The 1,000-year storm

They’re calling it “the 1000 year storm.” To give you an idea of how weird it has been, much of South Carolina received the equivalent of half the annual rainfall within 48 hours. South Carolina was pinched. From the west, there was a slow moving low pressure system that brought moisture from the gulf. Then on the east, 200 miles off coast, sat Hurricane Joaquin. While it was too far away for the winds to affect us, it fed moisture into the atmosphere which was drawn toward that low pressure system. And so it just came down in buckets non-stop. For comparison, Hurricane Hugo, the big disaster of 1989, dropped about seven inches of rain inland and about 14 at the coast. This storm dropped about 20 inches of rain inland and about 24 at the coast. The ground was so saturated that even without much wind, trees would fall over because there was nothing solid for their roots to hold onto. Coffins/crypts began popping out of the ground in some cemeteries.

It’s a bit too early to tell what the impact will be. So far we know 13 people have died. But there are a bunch of people missing. Tens of thousands of homes are flooded. How many of those are salvageable? Who knows right now? But they’ve turned Summerville High School into a shelter for people who can’t live in their homes right now. There were amphibious water vehicles doing rescue missions within three miles of the Summerville Church on Saturday night. There are bridges that are just gone. Some roads too, as erosion took out the soil under it. But it’s still going on. As I write this, the rain is really almost nonexistent. (Though we’re expecting more.) But as all this water moves to low ground, it’s expanding rivers and creeks and canals wider and wider. So this will take a couple days. There have been curfews in place, where no one can be on the streets after 6 p.m. for non-essential reasons.

Church wise, the members are all fine. A few have water in their homes. However, at this time, I haven’t heard of anyone whose home will be unsalvageable. Just some clean up. The church was pretty much unaffected – tiny bit of water leaking in. When the district mission board bought this property decades ago, there was nothing on Trolley Road. They looked at a plot map and picked the highest spot. Wise.

The bigger impact to our church is just people trying to help their neighbors. We have some members who have taken in displaced people. We have others who are helping neighbors with cleanup.

It actually could have been MUCH worse. When you see the pictures and videos, it’s breathtaking. There are videos of people driving down a street, not realizing that what they think is a puddle is four feet of fast moving water. It would stall the car, then the car would start to float away as people jumped out the windows. Every human measure—sandbags, trenches, water pumps—could not deal with it. It was so frustrating to people as they watched water very quickly encroach upon their homes, and then engulf it. It serves as a useful reminder of how completely unable we are to REALLY control our situation. We THINK we have life under control, and then our powerlessness is proven dramatically by something like this. Which is good. It forces us to better rely on the one who IS in control.

Rev. Jon Hein, Beautiful Savior, Summerville, S.C.