ROCKINGHAM — As Hurricane Florence played an encore for Richmond County late Thursday evening, raining as hard as it had at its peak Sunday before last, Jimmy Herring noticed a slight discoloration in the ceiling of his dining room.
The spot hadn’t yet started dripping, but Herring knew it wouldn’t be long before he had a big problem on his hands. So, using the power of social media — which as the manager of the What’s Up Richmond County Facebook page, Herring may claim to be among the county’s most skilled — he posted an “S.O.S.” message asking for help.
Within 30 minutes, six strangers with no formal roofing experience were in his driveway in the pouring rain, ready to help. Once they identified the source of the leak, which was a gap between Herring’s chimney and the roof, they used a collection of tarps layered over the roof and tied down with bricks to seal off the gap.
Just after they finished, the rain stopped.
“It was like, really?” said Chris Stovall, one of the volunteers who was about to take a well-deserved break from running all over the county putting together a report on blocked roads for the Department of Transportation when he saw Herring’s S.O.S. call.
“I saw his cry for help, and at that point, I had maybe six hours of sleep since Thursday,” said Stovall, who has known Herring through family for years. “I had finally gotten off just around 9 p.m. (Sunday), no lunch break.
“Everything was closed except Sonic, but the speaker was out, so I was in line for 35 minutes, I was next in line … I could see the fries hanging out of the window in front of me.”
But, Stovall said, he saw the rain coming down sideways and said to himself “I can only imagine” what he would be feeling if it were he in Herring’s situation. So he pulled out of line — still hungry — and went straight to Herring’s home, dodging floodwaters on the way.
When he got there, three other cars were pulling up. One of them belonged to Dustin Johnson, who said he was sitting at his house monitoring the storm when he scrolled past Herring’s post.
“I’m just that kind of person,” Johnson said. “I got two hands, and I’m able bodied — a leak coming through your roof can be catastrophic.”
Johnson first met Herring when he bought a house from Herring’s wife, Pat. He said when he pulled up to Herring’s house the night of the 16th that it seemed like Round 2 of Florence had started, but he and the others came up with a plan and put together the tarps for a temporary fix.
Herring posted a thank you to all of them on his personal Facebook page: Andrew Sanders, Dustin Johnson, Stovall, Mike Lisk, Bobby Rainwater, Sandy Huggins, Kjell Grov and Ron Clark.
“I’m convinced if those guys hadn’t tarped it, by Monday morning our dining room ceiling would have been on our dining room floor,” Herring said last Friday. “A lot of other people had it a lot worse than I did, but mine was saved form being so bad because those guys responded the way they did.”
It was Herring’s birthday, so instead of a burger and fries, Stovall and the rest of the volunteers got to eat chocolate birthday cake.
“It was awesome to see that the community came together, especially when it was raining as hard as it was,” Stovall said. “They didn’t worry about their safety. Those guys — I take my hat off to them. They’re awesome.”
Herring said Monday that he still was waiting for an insurance adjuster to give an estimate on the damage to the interior of his home.
“We’re blessed that it wasn’t worse than it was,” Herring said.
Reach Gavin Stone at 910-817-2674 or [email protected]