COLUMBIA, SC — Homeowners on Timberlane Drive have grown accustomed to Gills Creek rising out of the wooded wetlands across the road and into their yards after extremely heavy rains.
This summer has been different. Constant rains have filled the watershed to the point where it doesn’t take much of a downpour to push the creek into the street that’s at the eastern edge of the Rosewood neighborhood.
“The flooding is getting more and more and more frequent and also the duration is longer,” said Jan Kjellberg, who has owned a house on Timberlane since 2002.
Last weekend, he and his wife, Sherry, had to rig ladders to climb fences into their neighbors’ yard, where they could park their cars above water levels.
“If we get an 8-inch rainfall now, I’m afraid we’d be standing in water,” Kjellberg said. “It looks like the city considers my street a flood plain.”
Kjellberg doesn’t think the backup can be completely due to recent rainfall. Heavier rains in the past haven’t backed up this much. He asked Columbia stormwater officials to check for downstream backups, but none were found, according to street division superintendent Robert Sweatt.
Others who live along the street seem more accepting of the occasional flooding. They landscape yards to keep water from getting into structures. They learn what levels are too high to drive through.
“You get used to it, but you never really get used to it,” said Wayne Gerald.
The water rose to the edge of Gerald’s front yard Thursday night, but he had a more serious concern in his backyard – and on his roof. A huge elm tree toppled onto his home Thursday night. There wasn’t a lot of wind at the time. Gerald surmises the especially thick foliage on south side grew heavy with rain, tilted the tree and pulled the roots out of the saturated ground.
On the plus side, it fell gently and doesn’t appear to have poked any holes in the roof, where it still sat Friday afternoon.
The eastern edge of Columbia has been hit with more rain than some other sections. The official rainfall at Columbia Metropolitan Airport through Friday morning was 9.85 inches since June 1 and 3.68 since July 1.
But at Hamilton-Owens Airport near Gills Creek the numbers were 13.28 and 6.84, and a Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow network station in the Gills Creek watershed near Forest Lake had 15.06 and 8.36.
The flooding has been so persistent in recent months, Kjellberg says the 25 mph speed limit sign on Timberlane Drive should instead say 5 knots.
Most of the Midlands got less rain than forecast on Friday, but rain is still likely for the next few days, according to the National Weather Service.