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By Land or Sea

On Saturday, Oct. 8, Suzanne Blakeley noticed water beginning to cover the road leading to her family’s rural log cabin home near the Black River.

Suzanne Blakely and her husband on a boat.By nightfall, with Hurricane Matthew unleashing the full fury of its wind and rain on the region, the family’s home lost power and the access road began resembling a pond.

The situation was becoming worrisome. Major flooding in the fall of 2015 also had inundated the road and, far worse, caused major damage to the home. The family for months had lived in a friend’s house while flooring, cabinets and other damage was repaired.

With water rapidly rising again, the family took measurements every few hours to assess the situation. The water never got high enough to enter the home.

“As long as it's not in the house, we can deal with it,” said Blakeley, a nurse practitioner at Tidelands NextStep Pain Management Services.

Having learned from last year’s flooding, Blakeley and her husband had wisely pre-positioned their cars on higher ground at a neighbor’s house. Getting there required a 10-minute boat ride, but at least the couple, their two teenage sons, Jack and Luke, and dog, Shep, could escape the confines of their home and continue with their lives.

Like many Tidelands Health partners, Blakeley never missed a day of work despite the personal challenges she faced as a result of Hurricane Matthew. She also wasn’t the only one who relied on a boat for transportation, an approach that’s become far too common in response to flooding in the recent past.

Sabrina Johnson, 44, was forced to kayak in the dark to her car until the water outside her family’s house was deep enough to use a power boat. The family’s entire 7-acre property was submerged except the home, which is raised 13 feet off the ground.

Johnson, a Tidelands Health breast health navigator, and her husband are still working to repair the heavy damage wrought by the flooding of 2015. They’ve done most of the work themselves.

In the days leading up to the storm, Johnson took time to get ready. She cleared out the garage, prepared the family’s boats and moved items from the first floor to higher ground. She considers her family fortunate - the water never made it inside.

Despite the risk to her home and property, Johnson never second-guessed the need to come to work.

Her commitment did not go unnoticed.

“She bought into the dream 15 years ago and has made such a huge difference in our patients’ lives,” said Dr. Craig Brackett III, medical director of the Tidelands Health breast health program. “Her dedication is unparalleled.”

With the risk of flooding past at the Blakeley house, Suzanne Blakeley said her family has been able to breathe a sigh of relief. Even the children, who were distressed by the flooding last year, have been able to look at it more positively this time around, she said. They’ve actually come to enjoy the boat rides.

“The children think it's the coolest thing,” she said. “It's like an adventure.”