At least 20 people were evacuated from their homes in the Hempsted community in Irmo on Thursday morning because of flooding caused by Tropical Storm Michael, according to Irmo Fire Marshal Brian Haley.
Water rose up to knee- and waist-high in some areas, including along Broken Hill Road, which runs along Kinley Creek just off Piney Grove Road.
Irmo fire rescuers were helping people walk out of their homes through the water. A rescue boat was on standby but hadn’t been used, Haley said.
Rescuers had checked on about 20 houses in the neighborhood by 10:30 a.m.
Some of those houses were vacant, still unoccupied after they were badly damaged in the flooding of October 2015. Some of those vacant houses are being bought out through Lexington County’s flood recovery program, county spokesman Harrison Cahill said.
“It’s a small win that we were actually able to get people out of these areas” before more flooding occurred, Cahill said.
Flood water made its way into the living space of about 43 houses by Thursday afternoon, said Ben Smith, assistant chief of the Irmo Fire District. Smith said the water that actually made it inside homes was only “an inch or two” deep, though many properties had flooding in their yards or in crawl spaces underneath the homes.
Carl Bostick has lived in the neighborhood for about 50 years and has seen the area flood many times, he said. He lives higher on a hill and was not evacuated Thursday.
“I’ve seen furniture floating out the windows” in the past, he said, but Thursday’s flooding wasn’t that severe. It was bad enough, though, that he came down the hill to check on a neighbor whose home has flooded in the past.
The road through the neighborhood was covered in 3 to 4 feet of water at one point. One man waded through water up to his hips.
The water had begun to recede in the area by 10:30 a.m., Haley said.
Those who were evacuated from the area should be able to return by 3 or 4 p.m. Thursday, Smith said, so they can assess the damage and touch base with insurers. He said the fire district would also make rounds Thursday afternoon and check on some of the most badly affected areas.
Unlike Florence, a hurricane-turned-tropical storm that slowly crawled across South Carolina and caused flooding for days after it was gone, Michael was a quick storm. Because of this, Smith said, he and his team are not as concerned about waterways flooding in the days to come, but they will still “keep an eye on the rivers.”
Other Irmo communities were dealing with flooding from rising creeks, too, including the Whitehall and Bonnie Forest neighborhoods.
“It’s raining in my house,” said a resident of the Bonnie Forest neighborhood, off Piney Woods Road, who asked to be not to be identified. The creek beside her home rose into her yard Thursday morning, but it wasn’t as bad as the 2015 flood, she said.
Lexington County sheriff’s deputies went door-to-door checking on residents of Lockner Road, on the other side of Kinley Creek from Broken Hill Road.
Irmo firefighters also helped move a hefty 15-year-old pet tortoise to safety in a flooded neighborhood.
Elsewhere, in West Columbia, flooding hit right where some residents predicted it would.
Senn Branch runs right next to Jesse Soles’ house at the bottom of Cofield Drive, in a secluded neighborhood near the Saluda River.
Water rose about 4 feet in the street outside his house Thursday morning, Soles estimated. By noon, the water had receded to half its volume, he said.
When it’s not flooding, it’s a peaceful area, Soles said. That’s why he doesn’t move. Plus, his two dogs, Gauge and Lucy, who sat at the edge of the flowing flood waters looking on curiously, seem to like the place.
“They been walking around in it with me,” Soles said. “They’re my buddies.”