COLUMBIA — Tropical Storm Michael downed trees, knocked out power and flooded some neighborhoods and roads across the Columbia-area as the once-powerful storm zipped across the heart of South Carolina on Thursday.
Up to 6 inches of rain fell in parts of the Midlands on Thursday morning, the National Weather Service said. More than 20,000 customers lost power in the Midlands. Flash flood warnings remained in effect much of the day along with the threat of tornadoes.
County and city offices and schools were closed throughout the Columbia region. The University of South Carolina called off classes, and even the S.C. State Fair shut down for the day. Normal operations for offices, schools and the fair should resume Friday.
With so much rain falling quickly, a few Lexington County neighborhoods in and near Irmo flooded in the morning after stormwater drains overflowed near creeks, Lexington County spokesman Harrison Cahill said.
Kinley Creek swelled into the living rooms of at least nine low-lying homes, causing evacuations of 20 people and waist-high flooding in residential streets.
The water swelled above a bridge in the White Hall neighborhood, reached as high as a tire swing in one backyard and flooded a local swim club.
About half a dozen homes were threatened on Broken Hill Road that flanks the creek. Heavy winds also toppled a thick-rooted tree onto a house near Piney Grove Road.
A woman inside the house, who asked to be identified by her first name, Caitlin, said the tree tore through the roof of her bedroom. Luckily, she had moved to the living room after her cat woke her up during the storm.
“If I hadn’t moved, it would have hit me,” she said. “The cat gets tuna for the rest of his life.”
Tami Rhodes-Turner didn’t sleep Wednesday night. Even though she rebuilt her home on Lockner Road to withstand flooding after a house fire in 2010, the creek regularly rises into her backyard during rainstorms.
“Every single time,” she said with a shake of her head.
Her home avoided water damage, but the water rose into the living rooms of three homes on nearby Lockner Circle.
Rhodes-Turner is one homeowner in the area who has requested Lexington County buyout her flood prone home, part of a federal disaster relief program. Since the Columbia area saw historic flooding in 2015, Lexington has already bought out 46 homes countywide. Rhodes-Turner said her and many of her neighbors want the county to do the same for them.
“It’s just really sad,” she said. “It was a really good neighborhood.”
Much of the water flooding the neighborhoods disappeared before noon as the rain subsided.
Rains also spurred flash floods across several roadways, including partially washing out tracks on a rail line west of Columbia on Glenn Road. A train was allowed over the track after inspection crews deemed it safe.
Floodwaters also threatened to block a portion of heavily traveled Two Notch near the popular Village at Sandhill shopping center, the Richland Sheriff's office reported.
A flood warning was issued for the Conagree River, which is expected to approach minor flood stage Sunday, enough to cover some low laying areas including the riverwalk.
Tropical storm-force wind gusts approaching 50 mph pushed over trees, including one that blocked lanes on Interstate 26 near Chapin during the morning commute.
Another tree smashed into a north Columbia home, briefly trapping a man inside who was injured, the Columbia Fire Department said.
Emergency crews had to take Solomon Guinyard out through one of the Randall Avenue house’s windows after his leg was injured by the massive oak tree that splintered the house’s roof, said Hector Benthall, a roommate.
Benthall said he left the house just in time Thursday morning on a trip to see his mother when the tree fell.
“I would have been sitting right there in that living room,” Benthall said, as he inspected the demolished home.
Lexington County emergency management reported 10 homes flooded in the Whitehall neighborhood. Photos from one of our WRN ambassadors https://t.co/oHvfDAuBGz— NWS Columbia (@NWSColumbia) October 11, 2018