ROCKINGHAM — Several businesses on the south prong of Falling Creek, along East Broad Avenue across from Food Lion, lost thousands of dollars in ruined merchandise when rain from Hurricane Matthew sent the creek over its banks last weekend.
Nick’s 4×4 Performance Center owner Nick Murphy said his garage was knee-deep in water in places, and that a current developed inside the building.
“It was pretty bad,” Murphy said. “It was up to our knees out here in the parking lot, and the whole shop flooded all the way up the height of the toilet bowl. It was pretty deep in there.”
He said although his building sustained roughly $2,000 in damage, he has no plans to seek insurance coverage.
“We’re not going to file it because of the deductible,” he said. “There was some inventory we had to throw out, but a lot of the inventory we were able to save. It ruined the boxes, of course, but we got everything out of the boxes and got it dried off. Most things were on shelves. We were about three inches away from losing some tire equipment.”
Murphy said he and employees went through the store unplugging all of the electrical devices and got everything out of the water to dry.
“Then, by Sunday, the water was down,” he explained. “It’s helped us being able to open up all the doors. I’ve had the fans going for days in there, drying things out. There was a ton of mud in the parking lot. We immediately came up here Sunday and blew it all out with a pressure washer to try to get back to normal.”
Murphy, who said he barely slept throughout the weekend, admitted to being exhausted.
“I can’t even think right now,” he said. “I’m ready for Saturday morning so I can sleep in. I need a couple of hours’ sleep.”
Unlike thousands of county residents, Murphy said he never lost electrical power to his home and only a few limbs had fallen in the yard.
“Our neighbors were out of power, but we managed to keep ours on, somehow,” he said, adding that he’s been with Pee Dee Electric for more than a decade and can “count on one hand the number of times the power has gone out.”
Next door, Robert E. Lee, owner of Rockingham Guns and Ammo, said his store and his home each took a big hit from the flood waters.
“I lost thousands and thousands in ammo,” he said. “When it gets wet, it compromises the primer, compromises the powder. So it’s worthless at that point.”
Walking through the store with a determined stare, Lee shook his head and gestured to everything with his arms.
“Overlook me,” he said. “My mind. But it does, it looks a hundred times better than what it did. You know, the material things and the money are the least of my worries. What’s got me is right here.”
He said he was working Saturday when he had the feeling it was time to get out.
“I left here at one o’clock,” he recalled. “I knew if I did not leave here at one, I would not get out. And I had to go all the way up to the end of the little strip here and go in behind the law enforcement who had already blocked everything. I’ve got a 4-wheel drive truck, so I was able to get out. Then on the way home — roadblocks, trees, roadblocks, trees. Flooded.”
Lee, who lives near the Pee Dee River on a half-mile long private road, said he was not prepared for what he found when he got home.
“I came up on 20 inches of water, at a minimum, on that road bed,” he said. “And that’s what I’m focusing on at that moment. And then I look, and there’s this monstrous oak laying over the power line. Crushed my fence. I know it scared my dogs to death. I’ve got six German shepherds, and the power, when it hit and grounded out — the sparks, the noise — they’re not right, either.”
He said his dogs seem on edge and are reluctant to come when he calls, and he knows the storm affected them.
“But I told myself here again, ‘If you don’t back up out of this, you’re going to get pushed over into the creek,’” he said. “And I didn’t even know if I could back up through it at that point, but I got back up to higher ground, and I truly was — and I am — truly traumatized.
“I, it’s just not hitting until this morning,” he continued. “When I woke up this morning, I didn’t even know if I could leave the house. And I know that might sound foolish, because I’m a grown man, but to lose your livelihood and your home — boom! — within an hour?”
He said he watched as a giant oak fell directly onto his house while sitting in his truck speaking with his mother on the phone.
“It crushed what I like to call the backbone of the house,” he said. “A limb had come through the roof, the ceiling. My bed is saturated with water. Water has flooded the upstairs, it’s already buckled the floor. There’s probably a three to four inch rise in that area. It drove the molding down into the wall, buckled the Sheetrock.”
He explained that the damage from the impact caused structural damage to other parts of the house that were not directly hit.
“The windows are cocked to one side and have a big gap in them,” Lee explained. “The tape that you put on Sheetrock to cover up the seams? It hit with such a force, it just literally busted all of that. I go downstairs. I’m standing there not comprehending what’s happening to me, and then water starts running out of the ceiling fans.”
As for his business, there’s a lot to be done before he officially re-opens on Tuesday.
“There’s probably 400 weapons in here,” he said. “Every last one of them has to be taken down, cleaned and re-lubricated, because even though I’ve got a dehumidifier it’s not gonna take care of everything. I did manage to get these weapons over here on the wall wiped down, because they had already started rusting up on the bottom.”
“You prepare the best that you can, but you cannot really prepare for the unknown,” he said. “And that’s what I dealt with here. I’ll come back. I’m a damned ole resilient Marine. I have no choice in the matter. I’m staying here.”
Asked whether he might consider applying for a loan from the U.S. Small Business Administration, available only to businesses in counties declared disaster areas due to Hurricane Matthew, Lee shook his head.
“No, I’m not a borrower,” he said. “I mean, you see who’s down here right now. It’s me. Don’t take me wrong, yes, I have had people to want to help me. Quite a few, as a matter of fact. But right now, I need to be alone.”
Reach reporter Melonie McLaurin at 910-817-2673 and follow her on Twitter @meloniemclaurin.