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Charleston streets begin to clear, officials clean up overnight flooding

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For the second consecutive day, heavy rain downtown resulted in nuisance flooding of low-lying areas.

The Charleston peninsula had seen more than 5 inches of rain this weekend, according to the National Weather Service.

For most of the day June 13, Charleston County was under a flood advisory. By the afternoon, the water flooding began to recede. 

The city deployed personnel from several departments to help clear the floods and debris in the streets. 

Emergency management officials and the Charleston Police Department reported that Cannon Park and Washington Street are still closed because of flooding. There is also a warning for Harleston Village, which is open but may be impacted by the waters. 

All lanes of the Septima P. Clark Parkway, also known as the Crosstown, are now open. It was closed this morning in both directions because of standing water. 

Light rain will continue to fall across the city today, but additional rainfall amounts will be small, the Weather Service said. The chance of thunderstorms will continue through tonight.

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President Street is flooded in Charleston on Sunday, June 13, 2021. Lauren Petracca/Staff

From the night of June 12 through June 13, there was flooding in downtown Charleston and West Ashley.

“Yesterday’s floods just came down so fast and I don’t think our drains could keep up,” said Matt Alltop, superintendent of environmental services.

Alltop said that trash cans block storm drains during flash floods and could make it more difficult for water to clear from the streets.

“Our goal today is just to clean, clean, clean," he said, "and, to pick up the trash."

Mayor John Tecklenburg advised that residents put their trash cans inside if they think their street would flood. He also advised people to keep their cars from floods when they can.

“Don’t drive through water if you don’t know how deep it is,” Tecklenburg said.

Vehicles are stalled in some areas.

City Emergency Management Director Shannon Scaff said city officials and crews continue to work to protect the life and safety of those in Charleston.

"During these types of events, with high levels of rain and flash flooding, it’s critical that our citizens and visitors avoid all unnecessary travel and never drive through flooded roadways," Scaff said. 

The storms have dropped extremely heavy rainfall from Red Top through West Ashley into portions of James Island and downtown Charleston.

James Island also saw over 5 inches of rain during the event.

West Ashley recorded over 4 inches of rain from storms that began around 6 p.m. June 12. Some parts of Mount Pleasant and North Charleston have seen over 3 inches.

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Thhe intersection of Bennett and Gadsden streets in Charleston is flooded on Sunday, June 13, 2021. Tony Bartelme/Staff

In the Hospital District, at least 5½ inches of rain has fallen since the storm hit, including a 2-inch dump in the morning, according to a weather station on nearby Halsey Street.

With high tide at 10:45 a.m., the floodwater had nowhere to go. A thigh-deep brown soup pooled in spots by the hospitals, as police directed traffic off a normally busy Calhoun Streets into side streets where motorists had few options to avoid deep water.

At the intersection of Gadsden and Bennett streets, motorists abandoned three cars. Other motorists warily approached barricades around the vehicles and decided against trying to push through.

The area has long been flood prone, and the city occasionally stations a portable pump there to whisk water from the basin toward the Ashley, a supplement to the city's aging stormwater tunnels. The city contracts that work, and it is not available on Sunday, officials said. 

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A tow truck plows through floodwaters on Ashley Avenue in Charleston on Sunday, June 12, 20221, hauling a waterlogged police cruiser. Tony Bartelme/Staff

When the storm hit Saturday night, a fierce squall erupted over the Medical District. Within about 30 minutes, the normally bustling hospitals were surrounded by a murky moat.

Weather gauges in the area recorded rainfall rates of more than 6 inches per hour. Motorists scrambled to push through low spots on Calhoun Street. Floodwaters pooled by the entrance to the Medical University Hospital's Emergency Department, stranding at least one car. Fast-moving flows flowed into into nearby Cannon Park, covering nearly half of it at one point.

The residents who have lived down by Colonial Lake had different reactions to the flooding on June 13. Some slept right through the storm, others watched the pools of water that rose above the storm drains.

Yet all the residents who discussed yesterday’s flooding agreed on one point: the flooding down the peninsula is getting worse.

Shirley Gibson, who has lived on Trumbo Street for more than 50 years, thought flooding downtown has increased as the years go by.

“I’ve watched those tides rise up over the years,” Gibson said. “You can’t out beat mother nature.”

Gibson thought flash floods don’t typically happen this early in the hurricane season, which began June 1, and she is worried about the storms that could happen later this year.

“I won’t dare leave town the latter part of August and September,” she said.

Jerry Reddick, who has lived across the street from Gibson since 2009, also worries about the flooding.

“The storms get on my nerves,” Reddick said. “Makes me think about moving. I am thinking about moving right now.”

Tecklenburg said that the Charleston City Plan, which takes into account the city’s urban planning, will be updated this year and will focus on flooding down the peninsula.

“For the first time, we’re taking into account future sea-level rise.”

The comprehensive plan should go to the Charleston City Council in about 30 days, he said.

Glenn Smith and Cleve O'Quinn contributed to this report.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

Reach Tony Bartelme at 843-937-5554. Follow him on Twitter @tbartelme.

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