On Sept. 10 and 11, Hurricane Irma struck the Golden Isles, inflicting more flood damage on residents than Hurricane Matthew by a long shot, according to Glynn County officials.
Two days prior, a mandatory evacuation was declared for Glynn County, and Ricky Debuc, a 30-year U.S. Army veteran, obeyed the order, evacuating a home he had moved into only the day before. When he returned to the house he had just bought, he found it inundated with two feet of water.
That’s where American Legion Post 9 came in.
“He needed help, so we helped,” said Benny Williams, the post’s commander.
Michelle Buchanan, with Duckworth Properties, was the real estate agent who sold Debuc the property. When the storm came, she started trying to help him recover, Williams said. To that end, they contacted Dave Olender, a member of the Veterans Council of the Golden Isles, of which Williams is the vice chair.
“It was kind of a roundabout way that she got ahold of us,” Williams said.
Williams and six members of the legion post and auxiliary spent Thursday morning removing water-damaged possessions from the house, cutting out damaged sheetrock, pulling up carpet and tearing bad insulation out of the walls before hauling it all off to a dump site. They also took most of his salvageable possessions to a storage shed and cleaned what they could.
“I’m not financially able to pay anybody, so they’re doing it all as volunteers,” Debuc said. “They came out here and did it out of the kindness of their hearts. I can’t ask for better friends.”
As far as Williams could tell, most of the appliances still worked, as did the air conditioner. The big issue was the walls and floor, which they planned to have another crew come out on Saturday to fix. He said the Saturday crew will work on installing new insulation, repairing and painting the walls and laying vinyl flooring in place of the carpet.
Debuc closed on the house on College Park Drive on Aug. 25, not even two weeks before Irma hit. He moved into it on Sept. 7, bringing most of his possessions from Douglasville. With Thanksgiving not too far off, he went ahead and stocked his kitchen, spending $300 on groceries and supplies for the holiday.
“I spent $300, a lot of it on meats. When the power went, (the food) did too. Had to replace all of it, out $600, just on food,” Debuc said.
He made contact with the Federal Emergency Management Agency after he saw the damage. FEMA sent inspectors out to his house, and they gave him some bad news.
“The cost of material alone to get everything fixed would be $10,000. I’m in a flood zone, I didn’t get flood insurance yet,” Debuc said. “(It’s going to cost) $35,000 to raise the house up out of the flood zone.”
While not a member of the local legion post now, Debuc plans to join once his house is in order. He served in the army through Operation Desert Storm, Operation Desert Shield and Operation Iraqi Freedom, he said.
He welcomed any contributions because he is currently sleeping in his truck while waiting for an efficiency apartment to be set up for him. FEMA offered to temporarily pay his rent, but he isn’t sure how long that’s going to last.
“My money is gone, all this extra stuff is coming up and I can’t afford it,” Debuc said.