Nolan Drigers reached out to the front door, the children dragged and his wife a step behind him.
The family of four was trying to leave their home in Ellabell and hit the highway after hearing about a tornado hitting Pembroke. Drigers didn’t realize he was a few seconds away from his neighborhood when he received the notification.
Moments later, his house was upside down.
“We were at home and I was watching the weather,” Dregers said. “It was all quiet in my house. Then they said a tornado had hit Pembroke. When I opened the back door to leave, I saw the tornado touching the top of my neighbor’s house. When I hovered over our bed, I tried to pull a mattress over us. Our house started flipping two or three times. Throughout The time my wife was praying. We didn’t think we would succeed.”
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Once the storm passed, he called out everyone’s name but there was one person who didn’t respond. At that moment, Dregers said he began praying that his child would not die.
“I couldn’t find my 3-year-old anywhere,” Dregers said. “I was trying to hold on to my two girls, but they both slipped out of my hand. I found my 9 year old but couldn’t find my 3 year old. There were a bunch of stuffed animals and blankets scattered by the hurricane. Finally, I saw her feet and lifted them up. At first, I didn’t She says anything. I started shaking her and asked if she was okay. Then she smiled and said, “I’m fine. When I first saw her feet under all that stuff, I started screaming at the top of my voice.”
In the midst of this chaos, Dragers didn’t realize he had dislocated his shoulder. In addition, he had several injuries to his hip that led to a staph infection. “My legs got to where I couldn’t walk on. I thought I could breastfeed myself. Four or five days later, I was in the hospital.”
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The family was given a carriage to use temporarily, but because it was only 24 feet wide, they knew it wouldn’t be a comfortable place to live in the long term. Dregers admitted he was frustrated with FEMA, saying he was under the impression that they would provide assistance to those affected by the hurricane.
“It’s my fault,” Dregers said. We did not have home insurance. “We were waiting for FEMA to come in and then I found out FEMA wouldn’t come.”
But about a month after hurricane day, Brian County Sheriff Mark Crowe and Marty and Cindy Daniel of Daniel Devens, God’s Pit Crew and former NASCAR driver Jeb Burton furnished the family with a new mobile home, complete with all the new furniture.
It’s unbelievable,” Dregers said. “I am so grateful for everyone’s support.”
Other families are still struggling to get help
But one family was not so lucky.
Yvonne Whitfield, whose home in Ellabell’s Homestead subdivision was destroyed, is in a fight with her insurance company over a provision she believes applies in her new policy, which won’t take effect until June.
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“What they tell us is that they have a clause in my new policy that if the property is to be repaired, they will pay living expenses for a reasonable amount of time until we live somewhere and they will pay for food and rent and things like that,” Whitfield said.
But if our house is a total loss, they will only pay for the first seven days after the check is cut for the dwelling. Now that they cut the check for the condo, I’m stuck dealing with all the additional living expenses, plus the mortgage payments I have to keep making.
Whitfield said her insurance company transferred just $42,000 in compensation. Before the storm hit, Whitfield thought insurance would cover most or all of her expenses. Altogether, I’ve spent $10,000 and it’s still going. “For a month now, we’ve been eating out and paying people.”
Whitfield added that she believes other communities have been put before her own when it comes to clean-up efforts. But she praised two groups that advanced significantly.
“I don’t think they did it on purpose, but I don’t think they realized how bad it was on our part,” Whitfield said. “But Pembroke Advanced Communications – they were amazing with their equipment, their generosity and their friendship. And Sam-Jay Landscaping was very helpful too. Without them, we wouldn’t have come as far as we are.”
video:A Park Place resident talks about the Bryan County hurricane that devastated the neighborhood
Currently, Whitfield is stumbling on the cart and mortgage payments on her destroyed home. She said it was a painful process because she and her husband keep cashing in to make sure they can still make ends meet.
“We pay the insurance so you are protected,” Whitfield said. “But you are not protected. They are protecting themselves. My neighbor who has a different insurance company is going to put a new roof on their house. Their truck is being fixed. I got nowhere. We are already going through enough emotions and stress and trying to salvage things. There are things that are gone that you cannot replace.” .
Latrice Williams is a general assignment reporter covering Bryan and Effingham County. She can be reached at [email protected]