Linda Sharkey is camping in the family room of her home after the latest floods inundated her West Columbia neighborhood again.
The hilly area near the lower Saluda River is “idyllic until it rains hard,” she said.
Sharkey is among homeowners with fresh concern about long-time drainage problems in the Saluda Gardens neighborhood after record rain-driven flash floods Oct 4.
Some homes in the area off U.S. 378 near Brookland Baptist Church are bordered by unnamed offshoots of Double Branch Creek. Others sit on the side of hills where water often runs down in steady streams.
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The heavily wooded neighborhood reminds some residents of a mountain setting, with shallow creeks bubbling gently amid the occasional roar of animals across the river at Riverbanks Zoo. That bucolic feeling disappears in downpours.
The terrain and creeks are “both our blessing and our bane,” homeowner Hinde Garrison said.
Hard rain woke Sharkey before dawn after she feel asleep “thinking we dodged the bullet.”
She then spent hours vacuuming and sweeping out water that steadily seeped into the lower level of her home from the adjoining hillside before a neighbor punched a hole in a retaining wall to provide it another escape.
Damage would have been worse, she said, had she not placed 48 bags of cement next to the outside wall to protect her home before rain began and moved logs in adjoining woods to divert water away as the deluge persisted. “I needed something, but it wasn’t enough,” Sharkey said.
The problem is far worse for Sue Allen. Erosion around a city-built retaining wall left a gaping hole in her front yard, exposing pipes and boulders.
City workers had put sandbags in front of her home and a few others that are long plagued by flooding as a safeguard. That didn’t stop the erosion.
Now, “I’m scared when I lay down at night if it’s raining,” Allen said.
She is hoping authorities decide the home in which her family has lived for 40 years isn’t worth continuing to try to save.
Mayor Joe Owens agrees it’s time for a buy-out for Allen. “Others are inconvenienced, but she is in true danger,” he said.
Nearby, the flooding was so strong that two 10-foot lengths of recently cut trees were carried into yards downstream of Satira Liafsha’s home.
Liafsha is among residents in the area pressing city and state transportation officials who oversee roads in the neighborhood to come up with a solution.
“I like having a creek,” she said. “I just want it to stay a creek.”
Officials are sympathetic but say finding a solution for a neighborhood at the bottom of a watershed emptying into the river is complex.
Owens has asked city engineers to come up with a list of what’s possible in a few months as the latest flood spurs a push for answers.
Some homeowners say they’ve been complaining too long and too little has been done.
“Things have not been updated,” Garrison said. “They’ve been doing little patches when it requires something comprehensive.”
Tim Flach: 803-771-8483