SUMTER, S.C. — High water levels has led to lots of flooding in Sumter County after storms on Sunday.
"We’ve been here about 16 years and I’ve never seen it this bad," Dianne Jackson explains. "In Sumter we get a lot of flooding, but that’s the worst I’ve seen. The only other time was [Hurricane] Matthew and this morning it was pretty bad because there’s a car in the ditch, but we do suffer from poor drainage here every time it floods, we get it, but not like this."
Jackson owns a health education center on South Pike Road near the Department of Motor Vehicles, which has been closed all day due to flooding.
"I was surprised," Sumter resident Nessia Gibson shares. "We haven't seen this amount of rain in a long time."
Gibson and other residents have been seeing high water levels around their houses too.
"It has affected the area tremendously," Gibson explains. "Like coming through here this morning its causing a lot of wrecks in the area and it’s causing a lot trash to push out the gutters on the road."
"Water is over the highway, water is over the dirt road," resident Emmaline McCoy adds.
McCoy lives near dirt roads, which she said flood when there’s lots of rain like we got this weekend. It’s not just dirt roads though. Paved roads, grass lawns and even Swan Lake walking paths are now underwater.
"It’s kind of brought back some memories of the flood from several years ago," Capt. Kevin Lindsey with the Sumter County Sheriff's Department remembers. "The same areas that flooded then, most of them flooded last night and early this morning."
Sumter County Emergency Management Director Donna Dew says crews are actively working to monitor the areas.
"I think between South Carolina DOT, Sumter County Public Works, they’re doing everything that they can do to free these roads up," Dew shares.
Residents like McCoy, however, wish preventative measures could have been taken to prevent some of this flooding.
"As far as maintaining the road, I think they need to do a little more maintenance," McCoy shares.
But Dew says the public roads that have high water levels now are lower areas where rainwater collects naturally. When it comes to crossing those areas, Lindsey says to drive slowly and keep distance from other cars while trying not to pump the brakes too much.
"If something happens where you have to apply the brakes, don’t do it suddenly and with a lot of pressure," Lindsey cautions. "That can increase the chance of causing a skid or hydroplaning."
Instead, he says it's best to take your foot off the brake if you hydroplane. Then, slowly start to reapply pressure to the brake once you feel like you're regaining control.
Dew tells me crews went out early Monday morning to survey the roads, and her department has been working with Sumter Police, Sheriff’s Department and Fire Department to close roads.
"If you don’t have to travel, don’t just stay home. If you do have to travel, greatly reduce your speed," Lindsey advises. "Don’t think going off road is a better option. You have no idea what you’re driving into and you’re going to make things worse."
Lindsey says most people get into trouble when they ignore road signs and try to drive through standing water.
"If you try to cross it, as little as 12 inches can carry a car away," he explains.
Lindsey says to pay attention to the signs, which Dew believes might be "pretty well cleared up hopefully by tomorrow morning."
Lindsey agrees, saying the sheriff’s department is expecting all major roads to be cleared either overnight or by early tomorrow morning.
As of 3 p.m. on Monday, the following roads are still closed:
- Lizard Road
- McLaurin Road from Highway 261 to Dowry Road
- Gibbs Dairy Road at the branch (road is accessible from either end)
- E. Liberty at Fort Street
- Frierson Road at Thomas Sumter Highway
- Entrance to Kel-Sam Farms from Thomas Sumter Highway
- South Pike East from Bagnal Drive to Lee Street