Some residents in Surfside Beach say that flooding on their street has become untenable, but the town says it doesn’t have the funds to make immediate improvements to its drainage system.
Ray Kawa, a resident of 3rd Avenue North, said his property floods every time there’s rain and high tide at the same time. He told members of town council Tuesday night that the current drainage system leads water from 2nd Avenue North and U.S. 17 to his street.
“I’m getting real tired of the town dumping copious amounts of storm water on my property, causing me lots of private damage. The bill is adding up fellas, and I’m gonna bring it to you when I’m done,” Kawa said.
I’m getting real tired of the town dumping copious amounts of storm water on my property, causing me lots of private damage.
Surfside Resident Ray Kawa
Kawa told The Sun News that during Hermine, his back yard flooded, ruining his lawnmower as water rose to roughly 18 inches up the side of his shed. He said he’s been dealing with floods when it rains at high tide for over a decade.
Hermine, however, was the first time the area flooded at low tide, and Kawa said the 24-inch pipe buried just past his back fence is insufficient.
“We’ve been complaining for a long time about this,” Kawa said. “They keep promising, and then when it comes time, something else had to take the money, something else.”
He also said that development around Glenn’s Bay Road is putting more stress on Surfside’s drainage and the pipes near his house.
Council members expressed sympathy after the stories they heard on Tuesday night, and Mayor Bob Childs said that the budget for storm water drainage systems has run dry. He said the work that’s been done behind Kawa’s house also needs to be completed near 2nd Avenue North, and would divert some of the water into a second pipe.
“On account of the lack of sufficient funds, they [workers] were not able to complete that storm water project,” Childs said. “Hopefully, once they do that—hopefully Mr. Kawa, that will relieve your problem.”
He also told The Sun News on Thursday he is in favor of a storm water impact fee, which residents would pay on a yearly basis to a fund meant for drainage upgrades.
If the city is able to accumulate money for a few years between severe storms, Childs said, “We’d be in pretty good shape.”
Flooding in Surfside also affected homes across the street from Kawa. Pat Benson, who lives with her husband Bob Benson at the corner of Cedar Drive and 3rd Avenue North, said water reached her porch during Hermine and rushed through vents to the crawlspace under her home.
“We stood on the porch and just watched it, just rise up the steps,” she said.
The Bensons moved into their home in May, and Pat Benson said there was no evidence of flood damage on the property from the October flood. The family lived in Pawley’s Island at that time. There was one clue that the house might be vulnerable, she said, because six catch basins circle the property.
However, the drains around the house were overwhelmed as Hermine swept through.
“I think there needs to be a real close watch on that pipe,” Pat Benson said. “Like, ‘This is the first of the month, let’s go check that pipe out.’ I mean there could have been debris, I don’t know.”
As Pat Benson stood in her front yard on Thursday afternoon, showing where she planned to build a mound to push water away from her home, Surfside’s Director of Public Works, John Adair, was inspecting drains at 4th Avenue North and Cedar Drive.
“We’re opening up all the covers, making sure all the pipes are clean and everything’s flowing the way it’s supposed to,” Adair said.
Adair said that the rainfall from Hermine qualified as a 500-year storm event, while most municipal storm water systems are designed to handle a 25-year event.
“No matter what size pipe you have in the ground, no matter what size ditch you have on the side of the road, it’s not going to be able to handle that intensity of water. There’s just so much it can take before it fills up,” he said. “It’s like when the bathtub overflows.”
It’s like when the bathtub overflows.
John Adair, Surfside Public Works
Town administrator Micki Fellner said in the Tuesday meeting that Surfside received 8.5 inches of rainfall during Tropical Storm Hermine, and that the significant rainfall in a relatively short period overwhelmed drainage systems in several areas. The town saw pockets of flooding well outside the area of 3rd Avenue North, she said.
The storm also caused significant damage to a local swash, which the town council voted to fix on Thursday.