Smith Branch flooding causes minor damages in North Columbia, Earlewood

jholleman@thestate.comJuly 22, 2013 

  • Weather extremes Last year it was the heat. This year it’s all about the rain. Here are some seasonal weather extremes from 2013 vs. 2012.

    2012 heat: June 29 was the hottest day ever, with an all-time state record of 113 at the University of South Carolina and an all-time Columbia record of 109.

    2013 rain: July 21 was extremely wet in Columbia, with Smith Branch hitting a record height of 15.12 feet, more than 3 feet higher than the previous highest mark; the 2.55 inches of rain that fell at Columbia Metropolitan Airport set a record for July 21; a trained observer in Lexington registered 4.89 inches.

    2012 heat: Columbia hit 100 eight times in July, and averaged a daily high of 95.8 (compared with no 100-degree days and an 87.4 average high so far this July).

    2013 rain: Greenville-Spartanburg airport tied its all-time record for July rainfall – 13.57 inches – with 10 days left in the month. Columbia Metropolitan Airport’s 9.94 this month isn’t a record, but it’s almost double the all-time average for the full month of July – 5.47 inches.

    Forecast: Rain continues, with a 30 percent chance of mostly afternoon thunderstorms each day through the weekend, then 50 percent during the weekend. The National Weather Service predicts only about an inch of rainfall during the period, though with the summer qualifier – heavier amounts possible in thunderstorms.

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    Leave these symbols in. they’re tagiing for design stuff See story, Page AX.

Flooding Sunday of neighboring Smith Branch did little structural damage to the NoMa Bark Park, but it did make it possible for sly dogs to sneak out under the fence.

So the park was closed temporarily Monday, in what could be the most widespread fallout of record-setting flooding on that little known creek that runs through north Columbia and Earlewood.

At the height of the storm, water filled the NoMa Bark Park at Earlewood Park nearly 3 feet deep.

“It was so high I couldn’t see the bench (by Smith Branch),” said Kelli Wukela, membership director for the dog park. “I was expecting some major damage, but it doesn’t look too terrible.”

Smith Branch, measured where it crossed North Main Street, rose to 15.12 feet Sunday as some areas got 3 or more inches of rain in less than two hours. The highest Smith Branch had risen since the U.S. Geological Service gauge was established in 1976 was 11.91 feet. Normally, Smith Branch trickles through several neighborhoods a foot or less deep.

Debris remained stuck in the bottom three feet of the chain link fence on the creek side of the dog park early Monday. City workers were busy using a fire hose to spray mud off the low-lying section of a parking lot at Earlewood Park. The new community buildings and playground were built on high ground and stayed above the water.

At nearby Hyatt Park, a small section of retaining wall collapsed where water rushed down a slope from a baseball field. At Lorick Park, a small tributary of Smith Branch pushed logs up against drainage culverts but did no real damage. A child’s bike was among the debris on the edge of the stream off Lorick Drive.

Smith Branch flows under Mountain Drive just before it reaches the Broad River. The floodwaters topped the road and badly eroded the downstream side, though traffic was still allowed to pass on the road.

On the aptly named Water Street, near Colonial Drive, the flooding left a 6-inch deep puddle surrounding an above-ground backyard pool.

Robert Anderson, public works director for Columbia, said there were no major structural problems associated with the flooding.

Flash flooding hit other parts of Columbia where residents rarely see it. Sunday evening, a trained spotter report from Dentsville to the National Weather Service Columbia office recorded 3.48 inches of rain in two hours; in Lexington, 4.56 inches in a few hours. The official Columbia rainfall – measured at Columbia Metropolitan Airport – was 2.55 inches, a record for the date.

The USGS monitor at Rocky Branch near Main and Whaley streets in Columbia reported major flooding during the downpour, recording a high of 11.46 feet, making it the third highest level recorded; the record is 12.39 feet. Rocky Branch at Whaley and Main went from 2.14 feet to 11.46 feet between 7:30 and 8:30 p.m.

The rain gauge at Pickens Street crested at 9.74 feet; flood stage is a little more than 7 feet. This was the fourth highest reading at that site.

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