From standing to fallen: Hurricane Matthew’s impact on two Georgia Southern alumni

Julia Fechter

During the weekend, many Georgia Southern students decided to stay in Statesboro and wait out the bad weather. They anticipated the storm would be worse than Tropical Storm Hermine.

When Hurricane Matthew barrelled up the Georgia coast, the last thing that GS alumnus Drew Purvis and music graduate student Josh Cook expected was to wake up to debris fallen all around, on and into their house.

Fortunately, Purvis and Cook were physically unscathed. Before Friday night, when the storm was at its worst, the two never imagined that their living situation would be radically different 24 hours later.

Waiting it out

Three days after the hurricane, Purvis and Cook have moved most of their furniture and other items out of their house.

The evening started normally enough. Purvis knew that he would probably go to bed later on Friday night.

“I wanted to make sure nothing bad was going to happen, and that I was awake for it if it did,” Purvis said.

Purvis had a friend visiting from Augusta, as well as a friend who evacuated from Savannah. They and Cook stayed up until around 2 a.m. in the morning.

“We were excited because we were going to get up the next morning and keep playing the board game, Mice and Mystics,” Cook said.

After that, Purvis watched some television before going to sleep. He was rudely awakened after 3 a.m. by the sound of trees and tree limbs crashing onto the house.

“I heard all of it crash through. The first thing I did was run out to the living room and make sure Olivia [his friend] was alright,” Purvis said.

Purvis also walked to the other side of their duplex to see if Cook was alright. While doing that, Purvis glimpsed the branches that had fallen in the courtyard.

“Drew called me right after it happened. I just went over and started helping [clean up] and was like ‘this sucks’ the whole time, because what can you do?,” Cook said.

Thus, a laborious campaign to save and move their belongings began. Despite the circumstances, Cook seems to maintain a positive attitude.

“There were a couple times I would just laugh out loud because there’s nothing you can do except start working. You kind of have to compose yourself and go to work,” Cook said.

The two went into Purvis’ duplex and saw a tree branch had pierced the ceiling in Purvis’ bedroom, and water was dripping into the house. They moved Purvis’ bed into their studio, only to have to move furniture and electronic equipment from the studio when water began leaking into the room.

With all their cleaning efforts and frazzled nerves, peace, calm and sleep was challenging for Purvis and Cook to achieve.

“I tried to go to sleep at 6 a.m., and I got like an hour of sleep. Then, I woke up to do some more work [on the house],” Purvis said.

The loud noises from the trees falling spooked Cook and made it more difficult for him to get some sleep.

”I had the most restless night of my life because every sound after that was just, it scared the daylights of you, because you didn’t know what it was. Even a couple nights since then, if somebody slams a door too loud in a house or anything, it was like ‘what was that’?”, Cook said.

Purvis’ and Cook’s landlord visited the house around 9 a.m. Saturday to assess the damage. Shortly thereafter, the two roommates began moving their belongings into a new house, and finished moving on Sunday.

”I was shocked that we got everything of yours done in one day. That’s the first time that’s ever happened,” Cook said.

”Every other time, it’s taken two days to do it with a van,” Purvis added.

Matthew’s destruction

Purvis’ duplex was very badly damaged by falling debris, but Cook’s house was not damaged by debris from the storm.

Purvis saw that his bathroom was completely destroyed when he first left his bedroom after the trees fell. The tree limbs had gouged a hole in the roof and ceiling, exposing the ceiling’s wooden framing.

Luckily, the only items Purvis lost from the bathrooms were small ones like toothbrushes. Nothing was crushed or broken in the bathroom.

The largest tree that fell landed on top of the house and contributed to the water leaking into the studio. That tree came from his neighbor’s yard on the other side of their fence.

“The bedroom was the scary part. I was asleep right here [where the bed was]. Another couple feet…,” Purvis said.

What to do now

Now that Purvis and Cook have completely moved their belongings out of the house, they are not sure what will happen next. If Purvis’ side of the house is totalled, he will not be able to move back in there.

“I’ll be at the new place until repairs are done here. They [the contractors] gave us a 6 to 8 weeks estimate,” Purvis said.

As well, Purvis also has to have his duplex examined by his insurance company. Otherwise, he cannot live there until the repairs company begins working on the home. He and Cook may actually decide to stay at their new house.

Purvis’ and Cook’s landlord found another place for them to stay after the tropical storm hit. The landlord owned another property which was not occupied, and got the two set up with the new home in light of their current circumstances.

The two roommates are grateful for their friends’ and neighbors’ help sorting through the mess of the hurricane debris. Purvis is glad he could be in town during the storm.

“I’m glad I didn’t evacuate, because then I would definitely, stuff would’ve gotten damaged,” Purvis said.

Out of everything that happened, Purvis is most glad that he survived the storm.

Purvis said, “As bad as it is, realistically, the only thing that got damaged was the actual house. Nobody got hurt.”