Before Hurricane Matthew, the town of Nichols in Marion County had a population of about 400 people. As of Wednesday, only about 30 people had returned to their homes full time.
The rural town was struck hard when Hurricane Matthew rolled through the area in October, causing flooding and damaging or destroying most of the homes.
Though all city functions— including water, sewer and debris cleanup — have been restored, most of the homes in Nichols aren’t safe to live in and have not cleared county inspection.
Police Capt. Mark Lewis, a spokesman for the town, said there has been a significant effort by residents and various organizations to restore homes but there’s still a long way to go.
“At first, debris was all furniture and clothes, but now its flooring, drywall and stuff like that. You can definitely see the progress,” he said. “It’s a slow process but we can see some things starting to shape -up.”
The only businesses open in town are a car-repair shop and a fertilizer plant. Lewis said there’s hope that a few stores will reopen by the year’s end but there’s also concern that many will not return
Now, Nichols is a functioning ghost town but there’s hope that will change.
“My big thing is the kids," Lewis said. "We used to have children out playing basketball, laughing and hollering, but you don’t have that now. We’re ready for that to come back. We’ve had a lot of help from all over and we’re thankful for that. We’ll get there but it’s going to take some time.”
“NICHOLS BLITZ” FROM UNITED METHODIST CHURCH
Almost 200 volunteers will converge on Nichols United Methodist Church this Friday and Saturday to help local residents with repair and recovery work.
Volunteers will work with the S.C. UMC Early Response Team to “muck out” homes, tearing out ruined drywall and flood-soaked flooring, as well as other repair work as needed.
“The devastation in Nichols is overwhelming for hundreds of individuals, but also for the community at large,” said Matt Brodie, disaster response coordinator with the S.C. United Methodist conference. “Everything has been affected, from homes to businesses, including every church in town.”
Volunteers have signed up from across South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia and as far away as Texas.
“We’re dealing with a lot of emotion and trauma in this town,” said George Olive, disaster response coordinator for the UMC Marion District. “This town cannot survive without help.”