The Daily Gamecock

Flood damages cars, buildings

Power outages, clean up efforts dominate Monday

Sunday's flash flood led to numerous power outages and wet carpets on campus Monday morning, but according to USC officials there was little actual damage to buildings.

Exact damage estimates were not available late Monday, but the impact on USC's facilities seems to have largely subsided with the water. For students' cars, it was a different story.

Lauren Malstrom, a third-year retail student, said her Honda Accord was one of six cars mired in a parking lot-turned-lake behind Olympia Mills Apartments Sunday.

"My car was completely underwater yesterday," Malstrom said. "My parents were here — they went outside and all they could see was the antenna."

Colleen Daly, a second-year English student, parked her two-month-old Mazda 3 at the Blatt Physical Education Center for lifeguard training and came out of the gym 30 minutes later.

"There were 6 inches of standing water in the back of my car," Daly said.

Daly said the water was so high it prevented her from opening her car door without more pouring in. She said the flood didn't harm her engine, but her car will likely need new upholstery and the damage totaled more than $300.

USC spokeswoman Margaret Lamb said a circuit on campus went down from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. and affected thousands of students. The whole Horseshoe lost power, along with the Russell House, Bull Street Garage, the James F. Byrnes Building, Wardlaw College, Patterson Hall, South Tower, Preston College and Sims.

Flooding was reported in the lower levels of the Public Health Research Center, the Jones Physical Science Building and Thomas Cooper Library. The scanner and printers in the library's bottom floor computer lab were moved elsewhere as a precaution.

The open bottom level of the business school parking lot still held a foot of water Monday afternoon. Ben Urbates, who was among the USC facilities employees pumping the water out, estimated that the job would take more than seven hours.

"This is our version of swamp people," Urbates said as another employee trudged through the brown water of the lot, which still held a student's car.
Debbie Brumbaugh, chief financial officer for the business school, said water covered the floor and staircases of the basement but did not damage any classrooms. That water has been removed.

"We were very fortunate that water did not enter the building," Brumbaugh said. "We fared very well, so we're okay."

Housing Director Kirsten Kennedy wrote in an email response that maintenance was called 46 times Sunday night. On Monday morning, Housing had reports of water in Capstone, Maxcy, Patterson, Bates House, Bates West, McBryde and South Tower.

"There may have been more that didn't make the report because of the sheer number of calls," Kennedy wrote.

Steam was billowing from the pedestrian bridge over Blossom Monday morning as a result of the flood.

"Those normally happen when the steam lines are exposed to water," Facilities Director Tom Quasney wrote in an e-mail response. "When it fills up with water, the steam line evaporates the water and steam comes out of the manhole cover. We have to pump the water out of those too."

The only actual damage Lamb cited was to the Rocky Branch Creek fence on Wheat Street, which was toppled by debris when the creek overflowed.

Eric Grabski, associate director of USC's Division of Law Enforcement and Safety, said USCPD still hadn't received any injury reports by late Monday.

Jennifer Timmons, public information officer for the Columbia Police Department, did not have full accident or injury reports available late Monday.

One officer's patrol car was damaged by flood waters as he attempted to help a stranded motorist on Harden Street in Five Points, Timmons said.

Carolina Alert notified students of the flash flood around 6 p.m. Monday but did not send out text messages. Grabski said the university decided not to send out texts because they are reserved for the most serious threats that "present an ongoing threat to life safety," and because officers had blocked off the dangerous streets by 6 p.m.

Several businesses on Saluda Avenue in Five Points were affected by the flooding — the rank smell of still-soaked carpets filled shops Monday afternoon.
Dean Ellison, 80, owner of Gentleman's Closet, said he was used to the floods.

"This is the seventh or eighth time [it has flooded] in the last 12 years," Ellison said.

The phone rang and he put the interview on hold to answer it.

"Yes, sir, I'm swimming," he said jokingly on the phone. "I'm doing backstrokes in the store."

Ellison said the water reached about 4 inches in his store.

"It's nasty," he said referring to the dank carpet, which he said he'd been spraying with Lysol all day. "You can still smell it."

Loose Lucy's soaked carpet had the same the rancid odor, but the smell was cut by the aroma of incense sold in the shop. Jenn McCallister, who owns the store with her husband Don McCallister, said the flood was inconvenient, but that it hadn't deterred customers.

"We had people come in early today," Jenn McCallister said. "We had our doors open, trying to air the shop out, and people walked in and we had to tell them to give us 30 minutes."

In past years, floods have cost Loose Lucy's up to $1,500. McCallister said she hopes this year will be less expensive, since the shop was able to respond in the first three hours of the flood, and get much of the water out before widespread damage was done. The store had nine dehumidifiers drying out the carpet Monday afternoon.

"Ultimately, the cost ends up being the cleanup," she said. "That's where the expense comes."

Shawn Smith, a National Weather Service Meteorologist, said there would be no doubt that more flooding would occur if another slow-moving storm tracked over campus. He said the more than 1.2 inches of rain within less than an hour is enough to cause flooding.

Malstrome hopes that doesn't happen.

"The insurance people are coming out tomorrow," Malstrome said. "Hopefully it won't rain tonight."

Derek Legette and Parker Jennette contributed reporting.