Latest: Scenes from around Columbia, Lexington

From staff reports

Gills Creek Flooding

Flooding on Gills Creek
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Flooding on Gills Creek

12:35 p.m. update

Roughly eight buildings had floodwaters at Hampton Park Apartments, behind Midlands Technical College near Rosewood Drive.

Some residents were being rescued in canoes.

Buses appeared headed toward that area to get people out.

11:55 a.m. update

Residents in the 3500 block of Heyward Street in the Shandon neighborhood found their street turned into a small pond, lapping at the front steps of two homes and flooding the front yards of other houses.

"I woke up and saw a trash can floating down the street," homeowner Chris Harrell said. "That's when it knew the rain was heavier than we expected."

11:50 a.m. update

Main Street in downtown Lexington remains closed after the earthen dam at the Old Mill Pond ruptured shortly before dawn Sunday, officials said.

The privately owned pond adjoining a former textile mill turned shopping mall had been drawn down 21 feet as a precaution but the failure of two smaller pond dams upstream on 12 Mile Creek put too much water in it, Mayor Steve MacDougall said.

"This was unavoidable," he said. Three families were evacuated safely while a distillery at its base was heavily damaged, he said.

11:20 a.m. update

Richland County declared a state of emergency.

“This (rain) event endangers lives and property in Richland County due to the potential for flash flooding, long term flooding, downed trees and power lines and other emergency situations,” Richland County Council Chairman Torrey Rush said. “Richland County has opened the emergency operations center and has implemented the emergency operations plan.”

The declaration allows the county to seek assistance from the State Emergency Management Division and use emergency procurement policies to purchase equipment and supplies.

11:10 a.m. update

South Carolina Electric and Gas was reporting more than 4,200 power outages among its more than 158,000 customers in Richland County Sunday morning.

More than 7,400 SCE&G customers statewide were without power Sunday morning as of 11 a.m.

Lexington County customers were reporting more than 900 outages.

Eric Boomhower, an SCE&G spokesman, emphasized safety and patience as the state endures this unprecedented weather event.

The saturated ground is causing trees to fall on power lines in some areas, Boomhower said. The utility also has a great deal of underground infrastructure that is designed to wether exposure to the elements, Boomhower said. But having never seen rain of this amount, officials cannot know what if any effect there may be on the underground infrastructure.

To put this weekend's outages in perspective, in 2014, SCE&G reported some 150,000 customers without at one point during an ice storm.

Relatively speaking, Boomhower said, a small number of customers have lost power at this point. But with the safety of its restoration crews in mind, SCE&G may not be able to restore power in some areas for a while until it is safe for the crews to enter. Boomhower could not offer an estimated timeline for power restorations.

10:10 a.m. Update

Kitty Weiland, a resident of the Lake Katherine area, said neighbors are using jon boats to rescue other neighbors trapped by flooding. Weiland said several people who took kayaks out in an attempt to help had to be rescued themselves because the current from rising water was too swift.

Weiland said her home is on a hill and her family is safe, but water down hill has cut off their section of the neighborhood. She said a childrens swing set, trash cans, porch furniture and other items from homes were washing down some flooded streets in the area near Shady Lane and Woodlake.

"I just saw a family two doors down from a stop sign, with two little babies, they were just rescued,'' Weiland said. "They are at a neighbors house now.''

She said some in her community were getting ready for church this morning and realized the severity of the problem. She said neighbors are doing their best to help each other.

"We walked down the hill and said 'Oh my gosh, this is a catastrophe, we've got to pitch in and help,' '' she said, noting that people are preparing to feed displaced neighbors and take them into their homes.

Weiland said the flooding reminded her of images from Hurricane Hugo in 1989, in which people were getting around Lowcountry streets in boats.

10 a.m. Update

Road closures in Lexington reported by Lexington Police Department:

4500 Block of Sunset Blvd.

East Main Street at Taylor Street

Industrial Road at Wildlife Road

Railroad Avenue at Swartz Road

Gibson Road at Gibson Pond

Old Chapin Road at Reed Avenue

9:15 a.m. Update

At least three dams had failed in Richland County by 9 a.m. The Forest Lake, Arcadia Lake and Lake Dogwood dams had been affected by rising waters that were creating pressure, Columbia Fire Department spokesman Brick Lewis said.

"If you can get out to higher ground, we urge everyone to do that at this time," Lewis said.

Lewis did not know of any injuries related to broken dams, but said the department was generally busy helping people trapped in homes and cars across town. The first dam breaks were reported after dawn.

"The rainfall totals that have come in are causing the waters of these lakes to flow over the dams and just give way,"" he said. "It is putting pressure on the dams."

The ponds in the Whitehall subdivision off St. Andrews Road have spilled over to homes along Brookshire Drive, one of the primary roads in Whitehall.

Flood waters tore through Five Points and near the University of South Carolina campus overnight, but the water had begun to recede by dawn.

At about 7:30 a.m., streets appeared passable in Five Points, but sewage was overflowing from manholes. At the bottom of Whaley Street, Rocky Branch continued to rage, although a worker at a nearby convenience store said the flooding was much worse about two hours earlier.

One woman's car was stuck at the bottom of Whaley just after dawn. She was seeking help, but was not in danger.

8:35 a.m. update

The Old Mill Pond in the center of downtown Lexington has overflowed and led to evacuations of homes along 12-Mile Creek.

“Our dirt roads have become drainage ditches,” Lexington County Administrator Joe Mergo said, “We have never seen rain like this in my 22 years .”

Lexington police said Lexington Leisure Center at 108 Park Road has been set up as an evacuation shleter.

8:20 a.m. update

In Irmo, rescue officials have been busy.

"We have been running multiple rescue calls since before 5 this morning,”said Jeff Allen, chief fire marshal. “Too numerous to list right now....still in active operations. We are closing multiple roads as we speak. Huge message needs to go out to all

citizens to stay off the roadways."

Portions of I-77 and I-20 around Columbia are closed off due to standing water, the S.C. Highway Patrol reported shortly before 8 a.m. Sunday.

The stretches of I-77 that are closed off are roughly between mile marker 10 and mile marker 13, between Garners Ferry Road and Ft. Jackson Boulevard, as well as a section near the Decker Boulevard exit.

The water is on both the north and southbound directions of I-77, said trooper David Jones, who is monitoring conditions in the Midlands from the state Emergency Management Center in Lexington County.

Also, a stretch of I-20 near the 73 mile marker has also been closed, Jones said.

"Don't even attempt to travel," Jones advised shortly before 8 a.m. "You just need to stay off the road."

Jones said he has seen people traveling this morning just to go to a convenience store to get a cup of coffee.

"Those people may be endangering first responders' lives," Jones said. "This is an emergency situation."

7:50 a.m. update

Between 3:30 am and 7:30 am Sunday, the Columbia Fire Department had rescued people in at least 50 vehicles throughout the capital city.

With the heavy rains continuing, fire department spokesman Brick Lewis said the city was advising people to stay indoors.

"Stay home and do not go to church," said Lewis, adding some churches had also called off services.

One church that did cancel its Sunday worship was the Downtown Church on low-lying Whaley Street in the Olympia section of town near the University of South Carolina baseball stadium,

"We couldn't find Noah's Ark in time. So, church is cancelled this morning. Stay safe, and we'll see you next Sunday."

Harvest Church also announced it would close all its campuses today in Lexington, Whiteford and Northeast.

Shandon Presbyterian Church cancelled its services and activities.

Lewis said flooding is widespread in Columbia.

The vehicle rescues have taken place in the Olympia and Whaley Street areas, at Washington and Main, on Ft. Jackson Boulevard and in the vicinity of the Forest Drive and Trenholm Road intersection.

There was one bright spot to all the rain.

"Thankfully, we have had no fires," Lewis said.

The wastewater treatment plant operated by Palmetto Wastewater Reclamation, off Bush River Road near the intersection of I-20 and I-26 has become flooded. The treatment plant may not be able to resume operation for as long as a week and PWR and DHEC are asking Alpine and Woodland residents to limit water use until the plant is repaired.

7 a.m. update

The worst of the storm is expected to reach state across by Sunday afternoon, the S.C. emergency officials said.

Tweets about the storm

The storm dumped more than a foot of rain in a swath from Charleston to Columbia in the past 24 hours.

The band of the worst rain is heading toward Greenville and the Upstate, said Derrec Becker, a spokesman for the S.C. Emergency Management Division.

That does not mean conditions have improved on the coast. Emergency officials are concerned about flooding getting worse at high tide at 2 p.m.

The S.C. National Guard has activated another 300 service members, bringing the total to about 500, Becker said.

South Carolina has requested other states send swift-water rescue teams.

Nine teams are coming from states including West Virginia and Tennessee, Becker said. The Federal Emergency Management Administration is sending two rescue teams. South Carolina has eight rescue teams.

6:30 a.m. update

The Newberry Sheriff's Department advised residents to shelter in place and warned that water on roads made driving hazardous.

"People that live near creeks should be very aware of rising water and be prepared to evacuate. Due to saturated ground, trees are falling. In addition to water on the road there is debris from falling limbs and trees. If you do not have to travel, please stay home. Driving is extremely hazardous. As of 0640 meteorologists are expecting up to four more hours of heavy rain," the department said.

The Irmo Fire department issued a bulletin advising residents to shelter in place due to rissing water.

The bulletin said: “Water levels are rising and emergency crews are unable to access all areas as quickly as we normally would. Unless there is a life threatening event please go to a second floor/higher area in the home and shelter in place. Emergency crews are becoming overwhelmed with requests to evacuate and most requests are due to water levels that are not life threatening at this time. If that changes, emergency crews will respond accordingly.

If there is a life threatening emergency do not hesitate to contact 911 and emergency crews will respond as quickly as possible to assist.”

The city of Columbia reports a sewer overflow at 1000 Garden Valley Lane in Lexington County. According to the city, “Extended Wet weather conditions have led to the overflow situation at the City Pump Station and has potentially entered an unnamed tributary leading to the Saluda River but cannot be confirmed due to flooding in the area.” Call 545-3300 for more information.

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