Couple who lost home to Sandy now fleeing Florence: 'I want to sit down and sob'
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WATCH: FEMA administrator Brock Long talks to "GMA" about the historically dangerous storm and the biggest concerns for safety as the Category 4 storm approaches the Southeast.

The impending fury of Hurricane Florence has prompted evacuation orders for more than a million people along the Carolina coast, but one couple who made a last-minute decision to flee has an unenviable history with hurricanes.

Gerry and John Leighton moved to South Carolina from New Jersey after Hurricane Sandy devastated their beach house in 2012.

They had initially planned to ride out the latest storm in their Myrtle Beach home but by Wednesday morning, amid reports of a slight change in the storm’s path, they opted to evacuate.

Some of the latest weather models "had it hitting us directly,” Gerry Leighton said in a telephone interview Wednesday.

"It's devastating," she said.

"I want to sit down and sob but I have to get packing," she wrote in a later email.

This is the Leighton's new home in Myrtle Beach, S.C., where they were initially thinking they would ride out the storm.

They’re not the only ones getting out of the path of the storm. There are very few cars on the streets today, and many of the restaurants and stores along the boardwalk at the heart of the town -- which attracts more than 18 million tourists a year -- are closed and boarded up.

Myrtle Beach was hit by major hurricanes in the past, including Hurricane Hugo in 1989 and Hurricane Hazel back in 1954. But if they land in the direct line of Florence, it will be the area’s first high-category storm in decades.

The Leightons have been preparing for the storm for several days. They run a franchise of doggie day care Camp Bow Wow and made sure to return all the dogs to their owners or emergency contacts over the weekend.

A volunteer pries wood flooring from the storm damaged home of Tonja Dais in Pollocksville, N.C., Sept. 28, 2018. Davis' home was flooded with several feet of water from Hurricane Florence. Photo Credit: Gray Whitley/Sun Journal via AP
Furniture and household items are piled next to the curb as residents and volunteers work to clear debris from storm damaged homes in Pollocksville,located near the Trent River, in N.C., Sept. 28, 2018. Photo Credit: Gray Whitley/Sun Journal via AP
In this Sept. 24, 2018 photo, flood waters from the Neuse River cover the area in Kinston, N.C., a week after Hurricane Florence struck. Photo Credit: Ken Blevins/The Star-News via AP
Pastor Willie Lowrimore of The Fellowship With Jesus Ministries talks about the flooding of his church in Yauhannah, S.C., Sept. 24, 2018. The church is on the bank of the Waccamaw River which has already risen... Photo Credit: Jeffrey S. Collins/AP
This Sept. 22, 2018, shows fish left on Interstate 40 in Pender County in eastern North Carolina after floodwaters receded. Thousands of coastal residents remained on edge Sunday, told they may need to leave th... Photo Credit: Jeff Garrett/AP
Jason Johnson, left, and homeowner Archie Sanders work to build a temporary levee to hold back floodwaters caused by Hurricane Florence near the Waccamaw River on Sept. 23, 2018 in Conway, South Carolina. Flood... Photo Credit: Sean Rayford/Getty Images
People navigate floodwaters caused by Hurricane Florence near the Waccamaw River on Sept. 23, 2018 in Conway, South Carolina. Floodwaters are expected to continue to rise in Conway over the next two days. Photo Credit: Sean Rayford/Getty Images
Flooded homes, roads and fields pass under a Jayhawk helicopter during a U.S. Coast Guard search-and-rescue operation, over North Carolina, Sept. 18, 2018. Coast Guard crews airlifted both people and pets to sa... Photo Credit: Hilary Swift/The New York Times/Redux
President Donald Trump hugs a young man while handing out prepackaged meals at Temple Baptist Church in an area impacted by Hurricane Florence, Sept. 19, 2018, in New Bern, N.C. Photo Credit: Evan Vucci/AP
Ronnie Gainey carries an electric guitar through the floodwaters of Black Creek from his home in Darlington South Carolina, Sept. 18, 2018, during the aftermath of Hurricane Florence. Photo Credit: Scott Muthersbaugh/Perfecta Visuals/Polaris
Iva Williamson, 4, peers behind her as she joins neighbors and pets in fleeing rising flood waters in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence in Leland, North Carolina, Sept. 16, 2018. Photo Credit: Jonathan Drake/Reuters
Mary and Phil Pongonis look at the damaged roadway from Hurricane Florence in Boiling Spring Lakes, N.C., Sept. 18, 2018. Photo Credit: Ken Blevins/The Star-News/AP
A cat clings to the side of a trailer in the flood waters before it was saved as the Northeast Cape Fear River overflowed its banks in the aftermath Hurricane Florence in Burgaw, N.C., Sept. 17, 2018. Photo Credit: Jonathan Drake/Reuters
Dianna Wood, embraces her husband, Lynn, while looking out over their flooded property as the Little River continues to rise in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence in Linden, North Carolina, Sept. 18, 2018. &qu... Photo Credit: David Goldman/AP
A car sits in a flooded parking lot at an apartment complex near the Cape Fear River as it continues to rise in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence in Fayetteville, Sept. 18, 2018. Photo Credit: David Goldman/AP
An official looks out a helicopter at homes surrounded by flood waters in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence, Sept. 17, 2018, in Conway, S.C. Photo Credit: Sean Rayford/Getty Images
Two people sit on the roof of a vehicle trapped in floodwaters from Hurricane Florence, Sept. 17, 2018 in Wallace, S.C. Photo Credit: Sean Rayford/Getty Images
Bob Richling carries Iris Darden as water from the Little River starts to seep into her home, Sept. 17, 2018 in Spring Lake, N.C. Photo Credit: Joe Raedle/Getty Images
Jimmy Shackleford transports his son Jim Shackleford and his wife Lisa, and their pets, in the bucket of his tractor as the Northeast Cape Fear River overflows its banks during flooding after Hurricane Florence... Photo Credit: Jonathan Drake/Reuters
Panicked dogs that were left caged by an owner who fled rising flood waters in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence, are rescued by volunteer rescuer Ryan Nichols of Longview, Texas, in Leland, N.C., Sept. 16, 2... Photo Credit: Jonathan Drake/Reuters
Floodwaters from Hurricane Florence rush down Cool Spring Street, inundating the St. James Church in Fayetteville, N.C. on 16 Sept. 2018. The Cape Fear River Valley, like many other river systems in eastern Nor... Photo Credit: Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA/REX via Shutterstock
Members of the North Carolina Task Force urban search and rescue team check cars in a flooded neighborhood looking for residents who stayed behind as Florence continues to dump heavy rain in Fayetteville, N.C.,... Photo Credit: David Goldman/AP
Oliver Kelly, 1, cries as he is carried off the sheriff's airboat during his rescue from rising flood waters in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence in Leland, North Carolina, Sept. 16, 2018. Photo Credit: Jonathan Drake/Reuters
Michelle Tate speaks with Red Cross volunteer Jennifer McQuilken at the Red Cross shelter in the East Mecklenburg High School gymnasium, in Charlotte, N.C., Sept. 16, 2018. The Carolinas were drenched and large... Photo Credit: Alyssa Schukar/The New York Times/Redux
Hog farm buildings are inundated with floodwater from Hurricane Florence near Trenton, N.C., Sept. 16, 2018. Photo Credit: Steve Helber/AP
A boat lays smashed against a car garage, deposited there by the high winds and storm surge from Hurricane Florence along the Neuse River, Sept. 15, 2018, in New Bern, N.C. Photo Credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Waves crash over the road over washed by Hurricane Florence in Ocracoke, NC., Sept. 15, 2018. Photo Credit: Steve Helber/AP
Joseph Eudi looks at flood debris and storm damage from Hurricane Florence at a home on East Front Street in New Bern, N.C., Sept. 15, 2018. Photo Credit: Gray Whitley/Sun Journal via AP
A farm house is surrounded by flooded fields from tropical storm Florence in Hyde County, N.C., Sept. 15, 2018. Photo Credit: Steve Helber/AP
A woman makes her way to her home that is surrounded by flood waters after Hurricane Florence passed through the area on Sept. 15, 2018, in Southport, N.C. Photo Credit: Joe Raedle/Getty Images
Boats are stacked up on each other in a marina as a result from Florence in New Bern, N.C., Sept. 15, 2018. Photo Credit: Steve Helber/AP
The courtyard at Queen's Point condos is filled with residents' belongings after the storm surge from Hurricane Florence tore open the lower floors with a four-foot high storm surge on Sept. 15, 2018, in New Be... Photo Credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
A woman searches through belongings in her garage after a four-foot storm surge produced by Hurricane Florence ripped through the Queen's Point condos along the Nuese River in New Bern, N.C., Sept. 15, 2018. Photo Credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
A Lumberton firefighter holds on to two nursing home patients as a member of the Cajun Navy drives his truck during the evacuation of a nursing home due to rising flood waters in Lumberton, N.C., on Sept. 15, 2... Photo Credit: Alex Edelman/AFP/Getty Images
Two people in a canoe paddle through a street that was flooded by Hurricane Florence north of New Bern, N.C. on Sept. 15, 2018. Storm surge and heavy flooding from the hurricane has inundated much of Eastern No... Photo Credit: Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA/REX via Shutterstock
Members of NC Task Force 10, comprised of the New Bern and Greenville fire departments, search for residents in the Duffyfield neighborhood of New Bern, N.C., Sept. 15, 2018. Florence, the powerful storm that h... Photo Credit: Victor J. Blue/The New York Times/Redux
Storm damage caused by high winds is seen on Ocean Avenue as the outer bands of Hurricane Florence make landfall on Sept. 14, 2018, in Myrtle Beach, S.C. Photo Credit: Alex Edelman/AFP via Getty Images
An abandoned car's hazard lights continue to flash as it sits submerged in rising flood waters during pre-dawn hours after Hurricane Florence struck in Wilmington, N.C., Sept. 15, 2018. Photo Credit: Jonathan Drake/Reuters
High winds and heavy rain limit visibility as a North Carolina National Guard truck crosses the bridge over the Neuse River during Hurricane Florence on Sept. 14, 2018, in New Bern, N.C. Photo Credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Robert Simmons Jr. and his kitten "Survivor" are rescued from floodwaters after Hurricane Florence dumped several inches of rain in the area overnight, Sept. 14, 2018 in New Bern, N.C. Photo Credit: Andrew Carter/The News & Observer via AP
People sit at a bar that has no power and drink during a "Hurricane Party" as Hurricane Florence comes ashore on Wilmington, North Carolina, Sept. 14, 2018. Photo Credit: Carlo Allegri/Reuters
From left, Nash Fralick, Michael Jenkins and Ethan Hall examine damage to Tidewater Brewing Co. in Wilmington, N.C., after Hurricane Florence made landfall, Sept. 14, 2018. Photo Credit: Chuck Burton/AP
Eric Edwards Jr., left, and Elliott Farmer Jr. look at their phones from a blow up mattress at a storm shelter at Washington Street United Methodist Church as Florence slowly moves across the East Coast Friday,... Photo Credit: Sean Rayford/AP
Debris from Hurricane Florence covers a street in downtown New Bern, N.C., Sept. 14, 2018. Photo Credit: Chris Seward/AP
Rescue workers from Township No. 7 Fire Department and volunteers from the Civilian Crisis Response Team help rescue a woman and her dog from their flooded home during Hurricane Florence, Sept. 14, 2018, in Jam... Photo Credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Volunteer Amber Hersel from the Civilian Crisis Response Team helps rescue 7-year-old Keiyana Cromartie and her family from their flooded home, Sept. 14, 2018, in James City, N.C. Photo Credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Waves slam the Oceana Pier & Pier House Restaurant in Atlantic Beach, N.C., Sept. 13, 2018 as Hurricane Florence approaches the area. Photo Credit: Travis Long/The News & Observer via AP
Hurricane Florence is seen through a super wide angle lens from the International Space Station, Sept. 12, 2018. Photo Credit: ESA/NASA

They were "completely stocked up" Tuesday with flashlights, batteries, charged devices, bottled water, water jugs and extra food a local restaurant gave them after a recent meal because the owners were clearing out inventory, Gerry Leighton, 57, said.

At the time, she said, "we just feel like we'll be safest here and we can see and mitigate against any major issues."

But her thinking changed overnight.

"If the house gets damaged and we're in it, what are we going to do? It's not like we can save anything while we're here," she said Wednesday morning.

Their emotional attachment to the home played in role in the reluctance to evacuate, they said.

They built the home after going through a yearslong legal battle with the contractor who built their first South Carolina home that was later deemed faulty and had to be demolished two years ago.

After moving down to South Carolina after their New Jersey home was damaged in Hurricane Sandy, the Leighton's had another home-related nightmare when their contractor was faulty and they ended up having to tear down their newly built home in Nov. 2016.

"Everything that could be wrong with the house was, and so the consensus was that it would be cheaper to start over than fix everything that was wrong," she said of the house that had to be torn down in November 2016.

"It was so difficult. We didn't have a place to live," Leighton said.

After making plans to evacuate to Greensboro Wednesday morning, she posted a message on Facebook explaining to friends and family why they grappled with the decision.

"I know that it seems like a no-brainer to others, because 'things' don't matter, etc., but our story is not normal, having lost a house to Sandy, and then being displaced for several years because of a conman, with no sense of security or being settled," Gerry Leighton wrote.

The Leightons were at their primary New Jersey residence further inland during Hurricane Sandy, but their secondary home in Little Egg Harbor was hit by all the flooding that came with the storm.

"Everything except for a few things on the walls were lost. It was devastating," she told ABC News.

Gerry Leighton and her husband had a second home in Little Egg Harbor, New Jersey, that was damaged in Hurricane Sandy in 2012.

They had trouble accessing the beach house for days after the storm, which partially contributed to their original plan to stay in their Myrtle Beach home during Florence.

They weren't too worried about the thin pine trees near their home and they had planned to drain the pool in their backyard because "the last thing we need is to be flooded by our own pool,” Leighton said.

Gerry Leighton said that they are planning to drain the pool in their backyard, pictured, so that the water doesn’t contribute to any storm surge damage.

"This house brought us a calm and sense of security that we didn't have for probably 5 years," she wrote on Facebook after deciding to leave.

"It represents an incredible feeling of home for us homebodies, and it is devastating to even think that we could, once again, be longing for that security.”