Nichols woman goes home more than year after Hurricane Matthew

NICHOLS, SC (WBTW) – A Nichols woman moved back into her newly rebuilt home Wednesday afternoon after Hurricane Matthew flooded it more than year ago.

Estella Lee-Harrell lives with her 86-year-old mother and said she’s waited a long time to move back into her house.

“It’s been over a year and I thought we’d be in sooner, but I am just grateful and thankful for everyone’s help,” she said.

Lee-Harrell said she remembers Oct. 9 like it was yesterday.

“My mom and I sat down in the den and we watched the wind blowing and the trees going,” she said. “We prayed that a tree didn’t hit the house and at about one-thirty in the morning I heard this yell, she’s like ‘Stella?’ I said, ‘What?’ She said, ‘There’s water in the house’ and I’m like ‘What?’”

Lee-Harrell said that’s when she grabbed her flashlight, went to the front door, and began flashing it and shouting for help.

“We went out on the front porch and they grabbed my mom,” said Lee-Harrell. “I started seeing little creatures floating around in the water and the waters rising, it’s now up at my ankles and I’m like “Oh my goodness.”

Lee-Harrell said she didn’t know what to do and didn’t think to grab anything from her house when rescuers arrived.

“I started to try to go in the water by myself and I’m glad I didn’t because if I had who knows what would have happened,” she said. “I stepped down and the water came to my waist.”

Lee-Harrell said she’s grateful to have so much support from Palmetto Disaster Recovery and Brethren Disaster Ministries. Construction Manager for Brethren Disaster Ministries, Steve Keim, said a team of six volunteers worked on the house every day. He said he’s one of the few who gets to see the end result of a project and enjoys making a difference in someone’s life.

“We’re here to do God’s work and help people who are in need and show that they’re our neighbors and we’re doing what we can to help them get back home,” said Keim.

Palmetto Disaster Recovery provided new furniture and kitchen appliances for Lee-Harrell and her mother. Lee-Harrell said her old furniture was soaking wet and mold began to grow in the house because of the flooding.

“It was an overwhelming experience, but God is good,” she said. “I told my mom we have a brand new house inside and out.”

Palmetto Disaster Recovery representatives said the deadline to apply for assistance from Hurricane Matthew is Nov. 10.