Thousands of Columbia-area residents have been pouring into water distribution centers set up around Richland County to find clean drinking water.
Eventually, eight sites were opened. Most were busy, but people were getting water, officials said. One exception was Midland Shopping Center off Two Notch Road, which at lunchtime had no water.
Columbia City Manager Teresa Wilson said Monday that FEMA had to approve each distribution site.
TWO NOTCH ROAD
People who came to the Midland Shopping Center at Two Notch and Convenant roads were dismayed to find no water would be available until late afternoon.
“It’s frustrating to come to this place and the time (of arrival) keeps changing,” said Mary Newkirk of north Columbia.
Newkirk, like others, left to go to another site.
No one there could explain the delay. But Columbia city officials late Tuesday afternoon attributed the problems to a misunderstanding about the start of distribution that occurred on social media.
“There was a miscommunication that got spread,” city spokeswoman Shawna Washington said.
Newkirk said water coming from her faucets is not fit to drink.
Rebecca Blanks decided to remain first in line rather than go elsewhere.
“It’s worth the wait,” she said while sitting in her car reading a Bible and listening to gospel music.
WALMART ON FOREST DRIVE
Free water was welcomed by University of South Carolina graduate student Debra Reisinger after service has been out at her Lower Richland duplex since Sunday.
“I didn’t realize how unprepared I was,” she said. “But I wasn’t flooded out, thank God.”
Water brought in by local churches was suitable for washing up but not for consumption and cooking, she said.
Her neighbor, Sandra Gortman, said the aftermath of the flooding is “so unnerving” because of uncertainty about the safety of water and roads.
Betty Roark of Blythewood dropped off two cases of canned soup to be distributed to shelters and food pantries.
“I wish I could do more,” she said after giving the food to members of Mount Hebron United Methodist Church who came to offer consolation. “I’m giving so little, but I had to do something.”
Members of the West Columbia congregation came to offer support upon request. “It’s trying to help others, showing support,” senior past Rev. Kevin Cooley said.
LOWER RICHLAND HIGH
Lower Richland High School reopened Tuesday after quickly giving out their supply Monday.
“I don’t have no drinking water. I have no water. All the water is out,” said Joe Martin, a lower Richland County resident who joined a long line of people in their vehicles.
“We had some bottled water that my wife bought and I had some water in barrels for the bathroom,” Martin said. But he was down to the last case in his stash.
At least 1,000 people were lined up at the school Monday, although the site didn’t open until 5 p.m. Some people had to be turned away because the water ran out, said William Estep, incident commander for the All Hazards Incident Management Team in Florida, who was in charge of running the Lower Richland site.
When Norman and Erica Cox, Columbia residents, showed up Tuesday, they still had water at home in buckets but none to drink. “I think it’s wonderful how they have pulled up these fresh water sites so quickly,” Norman Cox said, “and the shelters because there are people all over being helped. The state is doing wonderful.”
Nate Merchant, a Hopkins resident and Air Force National Guard member at McEntire Air Force Base, said the response had been good.
“I’ve heard people say in the past, ‘Oh, they’re going to the high-society neighborhoods first and putting us on the back burner,’” he said. “But what I can see so far, they reacted really great for us.”
LANDMARK DRIVE IN FOREST ACRES
Dozens of vehicles snaked through parking lots in hard-hit Forest Acres at midday Tuesday to receive cases of drinking water.
Sophia Johnson came from her home near Benedict College after concluding that boiling water is too difficult to keep up with for her two children.
“It’s definitely a lifesaver,” she said. “The rain has stopped, but the problems it caused areas aren’t over.”
Johnson also called the deluge unimaginable. “I’ve never been anywhere where the sun didn’t shine for five days,” she said.
The water was being distributed at an office complex off Landmark Drive near the intersection of Beltline Boulevard and Trenholm Road.
Jenny Jones came from her home in northeast Richland to get water after searching unsuccessfully in stores and at other distributions sites.
“It’s a blessing,” she said after her family of six lost water at home two days ago.
But that’s an inconvenience compared to the suffering of other people who lost homes in flooding, she said. “I’m totally in shock at what others are going through.”
WATER DISTRIBUTION SITES
Government-run water pick-up sites:
- Columbia Metro Convention Center, 1101 Lincoln St. (closes at 2 p.m. each day)
- Walmart parking lot, 5420 Forest Dr.
- Lower Richland High School, 2615 Lower Richland Blvd.
- 3700 Landmark Dr., near Richland Mall
- A.C. Flora High School, 1 Falcon Dr.
- Gadsden Park Community Center, 1660 S. Goodwin Circle, Gadsden
- Eastover Town Hall, 624 Main St., Eastover
- Former Sam’s Club parking lot, 1401 Sunset Blvd.
All sites with the exception of the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center will be open from 8:30 a.m. until 6:30 p.m. Wednesday.
Each site will be staffed with National Guard soldiers. There will a limited number of bottles per person, according to the city of Columbia.
Source: City of Columbia