Just two weeks ago on Saturday evening, Oct. 3, dancers and staff at Columbia Classical Ballet were “on a tremendous high” in their newly renovated studio.
“We had been closed all summer for the renovations, which cost $260,000,” dance company board chair Lee Lumpkin said of the studio, at 2418 Devine St. “The facility hadn’t been renovated in 30 years, so there was much to be done. But when we reopened in August, the studio was just gorgeous. We were just in there that Saturday night commenting again on how beautiful the space was.”
By 8 a.m. the next morning, the entire studio was under water.
“The piano was floating; everything was gone,” Lumpkin said. “It was just unbelievable – it was hard to see.”
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Columbia Classical Ballet is just one of several area cultural and park facilities that sustained damage – in some cases minor, in some devastating – in the Oct. 4 historic flooding in Columbia.
Most are still tallying up the financial losses.
Just a year ago, at 2927 Devine St., Marcus McCall and Terry Davis had opened the nonprofit S.C. Film Institute, providing filmmakers across the state a place to gain experience in the film industry, build resumes and earn film credits.
“We always knew that we would face challenges along the way and would like to say that we were prepared for the risk of business,” McCall said. “The flooding was not something that we were prepared for.”
When McCall and Davis got into their building, they found roughly 8 feet of water had flooded the space and broken the windows. Trees, mud and “unsanitary items” were left behind once the waters receded, Davis said.
“I wasn’t prepared for what my eyes would see,” Davis said. “The smell was unforgettable. I’m quite sure the sewage was flooded as well. Most of our equipment was scrambled, roasted or rusted.”
The facility sustained $30,000 worth of equipment loss and office damage and did not have flood insurance, McCall said. McCall and Davis have created a GoFundMe site to raise money and will determine whether they will be able to reopen.
“We are at the point of literally begging our friends and the community for financial assistance in efforts to rebuild,” McCall said. “At this point we cannot promise anyone that we will survive this tragedy and that SCFI will remain open.”
At the parks
At Saluda Shoals in Irmo, the majority of the park was eight- to 10-feet under water for several days because of its proximity to the Saluda River, Rawls Creek and the Lake Murray Dam, according to Dolly Patton, director of the Saluda Shoals Foundation.
While the main facilities were not located in the flood plain and were not damaged, the riverfront area of the park – which includes the picnic shelters, restroom facilities, playground, wetland boardwalk, boat launch and trails – saw significant flooding and damage, Patton said.
“Restrooms were flooded to the rooftops and we lost several large trees, but much of the damage was mud- and debris-related,” Patton said. “Unfortunately, the maintenance staff was in the process of installing Holiday Lights on the River displays before the rains. Many of the displays were damaged and the extensive electrical infrastructure is also in need of some repair.”
The park was closed to the public the week of the flood, but the River Center, Environmental Education Center, administrative offices and dog park reopened this past week. The day use area of the park will remain closed while the staff repairs the electrical boxes and cleans up and repairs trails, said Patton, adding that park patrons have made donations to help with the repairs.
“There are some stretches of the Greenway Trail along the river that are still flooded and cannot be assessed,” Patton said. “We also had to remove 115 dead grass carp, weighing in at around 25 pounds each, from around the park.”
Other area parks, among them Sesquicentennial State Park and Congaree National Park, also sustained some damage. While both have reopened, some areas within each park remain closed because of damage.
‘We just wanted to help people get out’
While the Columbia Museum of Art downtown did not flood, the museum’s exterior had some damage from heavy rains. Facility employees found water leaking in from the roof into the museum’s loft area in time to start repairs that prevented further damage in other areas of the building, said Joelle Ryan Cook, deputy director of the museum.
“Those heavy rains in the two weeks leading up to the flood contributed to leaking in the building before the flooding actually began in the area,” Cook said. “The water was coming in from the top – not up from the bottom.
“Thankfully the water damage was in the equipment area and no art, galleries or vaults were impacted at all.”
Now, facility employees are assessing the areas where the breeches occurred, Cook said.
“The staff has worked 24/7 to ensure the safety of the building and the art by keeping proper temperature and humidity controls throughout our facility,” Cook said.
The museum – which is asking for public donations to secure the building’s facilities from future water damage – closed for several days following the area’s flooding due to recommendations by the city but reopened in time for the Oct. 9 debut of its Georgia O’Keefe exhibit.
“We opened on Thursday (Oct. 8) and on Friday we offered free admission to all Richland County residents,” Cook said. “We just wanted to help people get out and be inspired a little. It turned out well.”
The S.C. State Museum and Edventure Children’s Museum – at 301 Gervais and 211 Gervais, respectively – along with Riverbanks Zoo and Gardens also offered free admission and reprieve for local residents since those facilities received no damage, directors there said.
The S.C. State Museum was closed Oct. 4-9 due to canal work nearby that created unsafe conditions in the parking lot and around the building, according to Willie Calloway, executive director of the museum. When the center reopened Oct. 10 it offered tickets at a 40 percent discount and provided guests with free bottled water while drinking water was unusable.
This weekend, there is no S.C. State Museum admission for children 12 and under and first responders and their families will be admitted free the entire month of October, Calloway said.
“Right now, the well-being of our guests and the citizens of Columbia is our most important focus,” Calloway said. “At the same time, we want families who have been affected by this disaster to have a fun, educational option for this weekend.
“Allowing visitors to escape the tragedy, even for a short visit, is what we want to provide.”
Edventure has taken programming and resources out to the community with activity and game days for families at local emergency shelters at Lower Richland High School and Andrews Middle School, according to Karen Coltrane, museum director. On Oct. 23, the museum will host a free book distribution for children enrolled in the Richland County Recreation Foundation after-school programs and on Oct. 24, it will be open for free to the general public.
Like the State Museum, Edventure is offering free admission all month for first responders and their families.
‘You have to pull yourself out’
The Lexington County Museum in Lexington and 701 Whaley in Olympia were not damaged from the storm, despite floods in those communities.
Neither was the Columbia School of Ballet, despite its location on Gills Creek Parkway. In fact, the school is now sharing its space with the displaced dance company from the Columbia Classical Ballet, which had been preparing for “Night of Passion,” scheduled to open this month but now postponed until February.
Other helping hands have aided the Columbia Classical Ballet with a Cinderella children’s ballet scheduled this week at the Koger Center. All costumes were soiled in the floods, Lumpkin said, but “all the moms pitched in and have been washing hundreds of costumes” so the production could go on.
That kind of help, from the Columbia School of Ballet and the group of moms, has been a blessing during a difficult time. In addition to the flooding, Columbia Classical Ballet’s artistic director and owner of Pavlovich Dance School, Radenko Pavlovich, suffered a heart attack while assisting with the center’s post-flood cleanup, Lumpkin said.
“This has all been so much to deal with for everyone, but there are still blessings in this of people showing extraordinary love and concern during this time,” said Lumpkin, who said the school has set up a GoFundMe site.
While cleanup has started in the studio space, Lumpkin said it will take “at least $100,000 to get started on the road to rebuilding.”
Pavlovich had flood insurance but it is only expected to cover half of what will be needed to restore the studio, according to Lumpkin.
“It’s hard not to go in that hole when all this happens,” Lumpkin added, “but you can’t let yourself dwell too long on the negative. You have to pull yourself out.”