At Chester County church, little left for rains to damage

From staff reportsJuly 12, 2013 

  • How to help

    Fort Lawn United Methodist Church leaders are accepting donations to help with the church’s restoration and cleanup efforts after heavy rainfall flooded the building’s lower level, ruining furniture, carpet and walls.

    Donations can be mailed to 5915 Lancaster Highway, P.O. Box 310, Fort Lawn, S.C. 29714

A garbage bin with soaked carpets and cabinets from a two-week cleanup effort at the Fort Lawn United Methodist Church was still sitting in the church parking lot on Thursday night when the sky opened up, flooding the building’s lower level once again.

It’s the second time in about two weeks time that Pastor Karen Richmond has stood outside her Chester County church, watching water rush by and into the building, “raging like a river.”

York, Chester and Lancaster counties have received, on average, about 4.75 inches of rain this month, according to the National Weather Service.

For the year, the area has seen 30.81 inches of rain – 9 inches above average for this time of year.

The persistent rain has caused problems with stormwater drainage in Fort Lawn, leaving the lower level of Richmond’s church a wreck, she said.

On Friday afternoon, the church’s nursery, Sunday school classrooms and fellowship area were damp. Some walls with water damage were torn out and concrete floors were exposed after church members pulled up ruined carpet.

Church members have rallied, Richmond said, and Fort Lawn’s volunteer firefighters have been a tremendous help.

As water returned to the church’s lower level Thursday evening, there wasn’t much left to ruin, she said.

Most of the bottom level was already gutted after a late-June storm flooded the church.

The United Methodist Church’s Volunteers in Mission group will soon be helping the Fort Lawn church make repairs and recover, Richmond said.

“All my hope is in Jesus Christ,” she said.

The church congregation of about 30 people is aging, Richmond said, but members have come together in a way that makes her proud.

They are “waiting on the Lord in good courage,” she said, and believe that “God is good.”

Last week, the congregation joined in worship with the Fort Lawn Presbyterian Church. This week, they plan to join El Bethel Methodist Church for Sunday services.

Right now, the congregation is “nomadic,” Richmond said lightheartedly. “One day, we’ll be able to be called back home.”

Church leaders have not yet received an estimate on damage at the Fort Lawn church, but donations are being accepted and any amount will help, Richmond said.

Businesses affected

Around the area, residents and businesses, including farmers, have been bombarded by the recent rain.

The owners of A Lock-It self-storage facility on S.C. 160 in Fort Mill put their feelings about the seemingly nonstop rain on their business sign.

Their sign said, “Tell me again what’s a cubit?” borrowing a line from Bill Cosby’s comedy sketch about Noah talking to God before the flood.

Manager Barry Combs was responsible for the idea, which has gotten the storage facility a number of calls, said owner Mitch Clark.

Some people ask, what’s a cubit, Clark said, and he has to remind them of the Cosby routine. “I guess they didn’t grow up in the right time.”

The rain has affected business, Clark said. It has delayed construction of 54 more storage units. The delay comes at their busy season, said Joe Clark, Mitch Clark’s dad.

The expansion isn’t the only area construction project that’s been set back because of the weather.

The rain has turned the ground to mud and “if you can’t dig, you can’t pour concrete,” said Chad Simpson of Apple Tree Contractors of Rock Hill. “The rain brings you to a full stop.”

The ground will need to dry out for construction to resume, he said.

Jimmy Matthews, owner of the Matthews Construction Co., of Rock Hill, said his crews have been "doing what they can do, but you can do only so much with mud.”

His crews have been installing pipes, putting in erosion controls and in some case, pouring concrete where they already had a stone base down.

Matthews said the rain comes at time when construction was starting to pick up locally.

Landscaping and lawn companies also have a difficult time when the rain won’t stop.

“Everybody thinks ‘Oh, this must be the greatest thing ever for you’ since the rain makes the grass grow faster,’” said Jimmy O’Connor, of O’Connor and Sons Landscaping in Rock Hill.

He said a wet lawn takes twice as long to service as it does when dry because it’s much easier to cause damage. His company has been unable to put in new plants or put down pine needles for clients because of the soggy conditions.

O’Connor and Sons’ revenue was down 20 percent from May to June, he said.

Paul Thompson, the Clemson Extension Service agent for York County, said excessive water can cause fungal disease in grass.

Fungal disease causes grass to turn brown and wilt. Fungicide, which is only a treatment, not a cure, is difficult to apply in rainy weather, he said.

The only thing to do with a lawn that’s contracted a fungus is to wait until fall to reseed, Thompson said.

Other than watching for fungus, he said, there’s not much homeowners can do for a lawn during rainy conditions.

“Cross your fingers and hope it quits,” he said.

Farmers coping

Farmers in the region, so far, have seen minimal damage from the weather.

Arthur Black of western York County said the biggest problem has been harvesting the wheat and hay crops.

“You can’t get it cut unless it’s dry for two or three days,” he said. “If the wheat doesn’t dry out shortly, the quality goes down hill.”

His vegetables and fruits seem be doing OK, Black said.

Too much rain can affect the taste of peaches but Red Globe varieties picked Friday had a good taste, he said.

Pete Wilson of Cotton Hill farms in Chester County said the rain has challenged his farm management skills.

Finding the time to fertilize and keep various produce picked has been difficult, he said.

So far, he said, Cotton Hill has minimal losses in the produce it sells at its market or to grocery stores.

Tips for boaters

Heavy rainfalls have pushed emergency officials to close some roads and bridges in western York County but safety problems have mostly been minimal, said Cotton Howell, the county’s emergency management director.

High waters on the Broad and Catawba rivers “won’t go away for a week to 10 days,” he said.

Howell urged people using the river to be twice as cautious as normal.

When boating on Lake Wylie, people should be on the lookout for debris floating just below the surface, he said.

“Be safe, be careful, wear your personal flotation device.”

On Friday, Duke Energy warned boaters to exercise caution on area waterways as the company was planning to release water from Lake Norman and Lake Wylie to prevent flooding in low-lying areas.

This will cause faster moving water on the Catawba River, Duke officials said.

Last weekend, dangerous conditions on the Catawba caused several area parks to close their water access points to the public.

Several water rescues ensued across the region.

The persistent wet weather can be attributed to a “plume” of tropical moisture hovering over the southeast region of the United States, said Scott Krentz, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service.

Normally, it’s held in place away from the region by an area of high pressure over the Atlantic Ocean known as the “Bermuda High,” he said, but that hasn’t been keeping the moisture away since early June.

“If we get any storms in there, the way they make precipitation is very efficient,” Krentz said, explaining that the storms created from that moisture can drop two or three inches of rain in an hour, which has caused flooding locally in the past few weeks.

Krentz said the National Weather Service expects the damp air to stick around through the weekend, but by Monday, it should have shifted.

The shift will leave a more seasonal pattern in its place, he said, with expected pop-up afternoon thunderstorms.

In the tri-county area, Krentz said, “you’ll notice a difference next week.”

The Herald’s Anna Douglas, Chandler West, Don Worthington and Rachel Southmayd contributed.

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