Hampton Co. community still recovering one year after deadly tornado

Updated: Apr. 13, 2021 at 4:34 PM EDT
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HAMPTON COUNTY, S.C. (WTOC) - One year ago this Tuesday, an EF-4 tornado ripped through Hampton County and destroyed homes and took lives.

Now, those same homes that were destroyed, are building new foundations.

“We woke with a phone call that there had been a tornado that basically destroyed our community,” said Joy Kircher, with Nixville Baptist.

The tornado that ripped through Hampton County in the early hours of April 13 touched every member of the Hampton County community and beyond. That morning, it was all about coming together.

“We pushed up our shirt sleeves and started loving on people and helping people dig out from the rubble.”

Over the last year, families have started to rebuild.

“As time was healing the people, we encouraged them with the book of Job that God would restore them, and he has. Their homes are beautiful.”

Many turned to aid from FEMA, insurance, or nonprofits to fix all that had been broken. They then had to find workers to help.

“Just finding somebody to go to work is the biggest thing, just finding someone to work.”

But for those who have not been able to entirely recover, there is still time

“The long-term recovery group is still taking applications for those who did not receive money from FEMA,” Hampton Emergency Management Director Susanne Peeples said.

And for those who still want to help, the emergency management team says they can put you in contact with families and organizations that are still trying to recover.

“Emotionally, that rebuilding is going to take a long time, but we’ve seen great growth over the last year.”

One of those families found the path to rebuilding their home made them realize just how much they love their community.”

“We knew there was a chance of storms. We didn’t know anything about a tornado,” said Peggy Jarrell.

Jarrell lived in her home for 58 years.

“It wasn’t just a few seconds when it hit, and it came from that way.”

The morning of the tornado, several trees fell on her home. It destroyed her kitchen, her bathroom, living room, and bedroom.

“It was like a bomb dropped. It was just really loud, and I could hear the trees coming in the house.”

She and her husband got out just in time.

“We had about seven seconds from the time the alarm went off on our phone and my husband hollered he said, ‘get up.’”

Today, Jarrell’s home has been rebuilt. She and her husband moved in two weeks ago.

“So, we’ve practically had to build a whole new home. And it looks nice.”

But it hasn’t been easy.

“It’s not just me and him. The whole community was affected. Hopefully, the Lord will never let another one come through.”

She says without the support of the neighbors, she’s not sure she and her husband would be back in their home today.

“They would come twice a day and bring us lunch and supper. People was bringing in food from churches in different places,” she said. “It’s just been a hard time for the community to start with, but the people here have been so nice.”

But now, she knows just how strong the Nixville community is.

“Loving community. But I hope and pray we never have another tornado.”

She says now they are moved back in she can focus on what matters - her grandkids’ soccer games.

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