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National

S.C. Residents Begin Clean Up In Hurricane Flooded Areas

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

We meet a woman next to who lives in South Carolina. To one side of her house in North Charleston is a river, with waters that rose and rose during Hurricane Matthew. To the other side of her house is another river. So she's cleaning up after the hurricane, which killed a total of 34 people up and down the East Coast. And she is one of the people who spoke with South Carolina Public Radio's Alexandra Olgin.

ALEXANDRA OLGIN, BYLINE: Forty-six-year-old Theresa Jenkins dumps gallons of murky brown water out of a wet-dry vacuum under her already waterlogged front yard.

THERESA JENKINS: I'm in shock. I'm hurt. I mean, I'm just - it's awful.

OLGIN: Her red brick one-story home in North Charleston is between two rivers. And it's the second time that flooding has destroyed her house. A year ago this month, massive rains swamped this neighborhood. This time around, Jenkins' priority is to salvage whatever she can from her 14-year-old son's room. She opens the dark wood drawers underneath his bed to find socks and shirts submerged. Jenkins pulls out a CD case.

JENKINS: Again, again, again.

OLGIN: Last time, she stripped her home down to the studs and spent more than $70,000 rebuilding.

JENKINS: Yeah, everything's new. Everything we just spent all our money on, you know, getting. All this stuff is brand spanking new, under - what? - eight months old.

OLGIN: Others in the Pepperhill neighborhood, which backs up to a creek, are in the same situation. Amy Knoch lives next door. After Matthew, she had more than a foot of water in her home. Less than last year, but still devastating. She replaced everything in her home up to and including her ceilings. And she had just finished unpacking last week.

AMY KNOCH: Everybody says, you know, they're just things, they can be replaced. Yes. But I have a responsibility to my daughter, to her emotional health, to save as much of her stuff as I could. Because 5-year-olds don't understand that life is more important than things.

OLGIN: Emergency managers in Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas don't know the extent of the damage from Hurricane Matthew yet. But CoreLogic, which analyzes property losses, expects it to be in the billions. Knoch is not looking forward to starting over again. After disaster struck twice in such a short period of time, she's considering just leaving.

KNOCH: We could say I'm done and walk away and suck up the loss and suck up the foreclosure and just - but we're - I don't want to abandon my neighbors. I feel horrible even that I'm contemplating it. But by the same token, I can't - I have to take a Valium every time it rains, you know. I can't do it again.

OLGIN: Knoch is not alone. Tens of thousands of others across the southeast are also evaluating what to do next.

For NPR News, I'm Alexandra Olgin in North Charleston, S.C. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.