Rainy days continue

Lake Wateree overwhelms docks, yards again

jholleman@thestate.comJuly 8, 2013 

  • Spotty rain Scattered showers in downtown Columbia from 2:45-3:15 p.m. Monday were typical of those in recent weeks.

    Rainfall at USC: .52 inches

    Rise in Rocky Branch: 5.91 feet in 45 minutes

— Ronnie Chapman rushed to Lake Wateree Monday from his home in Mount Croghan, near Chesterfield, for the second time in two months to ensure his pontoon boat didn’t wash away on the flooded lake.

He’s starting to have second thoughts about the decision to buy a second home on the lake in February. “I’m about ready to move to the mountains,” he joked after wading from his submerged dock to recheck the lines on his boat.

After battling drought conditions for nearly four years, homeowners around the lake woke up to flood conditions for the second time in two months. Boosted by a month of heavy rains and the decision of Duke Energy to release water from swollen lakes upstream, Wateree rose 2.7 feet in 24 hours.

It hit 101.5 early Monday, 1.5 feet above flood level. Duke forecast that Wateree would peak at 102.5, slightly below the peak of the mid-May flood. Rising water is mostly an aggravation at 101.5, submerging anchored docks and washing debris into the lake. Around 103, the lake is a threat to some low-lying homes.

With scattered showers possible through the end of the week, there’s no guarantee the rise will stop at the forecast peak. The amount of rainfall in a specific area is difficult to forecast in these types of conditions.

For most lake residents, the uncertainty is just part of living on a body of water during an extremely wet year.

The May flood pulled up some of the support beams of Chapman’s walkway to his dock. He did the work to sink them again. Now he’s worried he’ll have to do it again, though as least portions of his walkway remained anchored Monday off Beaver Creek Road.

A few miles away on Sailing Club Road, the retaining wall along Gary Blount’s peninsular yard was two to three feet under water. “I had to take my boat out of the boathouse so it doesn’t cave in the bottom of the roof,” Blount said.

He was concerned that his across-the-cove neighbor’s boat, which had been tied to a dock the night before, was nowhere to be seen. “Usually it ends up in one of these coves, but I don’t see it,” Blount said.

His driveway is cut off at about the 105 level, and his house’s floor was built at 107 feet. Considering the forecast this week, his major post-flood work will be hosing the clay residue off his green grass.

On Sailing Club Lane, Billy Ammons’ boat and dock were in good shape, but the walkway to the dock was under water. “If you’ve got to get out there, you just take your shoes off and wade out there,” he said.

His tomato plants were protected from critters by a chicken wire fence, but the fence was no protection for the flood waters ... for the second time this year.

“It’s not a major problem,” Ammons said. “You just have to clean up when it’s gone.”

Elsewhere in the Midlands, the Broad River was down slightly Monday, but the Saluda River was extremely high as water was released from the Lake Murray dam. The Congaree River was below flood level in Columbia but still high enough to cover a few sections of the Cayce and West Columbia Riverwalks.

Downstream, the Congaree was at flood levels at the Carolina Eastman plant and Congaree National Park. In both cases, that’s relatively common and poses few problems.

Tropical Storm Chantal, way out in the Atlantic, could add to the flood concerns. While forecasts vary widely, the fast moving storm could impact South Carolina by the weekend. It’s not expected to gain much strength, but even a tropical storm’s rainfall can be heavy.

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