Heavy rains and lightning pound Lexington County keeping first responders busy
Lexington County, SC – Heavy afternoon storms pounded many parts of Lexington County Monday afternoon, keeping law enforcement, firefighters, and the county’s EMS units busy as the system dumped torrential rain across the area. Sharp lightning was thought to be the cause of several fires and rescue swimmers had to retrieve at least one individual from a flooded out car as the storms passed by.
Firefighters from most fire stations in the central portion of the county were out on the streets as the calls for service rolled in. The county’s emergency services switched to storm mode to deal with the volume of requests the 911 center was receiving. Storm mode can change the amount of equipment dispatched to each alarm and helps supervisors better manage the increased call volume with the equipment they have available on the street.
The Irmo Fire District responded to several structure fires and alarms in their portion of the county and also had calls to assist the City of Columbia Fire Department. Several Lexington County stations were dispatched in that area also, but were quickly released after it was determined that their resources would not be required to manage the emergencies in the Irmo area.
The first significant call for Lexington County’s firefighters came in around 5 p.m. when a house on Two Notch Road near Kittiwake Drive was apparently struck by lightning. Firefighters from the county’s Pine Grove Station arrived on scene and found smoke coming from the attic area of that home. Hoses were pulled and firefighters extinguished that fire while heavy rains fell.
At approximately the same time, West Columbia’s fire department was responding to several automatic alarms in their area. During this period, the heavy rains overwhelmed the storm drains and flooded out several roads. This was the case in the vicinity of Augusta Road and Cardinal Drive. Eventually, a small car was swept off the road by the rushing waters, causing it to flood out. Its occupant called for help and reported that there was hip deep water in the car. Rescuers arrived on scene, pulling that motorist to safety before leaving the scene in the hands of law enforcement officers.
A similar situation was reported on Hebron Road between Sunset Boulevard and Leaphart Road just west of the Lexington Medical Center. In these cases, roads and storm drains that are well built and well maintained were simply overwhelmed by the amount of rain that fell in a short period of time.
As responders were dealing with these issues another house fire was reported in the Lake Murray area of the county. Firefighters quickly arrived on that scene and began to determine the extent of that fire. Off-duty supervisors returned to the streets to redistribute the fire resources that weren’t already committed to emergencies. At this point, most of the fire equipment and personnel in the central portion of the county were either committed to a call or on stand-by at empty fire stations.
During the height of the storm another house fire was reported in the 500 block of Washboard Road between Pelion and Mack Edisto. The first arriving firefighters reported that the home was fully involved on their arrival.
This is an extremely rural area of the county where there are very few fire hydrants and tanker trucks are needed to supply water to a fire. This takes personnel away from the fire attack as firefighters are committed to driving each of the tankers.
Firefighters from Mack Edisto, Pelion, Sharpe’s Hill, Swansea, Sandy Run, Gaston, and other stations were actively fighting that fire under the command of the battalion chief out of South Congaree. They were assisted by personnel from EMS who were assigned to monitor and rehab the firefighters who were attacking the fire.
There was also a working structure fire during the storms on Raleigh Street in West Columbia. Firefighters from the West Columbia Fire Department were assisted on this fire by units from the City of Columbia fire department. They were committed to this call for some time as they extinguished the blaze and checked for extensions.
Law enforcement officers from various municipalities and the county’s Sheriff’s Department were also working hard during the storms. There were a number of car wrecks, trees, and other types of debris blocking the roads, and traffic lights were malfunctioning in many areas. They were seamlessly integrated into the overall response to the storms by supervisors and dispatchers who have been trained to manage resources in these types of emergencies.
Throughout the night, units continued to be dispatched to alarms in business and homes across the county. Firefighters also returned to several locations to check for rekindles of the fires they had extinguished.
Although resources were challenged by the storms, Lexington County’s emergency services handled all that was thrown at them without failing. Lexington County’s emergency responders, some of the best trained and equipped in the state, were experienced through their actions during the October 2015 floods and had all emergency requests handled into the early morning hours of Tuesday.
Forecasters are calling for continued scattered storms throughout the day Tuesday. Residents are urged to be prepared and take shelter in the event that these bring the heavy rains, sharp lightning, and high winds that yesterday’s storms included.