Jasper County residents evacuated as Savannah River rises
Fifteen residents along the Savannah River in Jasper County have evacuated as the river nears its highest level in 20 years, the county's emergency management director said Thursday.
The river's level measured 18.3 feet Thursday, the highest since it hit 18.5 feet on Jan. 18, 1993, according to the National Weather Service.
Emergency management director Wilbur Daley said most residents of the homes near Tom Goethe Road in western Jasper County have left. The rest were expected to do so later Thursday.
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Although the evacuation was not mandatory, Daley said residents departed because it was becoming increasingly difficult to get to their homes. They also were concerned power would be cut off as the rising water created a potential electrical danger, he said.
According to National Weather Service projections, the bottom floor of riverfront homes along Tom Goethe Road began to flood at 14.5 feet. Dirt sections of the road, which start about a mile southwest of Sand Hills Road, were covered by about a foot of water after only 13.3 feet.
Daley said the higher levels in the river are the result of more water being released from lakes on the upper sections of the river. The lake levels have risen sharply after several weeks of heavier than normal rainfall.South Carolina has seen an unprecedented amount of rainfall since the beginning of June, with rain falling somewhere in the state every day since June 1. The Savannah River Basin has gotten its fair share of rain, too, with rainfall measured near Augusta through the first 10 days of July about 600 percent of the normal average, according to a press release from the Savannah District U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
The high rainfall caused an increase of water releases at the J. Strom Thurmond Dam and the New Savannah Bluff Lock and Dam along the northern parts of the Savannah River, the release said.
The river is expected to crest at 18.4 feet in the next two days, according to weather service projections, but it could take weeks for the water to recede enough for people to return to their homes, Daley said.
Follow reporter Matt McNab at twitter.com/IPBG_Matt.