Survivors Remember the Great Flood of 2015 Five Years Later

Oct 2, 2020

This weekend may bring back painful memories to many Midlands residents who survived the biggest flood the state has seen in memory, which climaxed on Oct. 4, 2015.  What officials called a "thousand year rain" dumped about 20 inches of rain on the region in one day.  Filled to overflowing by that rain, ponds throughout the area broke their dams and added their waters to already swollen rivers and streams like Gills Creek, which crosses - and destroyed - three major traffic arteries in the capital city.

Columbia schoolteacher Tammy Davis, who lives near Gills Creek, remembered the flood by its toughest effect on her and her daughter.  "The hardest thing was being displaced.  And I remember at the beginning I really thought by Halloween I was going to be back in my house.  I'm glad I didn't know what was all was ahead of me."  Davis's house suffered major damage from flood waters, but was repaired with the help of time and a good contractor.  "Somebody compared it to remodeling a home, and I said 'yeah, but the difference is, you choose to remodel your home.'  I didn't plan to be out of my house for six months, eight months.  That's the nature of a disaster, though.  You never expect it."

Veterinarian Nori Warren  of Four Paws Animal Clinic lost her building in the flood.  After the initial shock of seeing water up to the ceiling, Warren quickly went into survival mode.  "I just kinda went back into the method of, 'I gotta get back on my feet.  What's happened has happened.  Who do I need to contact to get the ball rolling on this next section?  Find a building.  Get new equipment.  Get in contact with our clients.  Figure out how we can make house calls.'  And you know, just putting all the pieces back together."

Davis and Warren consider themselves to be recovered from the flood, though with some continuing expenses.  Others, like Radenko Pavlovich, artistic director of the Columbia Classical Ballet and owner of the Pavlovich Dance School, are still fighting their ways back.  Pavlovich's studio was lost right after a major investment in the facility, and though it was somewhat restored with insurance, ongoing issues remain that will require legal action to resolve. 

"Everything was destroyed inside, literally destroyed," including a new $50,000 dance floor, Pavlovich said, describing his experience as "an absolute nightmare.  I never thought I would see anything like this in my life.  At the time I thought things were fixed , but they were not."

However, Pavlovich's love for his art has kept him going, and his attitude good.  The ordeal has given him a sense of perspective.

"You really realize that there's so many things in life that are not important at the end of the day.  So you look at the good things and you try to push the bad things, and you try to say 'you know, this is so irrelevant in the big picture.' And if you're doing something that you love, that's the most important thing." 

Davis and Warren consider themselves lucky compared to some people.  "I have some friends who are still really depressed," said Davis.  "One friend, he's just angry.  He can't quite move past it."

"I do have a friend that...never moved back into her home," added Warren.  "She moved to the other side of town.  But one of her neighbors just last week moved back into her house - after five years." 

But all three survivors expressed great appreciation for the aid of friends and others who helped their recoveries with support in many ways.  

"The unexpected silver lining is that we are stronger than we think we are," Davis said of her struggles with the flood and its aftermath.  "I think it reminds you at your core what is important.  And it's not your china."