Flooding hits Congaree River, national park

jholleman@thestate.comMay 6, 2013 

  • Flood forecast The National Weather Service expects several rivers in the state to hit flood levels this week.

    Saluda River at Chappells, crest at 18.2 feet late Monday

    Congaree River at Columbia, crest at 20.2 feet late Tuesday

    Enoree River at Whitmire, crest at 25.4 feet late Tuesday

    Congaree River at Congaree National Park, crest at 19.5 feet early Wednesday

    Santee River at Jamestown, crest at 12.5 feet on Saturday

— If you were planning to go hiking in Congaree National Park this week, you need to change plans.

The combination of a wet spring and drenching weekend rains has pushed several rivers to flood levels, including the Broad, Congaree, Enoree, Saluda and Santee. If the National Weather Service forecast is accurate, flood waters at Congaree National Park will reach heights they haven’t hit since 1988.

The forecast crest at the national park is 19.5 feet early Wednesday. The highest reading since the park gauge was installed in 1984 has been 21.55 feet on Jan. 23, 1988, according to U.S. Geological Survey records. Since 2000, flood levels have topped 18 feet at the park only twice, in March 2003 and September 2004.

The park’s buildings will remain above the flood waters, but much of the boardwalk trail and all but the highest parts of the bluff trail will be under water. Much of the park is a natural flood plain, and the boardwalks are designed to withstand frequent flooding.

During the floods in 2003 and 2004, water lapped at the foundations of a few homes in low-lying areas in Sandy Run in Calhoun County. Otherwise, the levels forecast for this week on the South Carolina rivers should impact mainly farm fields and timber property.

Portions of the Cayce and West Columbia Riverwalks were under water Monday. Levels in that area were expected to rise to 20.2 feet on Tuesday. That’s well below some recent high marks there. The gauge in West Columbia has reached 25 feet in five floods since 1987.

The weather system that moved through the state during the weekend hit hardest in the Saluda and Broad basins. Greenville-Spartanburg set a daily rainfall record for May 5 of 3.19 inches. The highest total in the state from the volunteer Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network was 4.02 inches in Greenville County, while two other sites each in Cherokee and Spartanburg counties had more than 3 inches.

Charleston (1.28 inches) and Savannah (1.82) also set daily records on Sunday, while Columbia Metropolitan Airport registered 2.17 inches, well below the May 5 record of 4.2 set in 1991.

But the rain barely made it to central Richland County, where Hamilton-Owens Airport in downtown Columbia got just 0.46 inches. The rain also dodged most of the Pee Dee. Florence got 0.12 inches and North Myrtle Beach 0.05.

In addition to Congaree National Park, the National Weather Service issued river flood warnings for the Saluda at Chappells, the Santee at Jamestown, the Broad at Blacksburg and the Enoree at Whitmire.

The National Weather Forecast includes a chance of rain for much of the state on Tuesday and Wednesday, though rainfall totals aren’t expected to be as high as during the weekend.

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