Devastated by tornado, Hampton County families begin to heal and rebuild

Local News

NIXVILLE, S.C. (WSAV) – Two weeks after a devastating tornado hit Hampton County, much of the community is still dealing with the damage and the emotion.

There is nothing but stairs left of Jim and Donna Breland’s home off Turner Expressway. Jim, Donna and their daughter Kayla were all inside when the tornado hit and died inside.

Their family continues to mourn but now their job is to pick up whatever pieces are left, start to move on and think about rebuilding.

“Never in my wildest dreams come out my back door and see my whole life turned upside down,” said Gary Tant, who lives nearby.

That’s all Tant could say as he looked at what used to be home to his race car and motorcycle.

He took News 3 around what’s left of his home, picking up a few pieces of debris and remembering what it used to be.

“I come out here at nighttime now and my only light in this whole neighborhood is my light,” said Tant. “It’s totally dark and it used to be like a small town.”

This small town is now desolate.

Much of the debris in the Turner Expressway area is now gone, replaced by empty lots — nothing but dirt.

“Only word I can say is devastating,” said Kathy Ginn.

Ginn said she still marvels at mother nature’s fury.

With winds of 175 mph, the tornado was recently upgraded to an EF-4, considered as the strongest tornado seen locally in more than a decade.

The storm didn’t just Ginn’s mother-in-law’s home, but even more houses next door as well as the lives of three members of the Breland family. All three are now buried just yards away from the devastation.

“The family that’s left his mom, David’s (Kathy’s husband and Donna’s brother) mom, and the love we have for her and the community,” said Ginn. “We are going to get it back.”

The community is coming back slowly. New street lights are going in around the corner. The relief center created at the Nixville Baptist Church is now appointment only.

While the pain, the loss and the damage won’t go away anytime soon, neither will the spirit of the Nixville community coming together — ready for the next step.

“Are you able to get back to normal? Is there such a thing as normal?” News 3 asked.

“Yeah,” said Ginn. “For this community, I think so in the long run with the love that’s here and the kindness.”

“I think one day,” she added. “It’s never going to look normal again but it will with the family love and the people here it can get back.”

Gov. Henry McMaster has made an emergency disaster declaration for the area, but for many, help is in the hands of the federal government.

Some didn’t have insurance so they are looking for Federal Emergency Management Agency to step up and help.

That may be the only way they can rebuild and get life back to somewhat normal.

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