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Heavy rains, lightning cause flooding, fires

Posted: August 14, 2014 8:13 p.m.
Updated: August 15, 2014 6:00 a.m.
Martin L. Cahn/C-I

Camden Police Department officers just finished putting up these cones to warn off drivers from going through standing water in the right lanes, both northbound and southbound on Broad Street in downtown Camden on Tuesday evening. Flooding also occurred at the intersection of Broad and DeKalb street, one lane of DeKalb Street in front of TD Bank and Laurens Street next to the Camden Archives and Museum.

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At least 3 inches of rain fell in Kershaw County on Tuesday as about an hour-long storm brought heavy rains and frequent lightning strikes. Camden Public Works Director Tom Couch said a rain gauge at the city’s parking lot measured 3.2 inches of rain Tuesday.

“We had tree limbs down here and there and scattered power outages,” Couch said. “The rain also flooded the city lot and inside the public works building.”

By Wednesday morning, everything was dried out, he said.

Camden Police Chief Joe Floyd said that the main intersection of Broad and DeKalb streets flooded during the storm, but that the water quick ran off after the storm passed.

“The drainage system couldn’t clear out the water fast enough because it rained as hard and as long as it did,” Floyd said.

Things could have been worse, though, according to Couch.

“We cleaned out the storm drains ahead of the storm,” Couch said.

Floyd confirmed other spots that flooded included a stretch of DeKalb Street in front of TD Bank just past Lyttleton Street; a portion of Broad Street near Clyburn Lane where officers put up cones to warn drivers away from the right hand lanes in both directions covered with standing water; and Laurens Street alongside the Camden Archives and Museum.

“We block off Laurens Street (there) more often than any other place,” Floyd said. “We almost always go to certain areas because we know they’re going to be flooded.”

Despite the heavy rain, fires broke out thanks to a large number of lightning strikes.

Lugoff Fire-Rescue Chief Dennis Ray said many of his department members were at a funeral home visitation for retired Lugoff Fire Chief Steve McIntyre when the storm hit.

“Tuesday night, a portion of our crews were attending the visitation at Powers Funeral Home for Chief Steve McIntyre,” Ray said. “We provided staff to be with the family during the entire event and provided a fire engine, dressed in funeral skirting, at the funeral home for the entire service. While we were waiting in the line with the rest of our staff in attendance, a severe storm rolled through Elgin and Lugoff with intense cloud-to-ground lightning.

“The crews standing by at our station while we were at the visitation began responding to the calls in Elgin to the Blaney Fire Department as Automatic Aid. Several calls were lightning strikes to homes, some power lines down and smoking, as well as a major warehouse fire on Blaney Road. The warehouse was fully engulfed when crews arrived.”

Ray said his department answered calls within their district and assisted on others in neighboring communities. 

“Our staff at the funeral home had to leave the visitation and respond (with) additional trucks to Elgin as well as calls inside our fire district during the storm,” Ray said. “We ran 11 calls total during the time of the storm within about an hour period. Our calls in Lugoff were limited to power lines down and a transformer hit by lightning.”

The downpour and a lightning strike from Tuesday’s storms kept the Elgin Police Department and the Blaney Fire Department busy following the storms.

The rain fell so quickly that the ground could not adequately absorb it all.

“We had to close off Railroad Avenue for a period of time. The drain just couldn’t handle it. The rain was very heavy on the drainage system and it took 20 minutes after the rain stopped to catch up,” Elgin Police Chief Harold Brown said.

A pine tree struck by lightning caused a fire at a warehouse behind Surry Lane.

There was also residential flooding on Oakland road.

“They’ve had a problem with drainage there and the rain made it worse,” Brown said.

He also said several people reported that their rain gauges indicated that 2.5 to 3 inches of rain fell in 45 minutes during the night of the storm.

Another lightning strike was reported just outside of Elgin at Stratford plantation.

Kershaw County Fire Marshal and Emergency Services Director Gene Faulkenberry said it was a busy evening county wide.

“We had a lot of calls in West Wateree and Elgin on lightning strikes. It burnt a warehouse down. After the storm got through there we had a lightning strike in Cassatt. We had some flooding in Camden along Broad Street,” Faulkenberry said. “We had three to four inches of rain in a short time and the drains just couldn’t take it. There was an accident up on Highway 97 caused by the water. It was numerous calls at the same time but we handled everything fine. Nobody got hurt and everybody went home safe.”

It’s unclear whether lightning was the cause of a fire at the administrative offices of River Church. The church meets at Camden High School each Sunday, but housed its offices in a former dance studio on Battleship Road. Camden Fire Department (CFD) Deputy Chief Phil Elliott said the department got the call around 4:15 a.m. Wednesday.

“The flames were already coming through the roof when the police arrived first,” Elliott said. “The roof was half gone when we got on scene.”

The building is a total loss.

“We couldn’t put anyone inside due to the condition, so we did an external attack,” Elliott said, explaining that the building was made of a wood frame with brick veneer.

He said the CFD is still looking into the exact cause.

“There’s nothing suspicious and we’re looking at several ideas,” Elliott said.



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