HORRY COUNTY, SC (WIS) - Thursday marks six months since the eastern coast of the United States saw one of the most disastrous hurricanes in recent history.
Hurricane Florence made landfall near Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina at 7:15 a.m., with maximum sustained winds of 90 miles per hour. Although it had been tracked as category four hurricane, it made landfall as a category one.
In all, the storm claimed 53 lives and dumped more than two feet of rain in some parts of North Carolina. Several weeks later, the rainfall made its way into South Carolina's Pee Dee region, causing catastrophic widespread flooding.
Robert Johnson purchased a home on the intracoastal waterway in Socastee, a few miles from Myrtle Beach, at the beginning of 2018. He and his fiance hadn't moved into the home before the flood waters arrived.
"I moved my grand piano in a few days before, my heaviest piece of furniture, only to have to move it out a day later when we had to evacuate," he said.
His home, along with dozens of his neighbors, saw five to six feet of standing water for close to three weeks. During that time, the only way to access the neighborhood was by boat, as mailboxes served as speed bumps for those passing by.
"There was water in the house for about three weeks, so a very long time," Johnson said. "It took quite a while for the water to go down and assess the damage."
Upon returning, Johnson's entire house needed gutted as water had infiltrated every surface. But before that, he and his fiance had another task to complete.
"The first thing we had to do once we got back in the house was pick up all the dead fish and eels," he said. "They were all over the house."
Having worked at a nearby wildlife refuge for several decades, Johnson has a special appreciation for nature.
"The water was so dirty, because you have to think about everything that's in it and everything in people's garages being in that water," he said. "Fish were clinging to the surface trying to get oxygen. We saw fish stuck on tree branches way up in trees after the water receded."
The floods caused several of Johnson's neighbors to tear down and rebuild, while some moved away permanently. Johnson is working to restore his home and waterproof it to the best of his ability.
"This is my backyard. How can I leave?" he said. "Can it happen again? If we live our entire lives with “this might happen” you’re going to miss out on a whole lot."
Johnson said some homeowners are struggling with the restoration process, as federal aid dollars aren't released by the bank until the restoration has taken place. For many, that means providing for a family while temporarily displaced, all while funding the renovation.
He hopes to have his house completed by the summer and remains positive, despite the lingering thought of a similar flood happening again.