The handwritten signs posted at the entrance to the driveway advertise farm-fresh eggs — no drop-ins, please.
But days ago an unwelcome visitor arrived in the form of a spinoff of Hurricane Dorian, thrashing the St. Helena Island farm where Christina and Carl Pappalardo live with their daughter’s family. The pitched metal roof of their farmhouse above the barn lifted off during the storm and dropped on a nearby field.
“I said I wanted to put in skylights, but this isn’t what I had in mind,” Christina Pappalardo said.
The Pappalardos, their extended family and about 200 animals stayed during the storm on the 16-acre property on Peaches Hill Circle. Evacuating 15 horses with only a two-horse trailer would have taken a lot of time, Christina said, and she worried about the horses being stranded in traffic on the interstate during an evacuation and dying in the heat.
They thought rising water would be the biggest threat from this latest hurricane. During Hurricane Matthew in 2016, water rose around the barn and flooded a field.
On Tuesday, as the couple walked through their farmhouse, sunlight poured through the ceiling beams. The 2,000-square-foot home is divided into two apartments, with the Pappalardos on one side and their daughter, son-in-law and two young children living on the other.
During the early-morning darkness on Sept. 5, water began leaking inside from various places. A ceiling fan was sucked up through the ceiling and dropped back down, Carl said.
Rain caved the sheetrock ceilings.
The families didn’t know the extent of the damage until the sun came up and the sky was visible through much of the home where the roof and ceiling used to be.
The community quickly stepped in to help.
Until their home can be restored, the entire family is staying in a friend’s home that had been used as a vacation rental. Neighbors and strangers have stopped by to offer assistance.
Beaufort County Animal Services director Tallulah Trice arranged for a dumpster to be delivered to load debris and helped coordinate a roofer to find a short-term fix to cover the house and barn from the elements.
Trice is also helping raise money via a special fund through the Community Foundation of the Lowcountry and directing volunteers to help the Pappalardos rebuild and secure their animals. The private donations would be used to pay contractors directly for work on the farm, Trice said, and remaining money will be used to help other animal owners during the next storm.
“A lot of people don’t have insurance for structures their animals are in,” Trice said. “We just try to assist people that lose anything — whether it’s in a fire or hurricane or any kind of natural disaster. Just to keep the animals at their home.”
The Pappalardos have talked to Trice about building structures on higher ground to house the animals in preparation for future flooding.
The family will have to wait on the insurance process to see how they might rebuild the home they bought five years ago.
For now, white dust covers the hardwood floors, and insulation hangs from parts of the ceilings still intact. A Panasonic television hangs on the wall in the living room of one apartment, with pieces of sheetrock on top of the speakers.
Monopoly and Risk board games remain in place on a shelf above the sectional sofa. A collection of wine bottles was largely untouched above the kitchen cabinets.
The Pappalardos believe a tornado or microburst from the storm caused their damage. No trees fell, and nearby properties were spared similar damage.
Nobody was hurt, and the collection of chickens, turkeys, peacocks, donkeys, horses and pet cats and dogs is accounted for. The Pappalardos made sure water was back on for their animals and that electricity was restored to the barn.
Carl said he is thankful their grandchildren — 4-month-old and 2-year-old girls — weren’t hurt. A plastic rocking horse and small wooden chair remain in the living room.
Christina and Carl moved from a farm in New York to be closer to their son, who was a Marine stationed at Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort. They appreciate the friendly people and have been overwhelmed with offers to help since last week, Carl said.
They laughed when talking about their granddaughter, Piper, using a small broom to sweep the debris during a television news broadcast about the damage.
A 4-year-old nephew visited recently and, as he played with toys, matter of factly noted the roof was gone.
“We kind of kept our sense of humor,” Carl said. “We aren’t mad at the world.”