Answers are coming slowly about when the Columbia area will return to normal after the weekend’s historic rain, which shut down much of the region for most of the week.
Debris pickup has begun, but timetables are less clear when other services will resume and repairs will be made. Also, changes might be coming to a few of the diversions from the storm, including high school football and the S.C. State Fair.
Are the area’s dams safe?
It’s touch and go. Two more Richland County dams — one in the northeast and another in the southeast — were listed as breached Thursday. Nine neighborhood dams have failed in the Columbia area, more than half of the state total. About 70 dams are under observation, including at least three in Richland County. Good news? The damaged Beaver Dam Road and Spring Lake Ddams are holding, according to the Gills Creek Watershed Association.
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Are people getting sick from the tainted flood water?
No, but it’s early. Several area hospitals have not seen a significant influx in patients suffering from storm-related health problems, other than a few injuries. Jay Hamm, acute-care executive at Palmetto Health Richland, said it could be another week before people would show signs of infectious disease.
Will the University of South Carolina resume classes Monday?
Looks like it. USC plans to resume classes Monday after canceling them this week. But, as a state agency, USC follows Richland County government’s official closings or delays. County offices have been closed this week.
Will curfews continue?
Yes. Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott said the midnight-to-6 a.m. curfews will continue through Monday morning.
Has bus service resumed?
For the most part. All Comet bus system routes are running except for Route 88 from Dutch Square Mall to Garners Ferry Road and limited service on Route 47 through Lower Richland, crippled by road closures. No timetable was given for resuming those routes.
Will the S.C. State Fair start as scheduled Wednesday?
Yes, but ... After USC moved its Saturday football game to Baton Rouge, La., from Columbia because of water and security concerns, questions have been raised about holding the fair, a 12-day event that attracts tens of thousands each day. Fair officials said they have not been asked to change their plans. Lott said he would assess over the weekend whether, with ongoing storm-recovery efforts, he can spare the 100 to 125 deputies needed each day for the fair.
Will high school football games be played Friday?
Not many. Most of the 24 games involving Midlands teams — 19 in all — have been moved to Monday or Tuesday or postponed. Some might be canceled. One game — Blythewood at Spring Valley — will be played Tuesday at Westwood because of field damage to an access road near Spring Valley. Just five teams are playing on Friday.
Will schools reopen Monday?
Some. Three Columbia-area school districts plan to re-open schools Monday. Two more won’t decide until Friday, when they can determine whether buses and parents can drive safely to schools. Richland 1 and 2 officials are redrawing some bus routes around damaged roads. Richland 1 also is concerned about adequate water pressure in schools. The Lexington 1, Lexington 2 and Lexington-Richland 5 school districts plan to reopen Monday.
When will roads be repaired?
Too early to say. Assessments are underway and will take weeks before repairs start, state transportation officials said. Some repair work will take months. Richland County officials said they have requested 35 temporary bridges but no timetable was available.
When will Columbia’s water service resume to all its customers? When can those customers can stop boiling water before consuming it?
Unclear. Less than 5,000 of the city’s 375,000 customers remain without water. The city does not know when service will resume to those customers. Boil-water orders remain for customers with water with the exception of those in the Chapin and Ballentine area. City officials could not say Thursday when the water would be safe enough to drink without boiling it for a minute. Eight bottled-water distribution centers are operating around the city.
Staff writers Clif LeBlanc, Avery Wilks, Lou Bezjak and Ben Breiner contributed.
CLARIFICATION: Two additional dams listed as breached on a state agency website for the first time on Thursday had failed earlier in the week.