Kimberly Sonnenfeld walked through the halls of what once was her home, explaining to a FEMA housing inspector which parts of the house were the kitchen, the bedrooms and the “Woman Cave.”
Not much is left inside the home on Glenhaven Drive off South Beltline Boulevard, now a skeleton of wood beams, ruined flooring and dangling wires.
Almost everything, from the chandelier to the floor, is covered with debris from the floodwaters that swept through the house Oct. 4, forcing out Sonnenfeld, her friend who owns the home and their pets.
“You see this on TV all the time, but you never expect it to be here,” Sonnenfeld said. “And it was horrible. And you start thinking, ‘What do I have? What do I have? What do I do?’ ”
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Last week, Sonnenfeld took another step on the road to recovery. She walked a FEMA housing official past the flat-screen televisions lying face down on the lawn and into the home for an inspection. Then, she listed what she had lost as the inspector tapped the screen on his tablet.
She explained how she had awakened on Oct. 4 and stepped into up to 8 inches of water, thinking the water heater must have broken. Sonnenfeld then told the inspector that she heard neighbors outside, calling to her to leave the house, and – tearing up more than once – how she escaped with just a few valuables.
She’s hoping to get help for paying rent, replacing her vehicle and restarting her janitorial and cleaning business.
Sonnenfeld, 45, is one of more than 66,000 people statewide who had registered for aid with the Federal Emergency Management Agency through Monday, spokesman Ken Higginbotham said. More are expected to sign up.
FEMA has completed more than 97 percent of the 52,000 inspections of damaged sites that it has scheduled so far, Higginbotham said. Those inspections will continue until after the Dec. 4 deadline to apply for disaster aid, he said.
Inspectors check off items damaged or lost during the flooding, including flooring, walls, electric wiring, appliances and personal items, he said. Thus far, FEMA has disbursed nearly $48 million in disaster aid and about $42 million in housing assistance statewide to those who were forced out of their homes, Higginbotham said. It also has disbursed more than $5.5 million in assistance for other expenses, such as medical supplies, he said.
It would be tough to leave a place where Sonnenfeld made so many memories, including cookouts on Sundays and watching “cheesy shows” in the Woman Cave, a room with a couch, loveseat and televisions, she said. But, she said, she’s been thrilled with the support she has received since the flood.
“FEMA’s been amazing,” Sonnenfeld said. “I called them, and literally within two hours, I got a call back. You know, I’m not asking for anything, but the help has been amazing.”
Neighbors, civic organizations and law enforcement also have offered help, she said. One man who usually asks her for money on her way to buy a lottery ticket recently offered her a dollar bill and his bus fare, she said. “It’s just this warm comfort that you just feel in this state,” she said. “It’s amazing.”
Sonnenfeld said she’s staying with another friend, whose husband drowned in his car during the flood, while she tries to get back on her feet. She hopes to get back to work soon. “It’s kind of hard,” she said. “It’s a day-by-day thing. I’ve got shoes, though, so that’s OK.”
Call 800-621-3362 or visit disasterassistance.gov to apply for FEMA disaster aid. The deadline to apply is Dec. 4. FEMA officials are available daily from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. for Lexington County residents at libraries in Lexington and Irmo and for Richland County residents at libraries in southeast Columbia and Eastover.