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Imagine coming home to find your basement look more like a swimming pool.
This was the case for Lancaster resident Karen Ormand when she got back to her West Barr Street house just after 6 p.m. Thursday, July 11.
The heavy rainfall that day did a number on her basement, which is on the higher end of a slope. Because the ground outside couldn’t absorb all the precipitation, the water found its way indoors.
The site was unwelcoming.
“I opened the door and it was like we had an inside swimming pool,” she said. “I was freaking out.”
Ormand’s dilemma was among the tales from Thursday, which marked the 18th straight day of rain in Lancaster County. As residents dealt with the inconvenience, emergency personnel advised the public to take precaution during these periods of heavy rainfall.
Dealing with the water
Ormand uses her basement mainly for storage and as the laundry room. When she went down there, she realized the high water had lifted containers and spilled their contents.
Home décor and other items were immersed in the water. After moving all the items out, she measured the water level.
“There’s no fun in going home and having 9 inches of water in your house,” Ormand said.
By Friday morning, most of the water had drained out, though plenty of areas in the basement needed to be dried with a “wet vac.”
While Ormand was dealing with her basement issue Thursday, safety officials were on stand-by in case of any water-related emergencies.
Lancaster Fire Chief Chuck Small said there were a few incidents of motorists trying to drive through high water.
One driver, who was on Canterbury Drive near S.C. 9 Bypass, had to leave his or her car because it couldn’t make it through the water. Small said a tow truck was later called to haul it away.
Though the driver wasn’t harmed, the car suffered damage, Small said.
City police officers, county deputies and members of S.C. State Guard were busy during the torrential downpour placing temporary barriers along flooding streets and rerouting motorists throughout much of the evening.
Firefighters also came out to the area along Conner Street to speak with children about the potential dangers of high water. They had been outside playing in it moments beforehand.
“We have to educate them that swift water moving will take them away,” Small said. “It’s not like a pool.”
His advice extends to older residents, as well.
“Take the water seriously,” Small said. “Don’t ever try to drive through any water you’re unsure of.”
Managing lake levels
On Thursday night, Rick Jiran, district manager for Duke Energy, spoke of the high water levels at nearby Lake Wateree.
Duke Energy, which manages Lake Wateree, will spill the lake for several days in an effort to move water through its system.
“We have been working to reduce lake levels, which have been ranging from near full pond to as much as 2 and a half feet about full pond in recent weeks,” Jiran said.
He advised boaters to slow down and use caution, as the high waters can lead to submerged and floating debris and increased shoreline erosion.
“Flowing spillways at dams can be beautiful to look at, but the water immediately above and below them is treacherous,” Jiran said. “We remind the public to heed warning signs posted near dangerous areas and avoid boating and swimming in these areas.”
Mike Proud, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said unofficial reports show as much as 2.66 inches or rainfall in Lancaster County on Thursday.
On Friday, he said that rain was forecast through the rest of the weekend for the county. There’s a 40 percent chance of rain for Monday. Residents may not get any relief until Tuesday and Wednesday, as both days have about a 20 percent chance of rain, Proud said.
“People are still going to need to be aware of what’s going on,” he said. “Flooding could be a real issue.”
Contact reporter Jesef Williams at (803) 283-1152