Heavy rains that have pushed the Edisto River well past flood stage have transformed the tranquil waterway from friend to dangerous foe for the Laban family.
Because of the situation, Jeannine Laban bought sandbags Thursday to protect a water pump and a heating and air conditioning unit, both of which sit on ground level at the Labans' elevated Parkers Ferry Road home near Ravenel.
Rising water has covered a 400-foot-long boardwalk that connects their 3,100-square-foot house to the waterfront. The river has covered their vegetable garden and reached the back steps. Minnows swim near their trampoline that sits in a shallow pond. A hammock and picnic table are surrounded by water. Debris floats in a storage shed.
“The river has never come this high. I just feel bad for the kids, because the river is so much fun,” she said.
The Labans are not alone.
Edisto riverfront communities in Dorchester and Colleton counties are reporting similar problems because of the worst flooding in 40 years.
“A lot of roads are under water,” said Ridgeville resident Steve Dowdey.
The National Weather Service on Thursday reported major flooding in the Canadys area, with damage to homes and cabins between Canadys and Norman Landing.
The river flooding is attributed to record rainfall that has swamped some crops, kept mosquito-control folks busy and created a headache for gardeners battling plant diseases associated with the moisture.
The Weather Service reported at its website that through July 14 the rainfall recorded in the Charleston area was 15 inches above normal.
If there is any good news for river dwellers, it is that the worst appears to be over. The U.S. Geological Survey dispatched a technician Thursday, who reported that he thought the river was at its crest, said John Shelton, assistant director for the agency in South Carolina.
“That's with the caveat of no additional rain,” Shelton said.
The Weather Service is forecasting widely scattered showers for the next few days. In other words, don't expect heavy rain, but don't look for a spell of dry weather either, said forecaster Vern Beaver.
Beaver said the Edisto flooding should recede soon.
“The river is forecast to stay pretty much where it's at and then begin a slow fall,” Beaver said.
At its website, the Weather Service shows the river cresting at 14.2 feet Thursday, then dropping to just below 13 feet by Tuesday.
That ebb can't come soon enough for Laban, a teacher at Ashley River Creative Arts Elementary School, and her husband Joe, who does landscaping for TV shows such as “Army Wives” and “Reckless.”
The driveway to their home is flooded, so the family uses the entrance to her late mother's home, then walks two houses down, she said.
“My husband swears that it's peaking and it should start receding, but who knows?” she said.
She said their four children like to go tubing down the river from Martins Landing, but that spot is now underwater. The river is so swift and dangerous that the normally two-hour trip takes only 20 minutes, she said.
Officials are advising people to stay out of the Edisto because of the flooding, which has also been reported on the Little Pee Dee River at Galivants Ferry, the Santee River at Jamestown and the Black River at Kingstree.
State-owned utility Santee Cooper said Thursday that because the heavy rains have let up some it was reducing the flow from Lake Marion into the Santee River by lowering the flood gates some. The flow was reduced from 225,000 gallons per second to 150,000 gallons per second.
“Although the lake flows remain above normal, they are tapering off. We will continue to monitor the inflows and adjust our spill accordingly,” the Moncks-Corner-based utility said in a statement.