A life jacket topped a Christmas tree on Quail Lane. Christmas lights dangled from a dumpster and storage unit outside a home on Lelia’s Court.
Hopeful symbols of holiday cheer dotted the Lake Katherine neighborhoods wrecked by October floods.
But drive down Burwell Lane, Rickenbaker Road, Downing Street and other streets here, and dozens of homes remain vacant and hollow. It’s a reminder that the neighborhood isn’t what it should be, lives aren’t back to what they were and people still need help.
“When a crisis happens, everyone’s first instinct is to help, and you do,” said Jennifer Suber, president of the hard-hit Cross Hill neighborhood, which sits at the base of Lake Katherine. “And then as time goes by, everyone gets on with their lives. And you don’t realize that for these people, this is their life. They’re continuing to live in this crisis.”
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As time goes by, everyone gets on with their lives. And you don’t realize that for these people, this is their life. They’re continuing to live in this crisis.
Whether it’s meal trains, laundry angels or gift cards shipped from friends in New York – friends who had benefited from Columbia’s kindness after Hurricane Sandy in 2012 – help has continued to pour in for flood victims in the Lake Katherine area.
“One less meal they have to pay for, one less thing they have to plan and do is just super helpful,” Suber said. “We’re not going to stop asking (how we can help) until you move back.”
Residents surrounding the lake can’t wait to have their neighbors back, Suber said. And at the moment, it appears the majority of residents flooded out of their homes in that neighborhood do hope to return. But it’s uncertain when that might be.
Out of 27 Cross Hill households who responded to an online survey sent by Suber, 19 said they plan to renovate their homes and live in them, three said they do not plan to renovate, and five said they do not know yet what they will do. Four homeowners said they plan to sell either their homes or the land.
“Planning to rebuild and live in it, but there are still so many unanswered questions, things could change,” one comment on the survey read.
At least two homes have been demolished.
Suzanne and Jason Snyder’s family is one of at least two that have plans to rebuild from scratch and move back into the neighborhood.
Demolition of the Snyders’ house on Rickenbaker Road began last Monday and was completed Tuesday, just days after the family celebrated Christmas in a rented home. Fortunately, their Christmas decorations had been kept safe in the attic when their house was flooded by 4 feet of water Oct. 4.
There was some sadness in seeing the house torn down, Suzanne Snyder said, “but we’d already lost so much that I was trying to look forward to new beginnings.”
We’d already lost so much that I was trying to look forward to new beginnings.
The family didn’t initially plan or want to demolish the house.
They were told their house was more than 50 percent damaged and would have to be raised 2 feet above the base flood elevation. That would mean stripping their house of its brick exterior, lifting it, raising the foundation, resettling the house and then still facing possible worries about the stability of the foundation, Snyder said.
After more than two months of navigating the home recovery process with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, their insurance company and contractors, the family decided the best option for them was to raze the house and rebuild in the same spot.
They never considered not returning to Rickenbaker Road, Snyder said. They lived in their home there for 10 years, raising their 12-year-old son, Cole, and 8-year-old daughter, Mia.
The Snyders expect to begin construction in February and hope to spend next Christmas in a new home back in their old neighborhood.
“I just miss everybody,” Snyder said. “The convenience, the familiar surroundings and seeing everybody. ... We want everybody to come back to the neighborhood.”
Reach Ellis at (803) 771-8307.