Family burdened by irreparable hurricane damage

SAVANNAH, Ga. – Thomas Stafford and his wife Rhonda have been living paycheck-to-paycheck for six months. One is retired and the other is on disability.

All they want is help with their home, but they’re running out of people to turn to.

“That’s the one there that did the damage,” Stafford, the homeowner said. “You see how it did lift up and fell. It was all the way down.”

Stafford is describing a tree puncturing his roof right into the kitchen. It happened during Hurricane Matthew at his home off of Downing Avenue near Thunderbolt.

A home he and his family have lived in for more than three decades.

“I’m wondering why all of this has to happen and I can’t get no help and it’s not my tree,” Stafford said.

News 3 was alerted to this story when someone spotted a tree leaning over the street right outside of his home.

It was uprooted by the hurricane and Stafford worries it could fall at any second.

“They need to move because it’s in danger,” Stafford said. “It’s leanin and if it falls, then it will probably catch somebody or hurt somebody. It needs to come down.”

Stafford is retired and his wife has kidney disease. They couldn’t afford home insurance because of medical bills piling up and insurers told them they couldn’t cover the damage since the trees are on private property.

A reason the city can’t help either.

“That’s a lot to lose,” Stafford said. “You’ve done been here all your life and they just take it and nobody will do nothin about it.”

They did receive some money from FEMA, but it wasn’t enough.

“They just gave us a little bit to get started and get some place to stay,” Stafford said. “That’s all they did. We’re trying to live day to day. We’re tryin to scuffle up paying rent with the little income we got and that’s hard.”

Stafford said they reached out to the property owner, where those trees are planted, several times, but they have yet to step in so they turned to a lawyer.

“But, he’s not saying what’s going to happen yet because he told me it’s not going to be a quick fix,” Stafford said.

News 3 has reached out to the city about the leaning tree and officials said they will send someone to observe it Tuesday. News 3 also reached out to the developers and we’re waiting to hear back.

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