Devastated by floods, Stoney Creek residents seek answers

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The Brunswick County neighborhood in Leland was heavily flooded after Florence

LELAND — The piles of debris start near the end of Stoney Creek Lane, heaps of insulation and sheetrock that spill across driveways and often stand taller than a grown man’s head.

Take half a glance, though, and specifics start to stick out. A warped copy of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. An heirloom side table with rotten legs. A collection of DVDs — March of the Penguins, a Star Wars movie — all color drained from their covers by hundreds of gallons of floodwater. An exercise bike here, a cooler chest wrapped in red tape there.

Many residents of this neighborhood are almost finished tearing their houses apart, numbly ripping out walls and floors and throwing away the small things people use to pass their time and the tools they use to earn a living. Most importantly, as they reach the end of the process of ripping their homes apart, residents want to know if they should rebuild.

Placido DeJesus and Alexia Zelaya stood in their garage Wednesday morning, the sounds of generators and fans rushing across this once-quiet road. They’ve finished smashing out the walls and tearing up the floors, trying to dry the home with industrial fans and decide if they should stay.

“We need to get some real concrete answers as to what’s going to happen here because it’s like ground zero at this point and they’ve got to tell us are you going to be allowed to rebuild and who’s going to insure you and then if you’re not, how is it going to impact the rest of Stoney Creek?” DeJesus said.

Government buyout?

Just beyond the end of Stoney Creek Lane, Morgan Branch and Town Creek meet, a confluence that was backed up by the historic rains slow-moving Hurricane Florence dropped across the region. Photos taken during the storm show water to the roof on many homes, and residents who evacuated often first learned of the flooding when they saw Jim Cantore standing in their neighborhood.

H2GO announced Wednesday that a pump station in Stoney Creek Plantation was completely submerged and failed, spilling 228,000 gallons of untreated sewage into floodwaters. The pungent odor of sewage and swamp water lingered over residents’ possessions Wednesday.

Mike Forte, who represents the area on the Brunswick County board of commissioners, visited Tuesday, taking in the heart-wrenching images of residents’ lives being ripped apart and hugging some as they cried on his shoulder.

‘I talked to one of the FEMA guys that was there,” Forte said, “and I said to him, ‘I pray to God your intent is to buy out every one of the 51, 52 homes and level this whole damn community and never let anybody live there again.'”

Wouldn’t wish this on worst enemy

Brian and Daphene Morris lived in a single-wide trailer for 16 years. Four years ago, they’d finally saved up enough money to buy the Ruby Court Lane home they share with their three daughters.

“This is the dream,” Daphene Morris said Wednesday, gesturing at the house.

The Morris family doesn’t have flood insurance. Why would they? When they asked, they were told their house, like many of their neighbors’, isn’t in a flood zone.

Now, the white building is a shell of its former self, all of the items that make a house a home spread across the front lawn, all of the material that makes it livable in the same pile.

Wednesday morning, a wooden chest stood near the house’s front door, slightly apart from the rest of the family’s possessions. Daphene Morris received the chest when her father died about six years ago.

It contains the only possessions she received from him — children’s drawings, employment records from a career with Cemex and other family memories. Floodwaters smeared the ink on many papers and glued them together, turning a life’s worth of memories into a soggy mess.

“It’s still hard to to walk into the yard and look at it just sitting here,” Morris said. “I can’t throw it in the pile yet.”

Daphene Morris was one of those residents who got her first glimpse of the neighborhood, with flooding reaching the eaves of some homes, on The Weather Channel — an experience she said was surreal.

“Things like this don’t happen to people that we know,” Morris said. “They happen to people far off in other places.”

The Morris family — along with all of their neighbors — is trying to figure out if they can risk their home again becoming one of those far off places someone else is watching on The Weather Channel.

“Our biggest fear is that we rebuild, we put all of our money in it and then it happens again,” Morris said. “I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy. I wouldn’t wish this on anyone. I never want to go through this ever again.”

Reporter Adam Wagner can be reached at 910-343-2389 or