The Great South Carolina Flood of 2015

It’s not every day that your home state gets flooded by a 1,000-year storm.

When Hurricane Joaquin and a few other systems converged to dump 3 or 4 months of rain on South Carolina in one weekend, the images of flood damage started pouring in. I would repost these on social media, mostly to let folks outside of SC (including old friends and classmates who were from there) know that something really serious was happening in the home state. After doing this a dozen times, I decided to organize the photos on a map:

SC Flood Map

Map of Images from Social Media Concerning the South Carolina Flood of 2015

I started the map mostly for my own benefit, but then made it public, figuring others might like to see it, and many did:

USA Metro Areas Viewing the SC Flood Map

MSAs Visiting My Flood Map


I continued to add links to the map.  After adding 100 or so of these images (and videos) , a few things jumped out at me:

1. Most of the Coastal Areas Flooded Badly

Charleston flooding is not news (because it happens so often), but the difference is how much of the coast was flooded — a huge swath of coastal area – the Charleston/Summerville area, Georgetown, Conway, Myrtle Beach — even up into Calabash and other North Carolina towns. (The southern coast, around Hilton Head Island, was spared.)  If this and nothing else happened, we’d have a major news story on our hands.

2. The Areas in and around Columbia Flooded Badly

SCFloodMap-Lakes-eci
Flooding was especially striking around the series of lakes just west of I-77. The lakes overflowed, and many dams failed. Look at the map at the houses (mansions, even) around Lake Katherine, Forest Acres, Arcadia Lakes, and in the King’s Grant neighborhood. I later saw photos of the interiors of some of these houses — living rooms with at least five feet of standing water.

Dramatic photos appeared from south of these lakes, where their water flows through Gill’s Creek — the intersection of where Rosewood Drive ends and Devine St. turns into Garner’s Ferry Rd. (An intersection, I’ve traversed thousands of times.) A pet store flooded, resulting in the loss of several small animals (thankfully, at least the dogs and cats were evacuated.) A building with an income tax service was completely demolished.

The canal downtown gave way, which severely impacted the system’s clean water supply.

The damage extended west into Lexington County. The Old Mill dam, near downtown gave way. Across the county, Saluda Shoals Park was completely submerged.

People were rescued from floodwaters by attorneys and even by the cross of Jesus.

3. Areas East of Columbia, All the Way into the Pee Dee, Flooded Badly.

A common scene on my virtual tour of the devastation was where a creek had completely washed out a roadBridges were wrecked everywhere.

Big Rig Stuck on Bridge

Big Rig Stuck on Bridge

If the town had a lake, it typically would be surrounded by city blocks of (rushing, then standing) water, such as near Swan Lake in Sumter.

(I’m still learning about other areas in the state: For example, I just learned that Newberry County has closed 30 bridges because of the storm.)

As of tonight, I’ve added 288 pushpins, each with a link to an image or video from a public news or social-media source. I spent most of my life in SC, and still visit regularly, so most of those images represent somewhere I have visited, especially in Columbia, Sumter, and Charleston. Putting this map together served as quite the bittersweet virtual homecoming virtual tour… I still have trouble digesting how widespread the damage is. This ranks near Hurricane Hugo, especially in some of the more severely affected areas.

The Aftermath

Many were spared significant flood damage; however, many lost a lot. Several died in the flooding, so their friends and families are in mourning. Others had their houses flooded, and they are sorting through what’s left of their water-soaked possessions.

An army of police, fire, EMS, National Guard, Coast Guard, and utility company folks; civil engineering types; and others have been out in the weather making order out of this chaos.  The government types have been governing, and the media – local and national – have been telling the story (albeit we’re not the national lead story anymore).

The organized charities are kicking into gear, and many others are volunteering and finding ways to help out. People are trucking water into Columbia. Benefit concerts are being organized.

South Carolinians are a resilient bunch: “while they breathe, they hope….”

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