After a month’s worth of rain over the past 10 days, swollen rivers flooded some low-lying parts of the Columbia area Thursday still recovering from a historic storm in October.
Apprehensive homeowners along the lower Saluda River watched water rise into their backyards after a floodgate at the dam at Lake Murray was opened for just the second time since 1969. The first was less than three months ago after a major storm dumped a foot of rain in a day.
“It's a waiting game,” said Melissa Gay, whose father lives in the Pine Glen neighborhood in St. Andrews. “Unfortunately, our New Year’s is watching this.”
Those homeowners got relief when the floodgate closed late Thursday after 17 hours of releasing water into the river.
One cul-de-sac in Pine Glen was flooded with a foot of water, but few residents are living in nearby homes awaiting repairs from the October storm.
Still, Shafeka Carter was shaken Thursday after water reached the foundation of her home undergoing restoration before receding. “I don't think I can take this any more,” she said.
The rising water caused Terica Holley to reconsider renovating her flood-damaged home. “I don’t want to wake up every time it rains and wonder,” she said.
Lexington County deputies and Irmo firefighters went door-to-door in the area urging residents to get ready to leave should water approach homes.
Flooding along the Saluda River comes after South Carolina Electric & Gas opened the floodgate to relieve water pressure on the earthen dam that created the made-made Lake Murray 85 years ago.
The amount of water released initially was about 50,000 gallons per second but it was reduced soon after the release began at 4 a.m. Thursday and fell steadily durign the day, SCE&G officials said.
Nearly 6 inches of rain have fallen since Dec. 22 on ground already saturated by wet weather during the past three months, the National Weather Service reported.
The Columbia area has received nearly 20 inches more than the annual average — almost all of it coming at the end of the year, according to the National Weather Service data. The region has received 17 inches more rain than normal since Oct. 1.
Officials in other riverfront communities remained on alert after a series of incidents:
▪ Columbia firefighters moved six people along White Horse Road off Bluff Road to higher ground Thursday, deputy fire chief Harry Tinsley said.
▪ The Congaree River covered the main road to Columbia’s sewer treatment plant off Interstate 77 with workers transported on all-terrain vehicles, city utilities director Joey Jaco said. A flood warning for the Conagree River at the Gervais Street bridge remains in effect until Monday, the National Weather Service said. The river was expected to crest at 7 feet above flood stage at midnight Friday.
▪ No more breaches occurred in the levee at the Columbia Canal, but the muddy Broad River made it harder to deliver clean drinking water, he said. The water remained safe to drink, city officials say.
▪ Cayce closed its section of the Riverwalk and warned residents nearby to prepare for flooding, spokeswoman Ashley Hunter said.
▪ High water closed sections of three roads in Lexington County — Hope Ferry Road near Lexington; 100 block to Saluda River; 200 block of Crosby Road near Gilbert; and 300 block of Laura Brodie Road in the Pond Branch area.
Staff writers Clif LeBlanc and Andrew Shain contributed to this story. Tim Flach: 803-771-8483