Irmo, SC (Paul Kirby) – Sunday afternoon, eleven people were trapped on Corley Island near Saluda Shoals in the Lower Saluda River after the water rose quickly making getting back to the bank too dangerous to try. The group made their way out to the island by hopping and walking across exposed rocks. When Dominion Energy began flowing water through the Saluda River Hydro plant to generate additional electricity, the level of the river rose quickly submerging the rocks and cutting the people off.
Someone in the group called 911 and the Irmo Fire District was dispatched with their swift water boat and team. They responded to Saluda Shoals Park on their side of the river and requested that Lexington County dispatch their boat and team to the opposite bank. After a quick recon run, the Irmo firefighters were able to ferry all eleven back to safety. None were injured although at one point a Lexington County EMS unit was dispatched just in case something disastrous did occur.
The Midlands three rivers, the Broad, the Lower Saluda, and the Congaree, are all beautiful and an asset to the area. They draw thousand of people annually to walk their banks, swim, canoe, kayak, fish, and enjoy the water in other ways. They can also be very dangerous. The waters rise quickly when Dominion, the company that controls the Saluda Hydro Plant located behind the Lake Murray Dam, begins to release water from the lake. The water temperature also drops dramatically as the waters come from the depths of the lake, not near the surface. The flow through the plant is measured in CFS, or cubic feet per second. During times when more electricity is required, days like Sunday when air conditioners are working double duty, the CFS increases, and the Saluda and Congaree’s waters rise quickly.
There are several ways that the utility company notifies people when the waters are about to rise. On some portions of the river, there are loud sirens that blare and flashing red lights. There are also water level poles in areas with blue marks for normal levels, and red for high water. You can even sign up for notifications by phone that let you know if the flow through the plant is about to increase. The day’s projected levels are on a website and the sign up for the phone notifications are there too. Check those projected flows and enroll for phone notifications at www.sceg.com/about-us/lower-saluda-river before you enjoy the rivers.
In any case, if you are going to the rivers on any given day, you should exercise extreme caution and heed any warnings that water is about to rise. You should also use personal flotation devices just in case. If you do so, you can certainly have the time of your life. If you don’t, it’s possible you could lose your life. It has happened many times before.