AP NEWS

Aiken welcomes evacuees from North Carolina

September 14, 2018

Fleeing the destructive forces of Hurricane Florence’s heavy rains, high winds and storm surge, the McKeithan family of Oak Island, North Carolina, and their animals arrived in Aiken late Tuesday night.

Christy and Cliff, their 13-year-old daughter, Savannah, and Cliff’s parents, Jack and Sylvia, are staying in a house at Aiken Equine Rescue’s farm on Glenwood Drive

With them are Scooby, a beagle, and Oreo, a rabbit.

In a pasture nearby, Blu, a quarter horse, and two mustangs named Winchester and Puddin, have plenty of room to roam and graze.

“We’re very glad to be here, where we don’t have to worry about getting flooded out or blown away,” said Christy on Thursday morning. “Right now, we’re just keeping an eye on the news. We’ve got some friends who stayed back in the area, so we’re going to pray that they’re still there when we get back. I’m worried more about the water than the wind.”

Oak Island is on the southern coast of the Tar Heel State, about 35 miles from Wilmington.

The McKeithans have remained there during other hurricanes, but Christy said a mandatory evacuation order and Florence’s former Category 4 status were among the factors that convinced them to leave.

They discovered that accommodations were available at Aiken Equine Rescue through social media.

Then they hit the road in a truck pulling a horse trailer and a rental car.

“It’s four-hour drive, but it took us eight hours because of the traffic,” Christy said. “It was pretty much stop-and-go all the way. There was a lot of construction on I-20, so some of the lanes were closed.”

During their time so far in Aiken, the McKeithans have been to grocery store and eaten at Chick-fil-A.

They’ve also talked about going shopping at Walmart and exploring Aiken further.

“We don’t know at this point when we’re going back,” Christy said. “They’re calling for 20-plus inches of rain, so it depends on how bad the roads are flooded and when we are able to make it through. The horses are happy and couldn’t care less about how long it is because they’ve got food and water and they can run around.”

Instead of charging the McKeithans a set fee, Aiken Equine Rescue President and Operating Director Jim Rhodes is asking them to make a donation to the organization when they leave.

“They are being so kind to us,” said Christy, who is a director of project management for Pharmaceutical Product Development. “Jim has told us that we have a home here as long as we need it. We’re going to sign up to be volunteers so we can help them out as much as we can because we’re so grateful. A house like we’re staying in would normally cost $250 or $350 a night, and the cost of boarding horses can be ridiculous, depending on where you go.”

Aiken Equine Rescue is at 532 Glenwood Drive. For more information, call 803-643-1850.

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