Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Flooding in South Carolina

About a fortnight ago our whole town was preparing for rain. And not just a little rain, but the kind of rainstorm they say happens every 500 or 1000 years: 12 inches or more over one weekend. A few parts of the state got more than twice that.

The danger, of course, was flooding, and though the death toll was mercifully low, property damage was extensive. Hundreds of South Carolina dams, bridges, and roads were affected. The city's water system was compromised, some lost power as well, and hundreds of people were temporarily evacuated from their homes.

We live on the campus of a medium-sized Christian university on the edge of town. It's built on a hill and well designed for drainage. There was little to no damage here and we were quite safe and comfortable. Because of our location, however, we don't have many options when it comes to roads that connect with the rest of the world. When a local creek flooded badly, both of the closest currently approaches to the nearest highway were closed.

Getting to a gas station, grocery store, or Interstate means driving 13 miles further out into the country. So, although we're in the city limits, we find ourselves now about an hour's drive from town (and Chris's job) depending on the traffic.

It was unsafe to drive anywhere last Monday and Tuesday, and with Thursday and Friday already off for "fall break," the university decided to close down for the whole week, only opening again this Monday. Most of the staff and faculty, including many who were accustomed to getting here in only minutes, have to drive an hour or more each way just to get to work. The Christian school that shares a campus with us has set up extra school bus runs to collect kids whose parents used to just drop them off here but whose travel patterns are now severely disrupted.

People I've talked to seem surprised that we're so affected by these floods, so I just wanted to explain. Yes, all the water has subsided, and of course much of the city was never under water anyway. But you didn't have to go far to find places that were. Now we're all just dealing with the aftermath, which in some cases is going to take months.

What interests us and the campus community the most is when Monticello and Fairfield roads, the ones that could get us to the closest highway, are likely to open.

Rumors vary. Yesterday the school nurse told me another faculty member had reporting at a meeting hearing that Monticello would be closed not just for a month but for two months. Gulp...

Yet Chris came across a news story last night in which a reporter said, "We spoke to DOT, and it anticipates Monticello will be reopened by next Monday." (The DOT website still says November 6, though, and that's the official line from the school at this point, too.)

Pretty big variance, eh? If the road/bridge there was flooded but not damaged, they just need to do an assessment and reopen it. 30+ crews are out checking and working on roads and opening them as fast as they can safely do so. Reports about Monticello had said they believed the bridge supports were undermined. Maybe that's not true!

Chris is finding the long commute quite trying. When he has a day shift, he has to leave about 7:15am and won't get home until 6:15pm. Since a big part of his job is being an on-call night chaplain, though, he's also expected to be available every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday night to respond to any crises when the day staff isn't in. Since he couldn't get there from home in a timely way this last weekend, that meant leaving the house at 3:30pm on those days, spending the night in his office at the hospital with an air mattress and sleeping bag, and not getting home until 9:30 or so the next morning... before leaving again at 3:30 to get back. He was only called to see one patient during those three nights, but he had to be there.

Looks like we'll have at least one more weekend like that. But maybe several. We hope at least one of the routes that would shorten his route will open up and let him spend the weekends at home.


So there's my flood update. I'll try to write here again soon to share some cultural observations about life in the South and what Chris is encountering as a hospital chaplain here. It is challenging to find time for blogging with both a manuscript and a thesis proposal in the works and due within a week or two of each other, and other writing projects too. But I seem to find time for Facebook, games on my iPad, and watching TV with my husband. So I guess I can't honestly complain that I "don't have time" for more fruitful practices like blogging, journaling, or reading.

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