Photos by Emily Nelson
Virginia Tharp and her family are among Chester County residents affected by the ravages of Hurricane Ida’s destruction.
Virginia Tharp is one of hundreds of people still displaced in our region by the deluge of Hurricane Ida. Months later, her life is far from normal and may never be the same again.
Virginia Tharp was among 100 people in Coatesville who lost their homes in the September 1, 2021 flooding caused by Hurricane Ida. Curiously, this month also marked its third anniversary at Meredith Court, a stretch of older townhouses that runs along the west branch of Brandywine Creek in the low-income neighborhood of Modena. “I gave birth to 12 children,” she says. “Five live with me now, and I have four older ones here in this area.”
Immediately after his house was flooded, Tharp’s family (including a pit bull and a bearded dragon) moved into a local hotel. A few weeks later, their house was condemned. “It’s depressing going from a three-bedroom house to a hotel room,” she says. “We have two hotel rooms, so three per room [including] two beds, a desk and a fridge you can’t put anything in.”
The rising waters were so intense that Tharp had only a 10-minute window to escape the deluge, which seemed to be coming from everywhere. The deck of a house went floating down the street, with a dumpster. “Our whole basement flooded, and our washer and dryer were upside down,” Tharp says. “All my bins and baskets were knocked over and the water was gushing out. It got to the first floor. I piled what I could into my car, and the borough picked up a few of my kids. My eldest son and another child decided to wait and see if the water would subside and had to be rescued by boat.
Life hasn’t been easy for Tharp. “I was homeless, really homeless, in a place that was not made for a dog. I had eight of my children there,” she says. “There was no hot water, stove or fridge. We were confined to one room because there was no heating. I didn’t have a car. I was basically walking to get food for my children.
A recovering drug addict, Tharp began to turn her life around, although she had to quit a job at a Turkey Hill convenience store due to health issues in 2020. “I’ve been through it all, and now this,” says -she. “But I would do anything for my children.”
Right after the flood there was support. “We used to get gift cards at least every other day, but now I haven’t seen any for a few weeks,” says Tharp. “Some of us are still displaced and will remain so. I don’t want to stay here any longer than necessary. They say there is no expiration date, but I have an expiration date. I give it another month.