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Storms tries to drown county in a deluge of pounding rain

Lexington, SC (Paul Kirby) Storms slammed into Lexington County again Wednesday with hail, gust of high winds, and an enormous amount of rain yesterday afternoon in a weather event like most don’t want to see again ever. The skies darkened, and when they opened around 1 p.m., they released a fury that literally grew in intensity until Mother Nature tried to drown our county!

In all fairness, it could have been a lot worse. The National Weather Service began their alerts around us to our north and west in Newberry, Saluda, and Aiken Counties. Predictably, some of the first areas of Lexington County to see action were Batesburg / Leesville and the Samaria area.

The county’s emergency services quickly went into storm mode. This reduces the amount of equipment first dispatched to an automatic alarm call, drops the use of the ID tones that open each station’s pagers, and causes everyone working in emergency response to constantly monitor the dispatch channels. That allows telecommunicators to handle and dispatch calls more quickly.

In covering the county live on the Lexington Ledger’s social media feed, our strongest weather, and with it the most danger for the most people, seemed to be from the heavy rains. Eventually, those appeared to run in a line running south and north that covered almost the entire county.

The front edge of the storm seemed to contain the most hail. That fell in Batesburg / Leesville and its surrounding areas first, and then quickly moved east toward Gilbert, Boiling Springs, and Red Bank. The Ledger crew first encountered it on Calks Ferry Road near Boiling Springs United Method Church. It was pea-sized, and pinged off the car’s hood and windshield.

With it, buckets of rain seemed to fall all at once. That’s when the town of Lexington seemed to be getting a beating from the rains that ended up with a water rescue call near Fatz Café on East Main Street, and ditch banks overflowing that began to immediately cause ponding in the streets.

There was some lightning associated with the rains, but not as much as I expected. Fire, and other emergency services seemed to pick up with the automatic fire alarms, some lightning strikes to homes and businesses; but for the most part, those were nothing like we have seen with past intense spring and summer storms.

There were some strong winds associated weather yesterday, but nothing like the sustained, howling winds we sometimes see when other summer storms and hurricanes blows through. The gusts toppled some trees; however, the ones that many of us saw on the roads and in yards were for the most part hardwoods that seemed to have blown over. South and east of I-20 a few were broken off, but most looked as if their roots had let go because of the rain saturated ground.

The wind gusts did damage some things around the county. A part of the golden arches from the McDonalds sign in Three Fountains ended up hanging from the powerlines off a utility pole nearby. What seemed like an old, perhaps abandoned mobile home, lost its roof near Gilbert and at least a part of that ended up on some powerlines as well.

The fire service had one fire near Swansea that sounded as if it may have been an old doublewide down Sonny Boy Poole Road. Callers reported they thought that no one had been living in it and it was inaccessible. It sounded as if the firefighters had to hike in to even find it. When one member of the crew finally got on the scene, he reported that it had already burned to the ground and apparently had no chance of spreading. Most of the equipment enroute to that was released for other calls even before they arrived on location.

Another structure fire was on Southall Road in the Lloydwood subdivision off Charleston Highway near the SC Farmer’s Market. Because the county’s resources were committed, Cayce DPS responded into the county, but the Ledger crew actually arrived first and watched the firefighters pull up. There was nothing showing when any of us arrived and that scene was cleared quickly by the responders.

The flooded roads seemed to be the most dangerous part of the storm. Dirt roads deteriorated quickly as they always do. Some had wide washouts, but because the schools had the foresight to close early, and many businesses and non-essential government offices followed suit, most folks were either home, or had the experience and good sense to take it easy on these.

The ditches alongside the secondary roads were quickly overwhelmed. This caused the excess water to begin creeping out into the roads, and in some spots, eventually it made it out all the way to the center lines. We saw this in the Sharpe’s Hill area near Peachtree Rock Road and SC Hwy 6, in spots in Red Bank, and on Nazareth Road also.

Notorious low spots with a history of flooding, quickly did so. This included some streets in Lexington, West Columbia, and Cayce. Knox Abbott Drive was closed from 12th Street all the way to State Street, as were a number of streets and roads in West Columbia. The low spot at Chris Drive and Augusta Road, right at the I-26 interchange, flooded as well. Someone tried to drive through there and the water flooded their car out, stalling it more than tire deep in the water. The occupants were able to escape quickly.

Wrecks happened across the county. As the storms moved east, there were several that seemed to be the most serious.

A crash with possible entrapment came in at Hwy 321 South at Woodtrail in front of the Dogfood Plant in Gaston. Firefighters that had just cleared the Lloydwood fire quickly arrived there and popped the door open, freeing the occupant that was having trouble getting out.

About the same time, two cars collided on Edmund Highway at the entrance to the ramp building at the UPS hub. This is one of the places where we saw major flooding on a larger highway. In this wreck, it appeared as if one of the cars had hit the water in the flood road, shot across the center median / turn lane, and had crossed into on-coming traffic, hitting the other car head on. Here, Battalion Chief #2 arrived on the scene quickly. Firefighters had to cut the critically injured patients from the wreckage before they were rushed to a local medical facility.

A firefighter drove an ambulance in, a sign that the patient is critical enough to require the attention of both members of the EMS crew. There was no update on those patients' conditions as of Thursday morning.

For the most part, we fared well in Lexington County. Most of the fire calls and wrecks seemed to be minor in comparison to storms we have seen in the past. Our dirt roads were in fairly bad shape; however, our county’s Public Works department has proved they’re up to the task of quickly getting them back in decent condition quickly.

Once again, Lexington County’s response to a major weather event was admirable. With the exception of some drivers who seemed to think yesterday was just another commute, most folks hunkered down, were careful, and made it through.

Sherriff Koon and his staff, the county’s Public Safety team public works, and everyone else on government staffs in our cities and towns, acted as we have come to expect. They all worked well together, and got things done when things went a bit wild!

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