Christmas downpour fuels mayhem in Midlands

A Christmas Day deluge blew out transformers, swelled urban creeks and rivers and smashed a record for December rainfall in Columbia.

A transformer explosion fried power lines feeding Providence Hospital, forcing the medical center on Two Notch Road to use its emergency generator, said Aubrey Jenkins, deputy chief for the Columbia Fire Department.

Patient care was not affected, he said.

People in the area reported hearing a loud "boom" Friday morning, Jenkins said.

A piece of the transformer flew through a window of a building across from the hospital campus. Smoke filled the hospital's mechanical and electrical building, he said.

No one was injured. But the explosion caused thousands of dollars in damage, Jenkins said.

Megan Wright, a Providence spokeswoman, said electrical crews rerouted power at the hospital, and it was no longer using the emergency generator Friday night. Engineers were expected to assess the damage after the holiday.

A second transformer blew underground at 1401 Main St. Smoke from that explosion filled the basement of a city-owned building.

Firefighters are not sure what caused the transformers to blow, Jenkins said.

"We're not sure if it was weather-related," he said.

The pouring rain kept the fire department busy from 7 a.m. to about noon. Firefighters responded to more than 50 calls of cars stuck on flooded streets, Jenkins said.

Throughout Christmas morning, the central part of the state received 3 to 4 inches of rain, said Jeff Linton, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Columbia.

The rain set a record for December in Columbia - 9.06 inches.

The previous record was 8.54 inches, which was set in 1981, Linton said.

Rainfall totals recorded Friday at Columbia Metropolitan Airport were 3.06 inches while 3.44 inches were reported at Downtown Columbia/Owens Field, Linton said.

In Lexington County, Corley Mill Road and Cromer Road were closed Friday when water overflowed onto the streets, Lexington County officials reported to the weather service.

Residents of several homes in the Arborchase subdivision on Old Bush River Road reported up to 7 feet of water in their backyards, according to the Richland County Emergency Management office.

The creek bed at Martin Luther King Jr. Park near Five Points swelled, but no big problems were seen in the business district.

A lane on Gervais Street near Harden was closed temporarily due to flash flooding.

And flash flooding at Whaley Street near Main Street caused several cars to be stranded. A backhoe cleared debris from the site later in the afternoon.

Rosewood Drive near Assembly streets also was closed temporarily because of flash flooding under a railroad bridge.

A tornado watch was issued for parts of Georgia and in the South Carolina Lowcountry as the tail end of Friday's storm came through.

While today's forecast calls for sunny skies with temperatures in the high-50s, a flood warning remains in effect for the Broad River near Blair and for the Congree River near Eastman.