," he said. "My first flood was five years ago, and we've seen one just about every year since."
The Waccamaw River at Bucksport is yet to crest and the water continues to rise. As of 2 p.m. on Feb. 26, the Waccamaw at Bucksport was 23.03 feet.
For Mishoe, the Bucksport community is different. He points to a woman's home, whose father was an educator in the area. He looks just next door to his mother's home, with water filling the front yard. And right next to it, is Mishoe Road, where he grew up.
"That's what makes the situation so heartbreaking," Mishoe said. "You know each individual in this community by name ... you've grown up together, gone to church together."
As of Friday, floodwaters had not reached Mishoe's home.
Mishoe said it's not that simple just to sell their homes and leave.
"You have more than just brick and mortar structures," he said of the tight-knit community.
Nine people impacted by flood waters took advantage of a Red Cross shelter at the James Frazier Center on Bucksport Road on the night of Feb. 25. Half of Bucksport Road were closed and underwater, with more than one dozen roads off Bucksport Road also closed, according to the Horry County road closure map.
A leader in the Bucksport community, Mishoe said he compares the floods to a form of abuse.
"It's not just the hitting that's the problem, it's the long-lasting effect," he said.
And there is no one solution to the problem, he said, but a start would be Horry County officials cleaning out the one ditch that runs through the community.
According to Horry County Spokesperson Kelly Moore, multiple ditches off Bucksport Road are cleaned yearly, though about three are unable to be cleared due to the county not having easements.
"Less than 3 percent of drainage is working," Mishoe said. "And that is a problem."
Socastee: 'You take the good with the bad'
Mitchell Strickland can't help but watch the waters along the Intracoastal Waterway rise, inching toward his property near Rosewood Drive just outside of Myrtle Beach.
He has a notch marked by a screw on the fifth step of the stairway that leads up to his large back porch overlooking the water - it indicates how high the water got during Hurricane Florence in September 2018.
It also brings back memories of losing his home during Hurricane Matthew in 2016 in the exact same spot, an emotional event that caused him to build his replacement home 9 feet off the ground.
But the 73-year-old refuses to complain, even as the current floodwaters have already covered his waterside table and chair that normally give him a front row seat for beautiful sunsets.
"We choose to live here, you take the good with the bad," Strickland said as his neighbor monitored his pool that was already flooded, normally costing thousands to fix.
Strickland admits that while areas such as California seemingly deal with natural disasters that occur quickly, life along the Grand Strand offers both the opportunity to prepare, but also forces residents to overanalyze the situation due to lead times of up to 10 days.
Thankfully, he has a boat tucked away under his home - lovingly called "John" - that helps keep his mind at ease that he and his wife can get away from their home of 20 years.
"That boat is my baby," Strickland said. "We really don't care about the rain that happens here, we're always paying attention to what's going on up in North Carolina."
Strickland is impacted by seeing his neighbors scurry, looking to move to higher ground while also trying to save themselves thousands by moving valuable items out of harms way.
He hasn't always been immune to a similar fate, with reminders of past storms are all around him, including watermarks in his garage that fronts his property, with desks and chairs having been completely submerged during Matthew.
"It's hard not to think about, if you look around at the neighbors, even the abandoned houses - we've all been majorly impacted by the floods," Strickland said. "But we have a community that will help each other out.
"We have a community that wants to lend a helping hand."