Some parts of Nichols are still under water, and no businesses are open after massive flooding, spurred by Hurricane Matthew, devastated the small, rural Pee Dee town this month.
South Carolina House Speaker Jay Lucas toured the town Monday with Mayor Lawson Battle to see the destruction first-hand.
Of the town’s 260 homes, 236 either were completely destroyed or severely damaged in addition to nearly 300 vehicles and more than 20 businesses.
“It’s shocking,” Lucas said. “It’s not every day that you see a town that’s been laid to waste. I’ve never seen anything like this. It’s been 16 days, and some homes still have water in them.”
Nichols has no water, no sewer, no police or fire protection right now.
As of Monday, Battle said the town is seeking aid from any agency that can offer it, and he primarily is working to keep citizens from losing hope – especially the hundreds of people who remain in shelters and churches with no home to return to.
“Right now we’re just trying to keep everybody’s morale up. People are starting to come back into town to try to clean their homes, so we’re trying to make sure they have the right supplies and trying to make sure they’re safe.”
Lucas said he has asked Nichols town leaders to compile a comprehensive list of recovery needs to see what can be done at a state level to help a community on the verge of ruin.
“What we want to do first is help stabilize the government here in Nichols, and after we do that, we can move on to other things, like helping businesses come back and getting people out of the shelters and back home,” he said. “We want people to know that somebody cares. You haven’t been forgotten. We want to help you, and we’re going to help you.”
Last year state officials set aside millions of dollars for flood recovery, and Lucas said that’s a possibility this year as well.
“It’s not every year you have two major natural disasters that come almost back-to-back, so that’s something we’ll have to work on in the House, but I’m not sure what form that’s going to take yet,” he said. “We’re starting to sit-down and start that process now.”
On the wall just above Battle’s desk at the Nichols Town Hall are approximately 50 post-card sized notes taped to the wall. They are a reminder of what remains to be done for city officials. The only card marked complete on Monday was the reminder to start a temporary post office.
Battle said an act of God caused his town to flood, and it’s going to take another act of God to make Nichols whole again.
“We’re a strong community, but we need alot of guidance on how to get through this,” Battle said. “We’re going to make a comeback. It’s going to take a miracle for us to do it, but we’ll do it.”