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New study shows true cost of flooding for Horry County families

Updated: Apr. 14, 2021 at 7:54 PM EDT
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MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WMBF) - Life savings, college savings, retirement funds.

Those are just some of the sources where people are taking money out to pay for repeat flooding inside their homes.

Some of those people are like Mario Gutierrez, who lives on Star Creek Circle in the Socastee area.

“We had to go into our savings,” he said.

Just weeks ago, the first home Gutierrez ever bought had floodwaters breaching the doors, sitting on his floor and damaging nearly all of his belongings.

He’s still rebuilding weeks later and said he’s doing the bulk of renovations himself to save money.

Gutierrez also says hidden costs of flooding are adding up, on top of the repairs.

“I had to pull out an extensive amount of money,” he said. “For storage, transferring the stuff into the storage building which was a U-Haul, the place where we stayed.”

April O’Leary, Founder of Horry County Rising, wanted to get a better picture of how much flooding is costing families just like Gutierrez’s.

It’s what prompted her to reach out to a group called the Climate Cost Project.

“No one’s dived in to see what’s happening to their families and their financial viability,” O’Leary said.

For two years, the Climate Cost Project surveyed Horry County families whose homes have been damaged by repeated floods.

The findings? Horry County families weren’t getting enough help.

Out of those surveyed, 63% of families went into debt.

Even when FEMA helped, the study found an average of $21,000 in damage we’re left unrepaired, while the average home value dropped 26%.

It also found the Horry County government received $70 million to deal with flooding, but only $9.6 million was spent on mitigation.

O’Leary said this is what government leaders need to look at next.

“Really focusing on how to avoid making the same mistakes in the future, and assist the families that are being impacted now,” she added.

“My story is no different than what other people around here have suffered,” Gutierrez said.

Horry County Council Chairman Johnny Gardner said he has not reviewed the findings yet, but he plans to before the next Infrastructure and Regulation Committee Meeting.

For the full report from the Climate Cost Project, click here.

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