Charleston community hardest hit by flooding, effects linger | New
On the morning of September 10, the sun shone over Gadsden Creek and surrounding areas as residents spent their weekend after some were forced to stay home due to heavy flooding and rainfall.
However, the residual effects of the flooding persisted.
High tide coupled with heavy rains had created optimum conditions on the morning of September 9 to cause Gadsen Creek to overflow on the west side and flood the African American neighborhood north of the extension highway. The pool at the intersection of Bogard and President streets reached 18 inches, according to measurements attached to a utility pole. Several roads scattered throughout downtown Charleston also closed that morning due to the conditions.
Once the rain stopped around 9 a.m., the flood began its descent.
At the intersection of Bogard and President streets, a man on a porch and another working at the bodega on the corner reported that their properties emerged unscathed – this time.
The next morning the sidewalks were muddy and consumed by small pools with floating trash. Shards of glass and bottle caps were buried under the mud.
A woman wearing flip flops and an oversized red t-shirt made several trips to the corner store, named Green’s Grocery, which was bustling on weekend mornings. The convenience store is opposite the Gadsden Green Homes social housing complex, also known as “Back to Green”.
Michelle Williams, 53, who identified herself as “the runner”, explained that she helps the elderly or people with children in the neighborhood with their errands.
Williams said when the flooding gets worse – which is not uncommon – the water can rise above her knees. She says she goes barefoot.
Floods usually subside within hours, but their effects can last longer.
Williams said she had helped people living in low-rise public housing whose apartments were flooded and children didn’t want to play outside after a flood because of the muddy conditions.
A woman inside the convenience store with her young daughter said she had to miss work because of the flooding. Another said that if the bus stopped, it zigzagged around the neighborhood to reach the higher streets. A man joked that residents knew not to wear their nice shoes outside.
They claimed it only got worse.
Opposite the convenience store is Nichols Chapel AME Church. Its senior pastor, Joe Darby, has described flooding as a “chronic problem” in the region, arguing that climate change has exacerbated the problem.
Darby said the church – built in the 1980s – does not flood. People cannot, however, enter the building when the adjacent roads are under water.
He remembers a moment from his first months of preaching in church.
“I was preaching and I saw people getting up and leaving. And I thought ‘Oh my god, is my sermon that bad?’ »
Darby later learned that his sermon had not been the problem – outside the water had started to rise and people rushed to move their vehicles.
The floods are negatively affecting the livelihoods of residents, said the pastor, many of whom live in public housing built in the mid-20th century as part of a federal program to develop areas the government considered slums.
Under the federal initiative, the government bulldozed black-owned homes on the West Side and replaced them with public housing. In addition, the city has created a nearby landfill to dump the garbage of Charleston residents.
Today these houses remain near what is one of the last tidal creeks on the peninsula, but they also reside next to the old landfill, which the city did not properly seal off.
As a result, residents wading through the floods “run through E. coli and other industrial stuff – God knows what else,” Darby said.
Darby said he was passionate about fighting “environmental racism” and supported efforts to restore the creek as a vital natural resource for the longtime black community.
The creek has become a lightning rod in Charleston politics.
Darby is a member of the Charleston-area Department of Justice, which has partnered with the Friends of Gadsden Creek advocacy group to oppose current drainage proposals that call for filling the creek.
Proponents of the mitigation plan, proposed by the WestEdge development corporation, however argue that filling the creek could reduce flooding.
As groups continue to argue the issue, Darby said he continues to pray for time to allow worshipers to gather inside the chapel.
“If we have planned a Sunday service, a Bible study, a funeral or other things, we must pray for the rain to allow us to do it,” he said.
The forecast had predicted a rainy weekend, but the sun shone all day on September 10 over the chapel and downtown Charleston.
The Charleston office of the National Weather Service forecast the possibility of heavy local rainfall on September 11 and warned of possible flooding in downtown Charleston if rainfall coincided with high tide. He also noted an increased risk of coastal flooding and rip currents on Lowcountry beaches.