100615LocalFlooding01LH

Bull Swamp Creek on Tuesday.

LARRY HARDY/T&D

All eyes in The T&D Region were on the Edisto and Congaree rivers Tuesday as flood waters continued to wreak havoc on area roads and homes.

"We have been fortunate that we have not had any injuries or deaths at this point with the flash flooding and the amount of river flooding we have had," Orangeburg County Emergency Services Director Billy Staley said.

"Individuals are encouraged to continue to be alert because road conditions are undetermined at this point,” he said. "Just because there is no water does not mean there has not been any damage to the road.”

Staley urged residents to continue to limit their travel.

Travel was a problem on Tuesday. Water continued to block several roads, including John C. Calhoun Drive at the North Edisto River, which sent drivers on extended routes to reach the city of Orangeburg.

South Carolina Department of Transportation crews spent the day monitoring area roads and bridges.

"The river is the reason we closed them and it will be the reason we will open," SCDOT District 7 Maintenance Engineer David Brandyburg said.

He’s hopeful John C. Calhoun Drive, also known as U.S. 301, will reopen on Wednesday.

“Safety is the first priority,” he said.

Brandyburg said U.S. 301 was closed due to concerns about the bridge crossing the river. Most of the water had receded off the roadway by Tuesday afternoon.

"We want someone to check the bridge prior to opening it back up to traffic," he said. "We are making sure the integrity underneath is OK."

As a result, Staley said motorists can continue to expect heavy traffic for the Wednesday morning commute.

Following days of rain, the North Edisto River crested Monday evening at about 13.64 feet. That’s the highest level the river has reached dating back at least 100 years.

As the sun reappeared, the river had receded to about 12.59 feet Tuesday morning. The forecast is for it to continue to recede, falling near flood stage by Sunday afternoon. Flood stage is 8 feet.

The river flooded a number of roads in The T&D Region and threatened bridges throughout the day. A number of homes in the region have been flooded.

Staley said about three rescues were conducted in the Rowesville and Branchville areas Tuesday. About seven water rescues have been done during the entire duration of the storm.

Culler Pond near North breached its dam but it is not believed to have flooded any homes, Staley said.

Brandyburg said roads have been watched closely.

"We are looking to make sure it does not undermine the shoulders," he said. "Shoulders will be the first thing to go and then it will undermine the entire road."

Brandyburg said on Tuesday a lot of the waters upstream were coming down to Orangeburg and southern portions of The T&D Region into the South Edisto River.

This required the closure of roads farther south, such as River Street in Rowesville and Hudson Road in Branchville.

"Hopefully we will not have to close anymore," he said.

Rumors also began to circulate Tuesday that Shillings Bridge Road and the Interstate 95 bridge over Lake Marion were in danger and would be closed.

Brandyburg said both rumors are false.

"The bridge inspection team says the Interstate 95 bridge is good," Brandyburg said. "It is not swaying. It is passable."

He said the reason I-95 was closed is due to bridges in Clarendon County which took on water. The interstate was partially reopened on Tuesday.

Orangeburg City officials say there is still a lot of water in Edisto Memorial Gardens. The gardens will remain closed until water levels decrease and it is safe to reopen.

Calhoun County

In Calhoun County, Assistant Emergency Management Director David Khojnacki said the Banks Lane area in Sandy Run and the lower part of the county near Stumphole have experienced the heaviest flooding.

He said there were no reports of water actually entering homes through late Tuesday morning. The county has not had any mandatory evacuations.

"The Sandy Run homes on Banks Lane are on stilts, so they are protected," Khojnacki said. "The big concern is if an evacuation is needed, we would not be able to get emergency services to them."

As Tuesday wound down, Emergency Services Director Bill Minikiewicz said the Congaree River appeared to have stabilized.

"We have had two ponds break in the county," Minikiewicz said, noting a fly-over of the county revealed some homes surrounded by water.

He said the ponds were in sparsely populated areas.

"There have been a few homes flooded but not that many really," he said. "We have had a few homes where we checked on people and helped them. I would not call them rescues. They were people who needed help after the storm."

Minikiewicz said in all water response cases, the water never breached homes.

Some people tried to make light of the situation.

"People have been picking up fish and putting them into buckets," he said."I told them to clean the fish and eat them."

Khojnacki said the waters will most likely continue to recede and cleanup will begin.

"We are moving into the recovery stage," Khojnacki said. "The county will start with damage assessment and we will work hard to get the federal disaster declaration and have Calhoun County included in it."

The integrity of roads that have been closed will also be a concern, Khojnacki said.

These include portions of U.S. 601 in the county, as well as S.C. 267, which collapsed due to the water.

Dirt roads such as Calmont Drive in the northern part of the county will also be of concern as many have washed out. Dirt roads are susceptible to washouts due to rain.

Bamberg County

Bamberg County Emergency Services Director Sharon Hammond said there was some flooding by the river, though there were no reports of flood waters breaching any homes or businesses.

"We want them to pay attention to what is going on," Hammond said. Bamberg County encourages individuals to visit the county's website at bambergcountysc.gov.

Bamberg County Officials recommend residents who live “in the known-to-flood or in low-lying areas” along the South Edisto River to voluntarily evacuate their homes. The river at Bamberg was 12.34 feet late Tuesday morning. The flood stage is 16 feet, but low-lying regions were still receiving some flood waters.

Residents who may need shelter assistance have been asked to call 803-245-4313 or 803-245-3000. Information on dirt roads can be obtained by calling 803-245-3000.

The county's roads were also being examined, though a status of the roads early Tuesday afternoon was not available.

Overall, Hammond said the county was spared from Mother Nature's worst.

"God was with us," she said.

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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