This time a year ago, South Carolina was hit by a historic and devastating flood that put many local business out of commission and shook the people of Columbia. A year later, the rebuilding process has largely taken its course, though the memory of the crisis still remains fresh.
What was referred to as a once in a 1,000 year rainfall, the flooding broke numerous rainfall records, broke multiple dams, closed roads and lead to 19 fatalities across the state. The historic flooding ended up causing around $12 billion in damages according to a report from The State, putting the damages around $5 billion greater than that caused by Hurricane Hugo in 1989.
Among those affected was the Inakaya Japanese Restaurant that had its building flooded with around four feet of water over the flood weekend. Kazumi Sato, supervisor and daughter of the owner, said that when she arrived the morning following the day the flooding began, all the entrances were either blocked off or underwater.
However, this didn’t stop Sato from investigating further, and she went around and found a way into the store to assess the damages. What she found was the restaurant completely flooded and many kitchen appliances and other valuables filled with water and ruined.
“We have a very expensive Tatami flooring which is custom-made in Japan,” Sato said. “One of those mats cost about $3,000. So all of that was damaged. For reconstruction, we had to take out all the walls. We had to throw away equipment. All the food was gone."
Sato said the restaurant was shut down for about a month and a half.
Sato and the rest of the crew at Inakaya wasted no time before getting started with repairing and restoring their business.
“Starting the next day after the flood we had everybody here, all hands on deck,” Sato said. “We were cleaning, taking out all the equipment, all the trash, washing the floor, pressure washing it.”
Sato said that DHEC came in and told them they weren’t supposed to be in the restaurant cleaning up immediately after the flood. But it was too late: Their team of employees, both old and current, had already cleaned up.
“We have a really good team here,” Sato said. “We’re all family, so when the flood hit everybody came together and helped out.”
The Inakaya Japanese Restaurant was able to bounce back from its damages but it came at a price. Even with insurance, Sato said that they still had to pay a hefty sum in damages, including $60,000 for repairs on the walls.
“We had good people in place and we also had the funds for it, and a lot of people in Columbia aren’t that fortunate,” Sato said.
Sato appreciates the help she received from other people but believes that the state itself left something to be desired.
“I think neighbors help neighbors,” Sato said. “We were helping each other out [and] I think that was awesome, but as far as the state helping us — nothing. I haven’t heard from the state.”
Inakaya was able to open its doors again after the flood, but many Columbia businesses were not fortunate enough to be able to do the same. For every story of rebuilding and success like Inakaya’s that came from the flood, there is another of immense loss and destruction, showing the toll that natural disasters can take on local communities.