What would you do if you bought a brand new house, and without any warning, it started to flood every year, sometimes several times in one year? Or what about several times over five years? Welcome to the Rosewood Estates neighborhood of Socastee, South Carolina. The estates are along the Intracoastal Waterway, not on a floodplain or on a river. But that’s not the way it feels.
Flooding takes a toll. Repetitive flooding is an unending nightmare. In 2020, Terri Straka described what it’s like:
“‘You don’t know what to do. Even just daily functioning. You can’t get anything accomplished. You need to work, you need to take care of your family, and you can’t.’ Straka has gotten to the point where she worries even if it simply rains.”
Hurricane Matthew struck in 2016 and that seems to be when the trouble started. Matthew was torturously slow-moving, and sent water levels to heights never seen. An estimate of 10-15 inches of rain came into an area that again, is not a floodplain.
That’s when Rosewood Strong came together. Led by Terri Straka and Melissa Krupa, Rosewood Strong is a grassroots organization of flood survivors who found they had to advocate for themselves to get help, because the authorities didn’t seem to respond.
Then it happened again. Two years later, it was Hurricane Florence. This time floodwaters nearly reached the roofs of some Rosewood homes with 20 inches of rain. Since then the floods have been nonstop.
It was incredible to Terri, Melissa, and the residents of Socastee that the water kept coming, people were going through their savings and sanity just to survive, working hard to rebuild, only to see more flooding and rebuilding again. Their health was jeopardized and no one came to help. What was nearly as bad to Terri was, “They also say they have a plan and funds put aside for a buyout or elevations. But they won’t finish the process. And hurricane season has begun.”
In 2020, flooding came even without hurricanes, in February and again in June. Nearly 60 homes were flooded with water pouring in from a crested river, flowing into the Intracoastal waterway. In an interview with WBTW, Terri expressed her exasperation. “We are hard-working people, we don’t have the money to sustain this over and over again so where do we go, what do we do? We need help.”
What Rosewood Strong did was get stronger and louder. In July 2020, the local government found them outside their offices, with megaphones and signs and an extraordinary amount of news coverage. After everything they had been through, Melissa wanted people to understand what they were asking for: “That’s all we are asking for is support. We are not asking you to do some crazy thing or put out a crazy amount of money. We are just asking you to interact and support us.”
Their persistence paid off. In early 2021, Horry County received nearly $15.6 million in federal grants for flood mitigation activities, with over $13 million of it dedicated to relocating repeat flood victims in Socastee. These funds will buy out 60 homes that have been damaged, demolish them and use the land for green infrastructure. Town meetings, with Rosewood Strong attending, are taking place to determine how the funds will be distributed. Nature is taking Rosewood states back and the residents will hopefully soon be on higher ground and not have to be afraid of the sound of rain.
Written by Michele Gielis
Elevation or Relocation of Homes, Halting Bad Development, Nature-Based Solutions
501c3 Tax Deductible