Recent rain affects CSRA

STAFF PHOTO BY AMY BANTON A drenched cardinal tries to enjoy some seed during a downpour.

For Aiken County, the large amount of recent rain has been too much of a good thing.

The CSRA has been over-saturated by months of unusually rainy weather. For weeks at a time, it seemed the rain clouds wouldn't allow for a full day of sunshine.

Here are a few examples of how the large amounts of precipitation affected this area.

The South Carolina Department of Transportation released a statement that recent weather conditions have caused an estimated $1.3 million in road damage across the state.

The statement made mention of 99 roads in the state that have suffered damage. Several of those roads and bridges are located in Aiken County, as well as in neighboring Edgefield County.

According to James Johannemann, the assistant state maintenance engineer for SCDOT, the County has had to put closures on four roads in the area: Five Notch Road, Cherokee Drive, Willow Lane and Lynwood Drive. In Edgefield County, the bridge over Fox Creek will need to be replaced due to significant weather damage.

“The recent wet weather has impacted roads and bridges throughout the state,” Johannemann said. “We will continue to monitor the condition of our roads and bridges to identify issues that need to be addressed.”

In addition to the necessary road construction on the horizon, the weather has also increased the amount of flooding in the area. Much like the road and bridge damage scenarios, officials have also had to block off several roads in the area due to flooding. These include: Beaufort Street, Richland Avenue and Price Avenue.

“We monitor them routinely and occasionally, we have to block them off,” said Lt. David Turno with the Aiken Department of Public Safety. “We've also had problems with trees in the area due to the wind.”

While inclement weather is unavoidable, Public Safety has named certain things residents can practice to minimize the chance of accidents or injury. Obviously, driving precautions are at the top of the list, with an emphasis on avoiding standing water in flooded areas.

“So many times, drivers feel like they can make it through standing water puddles,” Turno added. “But, they may not realize how deep the water goes. So, it's best to find alternative roads to travel and just make the wisest decisions.”

Construction season is typically in the summer because of the dryer, warmer weather.

But this year, construction crews have had to battle through storms as they try to meet project deadlines. Despite the weather, Sam's Club is still on track, the new LongHorn restaurant is getting closer to completion, and both the construction of Aiken County's new government center and animal shelter are only just slightly off schedule.

Stewart Builders has been feverishly working on the new animal shelter, but the rain has made the project more challenging. Stewart Builders' Job Superintendent Roger Williams said he's been measuring the rain amounts on site since construction began in March. He believes that they have collected more than 36 inches of rain since they started. From June 2 to Thursday, Williams has measured 26 inches of precipitation.

Williams said that they've lost a few days worth of production time due to the weather. He said that crews would get on site early in the morning, get four to five hours of work in and then have to stop when afternoon storms moved into the area.

“We get here early in the morning and have worked as long as we could before the rain,” Williams said.

Civil Engineer Tilden Hilderbrand said that he knows the weather has slowed down the work on the parking lots at both Aiken High School and Chukker Creek Elementary, adding that crews are feverishly working to complete them before school starts.

Crews working on the new Owens Corning warehouse began grading the land but ran into some moisture problems, Hilderbrand added. He said crews are hoping that there will not be any more significant rain events in the near future.

Residents may have noticed more mosquitoes flying around. They may have also seen an increase in amphibians, snakes and rodents.

The extraordinarily wet weather has affected native species, but, according to ecologist Whit Gibbons with the University of Georgia's Savannah River Ecology Lab, the problems from man-made environmental impacts greatly outweigh those that stem from changes in regional weather conditions.

Gibbons said that native wildlife will adapt to climate changes, and though some individual organisms may perish, all native and most invasive species will persist.

“No matter what the prevailing weather conditions are, some species will be winners, and some will be losers,” Gibbons wrote in an email. “That has been the natural pattern of species survival for millions of years.”

Gibbons said that unseasonable rainy and cooler weather can boost the population of some species.

“Summer breeding frogs can certainly become more active during such conditions, which can lead to more animals that eat frogs and tadpoles becoming more active, snakes in particular,” Gibbons said. “Likewise, growth of certain grasses and shrubs are stimulated, which in turn might lead to greater prevalence of herbivores like deer or rabbits in areas where they might not normally be seen.”

Trees have also suffered a blow from the windy storms and excessive rain. Downed branches, and, in some cases, whole trees, have caused some issues around the County.

According to Aiken City Horticulturist Tom Rapp, all of the rain in such a short amount of time weakens the roots' ability to hold a tree up due to the over saturation of the ground. Then, a storm comes in with high wind velocity and chances of a tree falling increases.

Rapp said that he knows of at least eight large trees that fell around the City during a storm that came through on Wednesday.

Master Gardener Bill Hayes said that all this rain also erodes and leaches nutrients from the soil, which doesn't bode well for lawns. Weeds are coming through as herbicides are washed away, and some residents have complained about fungal disease in their gardens.

“Rain is great,” Hayes said. “But too much rain is not great.”