Residents on a small strip of Washington Street off Millwood Avenue in Columbia are worried about this weekend’s rain and the flooding they say it could dump into their street and homes.
The homes there are part of the Lyon Street Community, near the intersection of Millwood and Gervais Street.
Some of the homes on the 2300 block of Washington Street sit in a dip between two hills. Residents who live there say rainwater rushes downhill into the street during heavy rains, sometimes flooding the street and yards – and, on one occasion, a home.
“If it pours down real, real hard, it’ll flood,” said Leona English, 74, adding that the water looks like a “big waterfall” when it gushes down the steps of a nearby housing complex and toward her street.
Residents say the city hasn’t responded to their complaints about drainage and that they are worried about possible flooding and what they will do if they need to leave.
Early Carree, 73, said he has lived in his home on Washington Street – near the bottom of the dip – since 1965. Carree said his home was flooded and his carpet ruined by a storm two or three years ago.
During another large storm a few weeks ago, Carree said, water rose above his front porch as he and his granddaughter frantically swept it away with brooms. Carree this weekend has built a makeshift dam at his front porch with sandbags and boards.
Asked his plan for weathering the weekend’s rain, he said, “I’m going to pray.”
Carree’s next-door neighbor, Jermaine Gilmore, 42, joked that he and his family would get on a boat and “ride up out of here.”
Gilmore, his girlfriend, 37-year-old Nadia Brown, and their family moved here just months ago. He said they were surprised at how high the water rose – residents said about 2 feet or more – during the last storm. Brown said the flooding carried garbage bins and other debris into the backyard and that it took hours for it all to drain.
This time, English said she bought sandbags for the first time to keep water from entering her front door. She said she feels safe and that she could get away from the area in case of an emergency. But she and her son, Sayyid Abdurrahim, 48, said they are worried about others in her neighborhood, many of whom are seniors, some of them disabled.
English and her neighbors said the city can’t be bothered to help the area with drainage or other issues, such as building an emergency shelter where they could go if they need to leave their homes during a natural disaster.
“It’s like this neighborhood doesn’t really exist,” she said. “They pass right on by for everything. I think sometimes they forget that we’re taxpayers.”
Reached on Friday, Columbia assistant city manager Missy Gentry said she wasn’t aware of any major issues in the area but didn’t have time to look up a history of complaints. She said city crews responding to flooding over the weekend also are looking out for problems.
The rains hadn’t been heavy enough to flood the street by Saturday afternoon. But English, with an eye toward the dark clouds in the sky, wasn’t confident it would stay that way.
“Something’s telling me it’s going to pour,” she said.