Recent torrential rains have exposed a number of problems with stormwater drainage in Beaufort.
One such deluge Friday -- which rendered part of Carteret Street nearly impassible and flooded the bottom floors of some downtown buildings -- could not have come at a worse time, Mayor Billy Keyserling said.
"Clearly, that's the biggest storm anyone can remember ... and it was high tide, so there was nowhere for the water to go," he said.
Wes Tyler, assistant state climatologist, said that as of Wednesday, 10 inches of rain have fallen this month at Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, several miles northeast of downtown Beaufort. The average for July is 5.2 inches, and the highest on record was 19.13 inches of rain in July 1964.
Exact rainfall in downtown Beaufort was not available, but the air station recorded 1.75 inches and Hilton Head Island Airport recorded 5.58 inches Friday, he said. Tyler said Friday's rain can be considered a 25-year storm.
Downtown wasn't the only area affected by drainage problems.
Crews from the city, Beaufort County and the S.C. Department of Transportation have also been on street corners and curbs in The Point and Pigeon Point neighborhoods this week to deal with drainage. The crews are clearing storm drains and pumping out flooded areas. City manager Scott Dadson said the immediate focus has been on short-term solutions.
Several problem areas have been identified, and in some cases, additional investigation and work will be needed to reach a solution.
Friday's storm simply overpowered the city's stormwater management system.
City Loft Hotel owner Matt McAlhaney said the flooding at Carteret and Port Republic streets near his business was nearly knee deep at its peak.
Dadson said that intersection is among the areas of concern. Other spots include the intersection of Charles and Craven streets and in front of the Verdier House on Bay Street.
Maxine Lutz, executive director of the Historic Beaufort Foundation, which owns and operates the Verdier House, said Friday's storm marked the third time in about a month the building has flooded. No one on staff could remember the building flooding at any time in the past 30 years, she added.
In the two most recent instances, water appeared to come from underground and was filled with mud, Lutz said. She's asked city staff to look into the possibility that pipes were damaged during recent work on the sidewalk and road. The group also is bringing in a structural engineer to see if the foundation has been undermined.
"I know these were exceptional storms, but it's just really odd to us that we've had the sidewalk jack-hammered, and we'd never had floods like this before," she said.
Dadson said crews cleaning the pipes discovered a "mish-mash" of piping types installed over the years. Roots had punctured some pipes, and other problems were found.
"We pulled some concrete and asphalt out of there, and we certainly didn't put it down there," he said.
Follow reporter Erin Moody at twitter.com/IPBG_Erin.
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