South Carolina

Floods evacuee: ‘I don't even know if I have an apartment’

awilks@thestate.com

Carrington Mitchell spent much of Sunday in limbo.

She sat alone Sunday afternoon on the red bleachers of A.C. Flora High School’s gym, waiting for a call from her landlord that she wasn’t sure would come. The call would tell her if it was safe to return to her apartment complex near Fort Jackson — which she left in the morning as it filled with water — or advise her to spend the night in a hotel.

“I don’t even know if I have an apartment,” she said.

With no relatives in Columbia who could shelter her — her aunt’s home also was flooded — Mitchell, 29, said waiting at a Red Cross emergency shelter was her only option.

She wasn’t alone.

Throughout the Midlands, emergency shelters for displaced residents opened Sunday as a storm system dumped record-setting rainfall on South Carolina.

Emergency shelters were open Sunday afternoon at A.C. Flora and Dreher high schools in Columbia, St. Andrews Middle School in Columbia and Lower Richland High School in Hopkins. Richland County Emergency Services Division, along with other agencies, rescued more than 100 residents from their cars and took them to the shelters, according to a press release.

Lexington County had shelters open at the Lexington County Leisure Center in Lexington and at Seven Oaks Park in Irmo. Another shelter was set to open at White Knoll High School in Lexington, said Capt. Adam Myrick, the Lexington County Sheriff’s Department’s pubic information officer.

The Lexington County Leisure Center opened about 7 a.m. Sunday. By Sunday afternoon, the center had taken in more than 30 people, said John Alexander, assistant facility director.

Alexander said some of the first to arrive told him they had been forced out of their homes near the Old Mill Pond. He said the center had not been used as an emergency shelter in more than a decade.

Not all the shelters opened without a hitch.

Several displaced residents were dropped off at a shelter at St. Andrews Baptist Church on Bush River Road, only to find the church was locked. They said they were told the person with the key was stuck in Lexington County.

LaDawn Milton, 48, waited with her husband and daughter for hours outside the church. They were able to bring their dogs, phones and a few blankets with them. But, she said, the family lost all three of their cars and likely many of their belongings when their apartment complex flooded early Sunday morning.

Desmond Pringle, 37, said he woke up at 4 a.m. to find three feet of water in the first floor of his home on Trenholm Road. He said he waded out of his home and made it to a gas station before a police officer picked him up and drove him to a shelter at A.C. Flora High School.

That’s where Pringle sat Saturday afternoon, trying to catch a ride to northeast Columbia, where friends had offered him a place to stay.

“We’ve been trying to coordinate so I can meet them, but we can’t find a passable road,” Pringle said.

Mitchell, who said she babysits for a living, said all she brought with her to the shelter was a change of clothes, her cell phone and identification papers. There, she could only ponder the flooding in her apartment and how she would pay for the damage.

Mitchell said she recently spent $2,300 on clothes and could be in “serious trouble” financially if the flooding ruins her belongings.

Asked where she planned to stay the night, she said, “I have no idea.”

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