Flood Evacuee Journeys Home to Feed Cats

Oct 17, 2016

Hurricane Matthew has come and gone, but major threats still remain. Waterways in North and South Carolina are quickly rising due to the Hurricane's torrential rains.  North Carolina has already seen devastating effects and now, South Carolina is starting to feel the impact. Five counties are seeing major flooding, with many communities encouraging their residents to evacuate. Dan Stachowiak is an evacuee from Conway. Cooper McKim follows Stachowiak on his journey through floodwaters to feed his cats.

NOAA report of flood elevation and projections during Hurricane Matthew
Credit NOAA

Dan Stachowiak is a 49-year old businessman who moved to the suburban Lees Landing Circle two years ago. In the past year, he's had to evacuate three times due to flooding. "It's kind of a joke in the neighborhood that every time somebody moves either in or out, we flood. I bought my place we moved in, we flooded. Then the next door neighbor moved in, flooded, " Stachowiak says.

When October's historic flood hit last year, it took his family 17 hours of intense preparation to evacuate. This time around, he's more prepared: "we've got it down to a science."

Stachowiak bought a jet-ski to maneuver the floodwaters, a trailer to easily remove vulnerable possessions, and put together a systematic plan to safely get out. 

Stachowiak treats his journey through choppy floodwaters more like an errand than a uniquely bizarre adventure. With an apathetic sigh, he backs up his four wheeler into deeper waters and unlatches his jet-ski. He then hops on the gray and white machine and kicks up the throttle toward home.

Stachowiak lives in the last house on the block. It's a green, triangular home only 30 feet from the Waccamaw River. Luckily, it's on stilts. As he pulls between two eight-foot stone columns that typically welcome a car, he's surprised: "Oh wow, it's come up a lot... that swing is six feet high... the water is probably 4-5 feet deep here," he says. 

Stachowiak wasn't able to remove his truck
Credit Provided by Dan Stachowiak

Not to mention, only about two feet of the columns are visible. The property looks like it was built in a river. There's water as far as the eye can see with a quick current pulling in every direction. One of Stachowiak's trees is sideways over his neighbor's shed. His white truck is completely submerged.  There's a swimming pool somewhere, but with the high waters, it's impossible to tell where. 

Despite it all, Stachowiak has a smile on his face. He says, "you could get really stressed out about it, but what's that gonna do? You can't change it. There's nothing you can do about it."

His siblings ask him if he's ready to move yet, but he says no, it's paradise.  "It's paradise 99% of the time, but sometimes you've got to put up with this," he says.

Stachowiak doesn't expect to back home for another five or six weeks.