Brookville Natives Leave South Carolina Home as Hurricane Florence Batters Area

LONGS, South Carolina (EYT) – Although western Pennsylvania may be a distance from the coastal areas taking the brunt of this fall’s tropical storms, some former area natives found themselves in the path of nature’s most recent force of destruction, Hurricane Florence.

Betsey and John McMurray are Brookville natives currently living in the Myrtle Beach area in a town called Longs, South Carolina, where they purchased a home three years ago.

Betsey McMurray said her previous experience during Hurricane Matthew was a shadow over her family’s decision making this time around.

“My husband is an Army veteran, disabled, but still an Army veteran and he’s tough. He doesn’t usually evacuate,” she said.

According to Betsey, her husband elected to stay home, with their dog, when Hurricane Matthew headed their direction two years ago, while she evacuated with her sister and her grandchildren. They ended up staying in a small town called Matthews.

The problem with the evacuation, for the small family group, wasn’t being away from home: it was getting back again.

“We tried to go home and got halfway, to Lumberton, North Carolina, where we tried to get a hotel, but they were all booked. We couldn’t stay. There was water everywhere, trees down, just bad conditions. We had to head back to Matthews. Later that night, Lumberton got five feet of water. If we’d have stayed, we would have lost the car, at the least,” she said.

“My husband was safer at home than we were. He lost power for one day.”

Their second attempt at a return trip didn’t go well, either. They drove through many areas with no power and found utility lines in the roadway multiple times. They spend two and a half hours waiting to get gas at a gas station and even ended up spending one night in a hotel with no power.

“It was full price even though we couldn’t even lock the door because they couldn’t make us keys. We had to use our own candles from the kit in my car.”

“It was a terrifying experience.”

She did note one bright spot in the awful return home: Waffle House.

“Waffle Houses are prepared. They are set up to be able to cook with no power. We went to one, and it had a limited menu, but we were able to get cheeseburgers for the kids, which was really nice.”

After her harrowing previous experience with evacuation and the return home, Betsey had serious reservations about evacuating when Florence started making her way toward the coast. Her husband’s needs and the possibility of being trapped with no electricity for an extended period of time finally tipped the scale, and the couple, along with their dog, headed inland, to a small town on the Tennessee Virginia border.

Though they decided to leave, Betsey said that she understands why so many other people stayed behind.

“I was reading posts on Facebook right up until decided to go, so many people saying ‘we can’t go, we don’t have the money, we have nowhere to go.'”

“Really, to evacuate, you’re looking at probably $2,000.00 in gas, food, motels. It’s really terrifying. We might be displaced up to ten days. We really don’t know when we’ll be able to get home.”

As of Friday afternoon, Betsey had already seen posts from friends and neighbors who stayed behind. There were already major power outages in their home area, and the wind had gotten so bad in places, some people had resorted to dosing their dogs with Benedryl to calm them down.

“There’s a whole world of things people don’t think about,” Betsey said, explaining how, before they had decided to leave, they had stowed emergency supplies in their attic along with a hatchet, in case they were trapped by rising flood water and needed to cut their way out of the top of the house.

Though they are safe for now, the McMurrays are concerned about the people left behind, as well as the trip home.

“We’ve been tuned into the news. We’re worried about friends and family, our church, our neighborhood, and now that they don’t have power so we can’t even stay in touch with people. One of my biggest fears is not being able to get in touch with people.”

“But, this isn’t the first storm of my life, and it won’t be the last.”

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