South Carolina Flood: Dams Breach, People Urged To Move To Higher Ground
South Carolina may be witnessing clear skies after a record-breaking rainfall that caused widespread flooding, but residents still live in fear whether their homes will be washed away after what has been considered as the worst rainfall in a thousand years.
Jim Lehman, a member of the Beaver Dam Lake Owners Association and an area homeowner, said that the past two days have been “very tenuous.”
Cedric Williams, one of the many affected by the massive flooding, could do nothing but watch as the water flowed through his front yard. After a release of water from the Beaver Creek Dam, he was forced to take refuge at a high school east of Columbia. “It’s heart wrenching — I never imagined a flood like this here, in the middle of the state. The sheriff just warned me that if the house isn’t fully flooded yet, it soon will be,” he said, as reported by Los Angeles Times.
Residents living near the Beaver Creek Dam were urged to move to a higher ground. The severe rainfalls resulted in the failure of 14 statewide dams, with 62 more threatening to fail. Widespread water damage as a result of the catastrophe has occurred along the Gills Creek watershed – a 70-mile-long network of streams, ponds and lakes that passes through Columbia, Forest Acres and Arcadia Lakes, and the U.S. Army’s Ft. Jackson.
“We still have to be cautious,” Governor Nikki Haley said. “The next 36 to 48 hours are going to be a time that we need to continue to be careful.” She said the damage was “disturbing,” but did not provide an estimate. Assessments regarding the same were being made by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. “It’s hard to look at the loss we’re going to have,” she said. “This could be any amount of dollars.”
Around 400,000 of South Carolina’s 4.8 million residents were under a boil-water advisory, Jim Beasley, a spokesman for the S.C. Emergency Response Team, said. The Emergency Management Division said that as many as 11 dams have failed since Saturday, while 35 dams were being monitored, as reported by Local 10. The Overcreek Bridge dam in Forest Acres failed and sent a flood of water downstream, resulting in evacuations.
The flooding has caused the deaths of at least 17 people in weather-related incidents.
A dam in Richmond County was allowed to be breached. These breaches were conducted “to prevent a much larger incident and a much larger amount of water escaping from the dam,” emergency management spokesman, Derrec Becker, said. Several of the dams couldn’t contain the amount of water that the weekend’s deluge had brought down. James H. Knapp, a professor of Earth and Ocean Sciences at the University of South Carolina, said, “The failure of dams has been the major part of the issues on this side of town. This has taken most people completely by surprise – there just wasn’t a full appreciation of the vulnerability of these dams before this rain.”
When asked at a news conference whether the governor and state officials had spent enough money on maintaining dam safety, Haley said that the “analysis of this can be done after” the catastrophe passes. Mark Ogden, project manager with the Assn. of State Dam Safety Officials, a nonprofit organization, said that South Carolina was still not as effective in terms of dam safety as other states in the country. Only 63 percent of the inspections for the 180 high hazard dams were reportedly conducted in 2014. “There are certainly areas that South Carolina could improve or take a look at what they could do,” Ogden said. “The state is scheduled to inspect dams at least once every two years. You would expect 100% compliance for high hazard potential dams, but they have fallen far short of that. These are good people doing the best job they can, but they could use additional resources.”