In the sprawling rural area north of Columbia, bridges on two major northbound roads were washed out by flooding earlier this month, suddenly isolating neighborhoods.
“I was crying, ‘We need help’,” recalled pastor Leroy Cannon, 70, Monday, as he stood outside Christ Mission, an outreach church of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, in the Denny Terrace neighborhood, off Monticello Road.
Cannon’s prayer was answered.
Sister churches from as far away as Atlanta, as well as churches from other denominations came to his aid, donating water, clothing and other supplies — from peanut butter to canned goods to toilet paper.
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The supplies made it to Christ Mission by first traveling to Blythewood, 20 miles to the northeast, and then navigating on little-known rural roads to Denny Terrace and other neighborhoods along Monticello and Fairfield roads.
Christ Mission became a distribution center, at its high point giving out food, bottled water and supplies to 300 people in one day, Cannon said.
“This was a rallying point for this community, in spite of us being cut off,” Cannon said.
Other communities – in Lower Richland, along Gills Creek and below the Lake Murray dam – also were hard-hit in the flood.
But they also seemed to get more attention in the days following the flood, Cannon said. “Even FEMA couldn’t find a way to us.”
Monticello Road normally leads northwesterly out of Columbia, passing Ben Lippen School and Columbia International University on its way to the V.C. Summer Nuclear Station in Fairfield County.
But a mile or so from Cannon’s church, a major Monticello Road bridge that spans Crane Creek was washed out Oct. 4. The bridge wasn’t reopened until late Sunday night, two weeks later.
The historic flood turned Crane Creek, which flows into the Broad River, into a miniature tsunami. The morning of Oct. 4, 82-year-old Richard Milroy, drowned in his car in the Crane Creek overflow on Peeples Street, just below Christ Mission. The church is up a hill — about 100 feet higher — than low-lying Crane Creek.
“There are a lot of communities up there,” Richland County Sheriff Lott said Monday. “When the roads went down, it isolated them to the point where a 15-minute trip to Columbia would take you an hour and 15 minutes to get to town.”
Cannon said the flood’s high waters reminded church members of stories in the Bible, such as Noah’s Ark. The generosity of other churches reminded them of other stories, including the prophet Elijah, who was fed by a widow during a famine.
The flood had a good side, he added.
“It allowed the community to come together, and the church to do its mission work. It allowed the community to know we are here for them.”