BRANCHVILLE -- Branchville resident Jan Smith stood at the foot of South River Road, staring down a long stretch of water.

She and her husband, Greg, live about two miles down the dirt road. The Edisto River claimed the passage by Tuesday afternoon, placing it under at least two feet of water.

"I have animals down there I have to go get," Smith said. "I have to get them somehow."

Her six dogs and a billy goat are like family.

"Material things can be replaced," she said. "My animals are my number one priority. I want to make sure they are OK."

Since traveling by vehicle was just too treacherous, Smith was awaiting her husband and friends, who were trying to get a boat and four-wheelers.

The Smiths, who live close to where the North Fork of the Edisto River merges with the South Fork, left for work Tuesday morning with water covering the lower level of the family's deck in the backyard.

"I really did not panic yet, because I was always told our house was OK even when it flooded," she said. "I did not panic until this morning. I was getting a little panicky when I was coming out of the dirt road and saw how high it was on my car."

Jan was unsure of what she would find when she got to the house.

"The main thing is the road is washing away," she said. "They (DNR) are recommending that we not go down the road because of it washing away. They said whatever we are going to do, we need to do it fast.

“They say the river was rising and that it was rising fast."

About eight houses are located on the road, with most evacuated by Tuesday afternoon. An elderly man had to be rescued by boat from his flooding house.

"There is so much water running into the river down from Orangeburg. The headwaters and waters above it can't take it,” Orangeburg County Fire Systems Coordinator Gene Ball said.

The Branchville Fire Department, the county's Emergency Operations Center and the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources responded to the scene earlier in the day to conduct a water rescue.

Smith said her house, which she has lived in for the past eight years, is raised and one of the higher houses on the street.

"About 20 years ago, it flooded down here and it actually went into homes," she said. "They had to go through homes by boat to cut electricity off. It has not done that since then."

Due to its elevation, her home at that time was the only one not too flooded.

Smith does not know when she will be able to get back home.

"I think some repairs will have to be done to the dirt road," she said.

Smith also realizes that compared to people in Columbia she is blessed.

"We are not without power. We have drinking water," she said.

It took two hours for the Smiths to gather the animals and bring them to safety. As of late Tuesday afternoon, water had yet to enter the house.

Despite the flooding threat, Jan says she loves living on the river.

"I would take nothing for it," she said. "I just love the outdoors and I love the Edisto River. It is the best thing I have ever done."

Contact the writer: gzaleski@timesanddemocrat.com or 803-533-5551. Check out Zaleski on Twitter at @ZaleskiTD.

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Business Reporter

Gene Zaleski is a reporter/staff writer with The Times and Democrat.

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