About 100 people living along the lower Saluda River were evacuated Monday as water released from Lake Murray upstream spread further into the Pine Glen neighborhood, flooding some homes.
More neighborhoods along the 10-mile stretch of the river might be evacuated as the amount of water released following the heavy rain fluctuates. officials said.
“With a rain of almost epic proportions, nobody knows where all this water is going to go,” Irmo Fire District Chief Mike Sonefeld said.
Firefighters joined Lexington County deputies and state Department of Natural Resources officers in taking residents to safety and shelters, returning afterward to retrieve pets and medicine as needed.
About 80 people went to a shelter at nearby Seven Oaks Park, one of two in the area, officials said.
Amounts released from the 47,500-acre lake vary to balance the influx from rain and swollen streams as far away as the Upstate, South Carolina Electric & Gas Co. spokesman Eric Boomhower said.
“It’s kind of dynamic,” he said. “We adjust it as we need to manage things.”
How long the releases will continue is uncertain, Boomhower said. “People realize this is an unusual time,” he said.
The lake is estimated to hold 763 million gallons of water at the highest level allowed. It remained near that ceiling Monday, according to the U.S Geological Survey.
SCE&G operates the lake originally built for hydropower 85 years ago but now a major source of recreation and drinking water for the Columbia area.
The flooding “is something many of us have never seen,” said County Councilman Phil Yarborough of Irmo. “It’s shocking and people are starting to realize it’s not going to go away anytime soon.”
The evacuation followed others near the river late Sunday as water levels started rising.
Overall, about 100 people were rescued then from part of the Pine Glen neighborhood as well as from flash floods in several neighborhoods in the Irmo and St. Andrews area, Sonefeld said.
Saluda Shoals Park is inundated, making a section of adjacent Bush River Road impassable, he said.
Meanwhile, Gov. Nikki Haley warned against boaters approaching the dam to take pictures.
“That is extremely dangerous,” she said. “I can’t stress enough that this is not a fun event. We don’t want to have to come out and rescue you, and much worse, we don’t want to have you added to this number of fatalities.”
Officials at Santee Cooper downstream announced water also is being released from Lake Marion into the Santee River.
“Santee Cooper’s dams and dikes are secure,” spokeswoman Mollie Gore said. “Spilling is a normal part of Santee Cooper’s hydroelectric operations in periods of increased flows into the lakes.”
Tim Flach: 803-771-8483