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Ongoing coverage of South Carolina's recovery from the flooding of 2015.What had been Lindsay Langdale's Columbia home October 3, 2015 was a flooded ruin the next day.This coverage is made possible by a grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. In October of 2015, South Carolina received rainfall in unprecedented amounts over just a few days time. By the time the rain began to slacken, the National Weather Service reported that the event had dumped more than two feet of water on the state. The U.S. Geological Survey reported that the subsequent flooding was the worst in 75 years.

Rescued By Jon Boat, One Family Tries to Return to Normal

Julie (left) and her children, Megan (center) and Davis (right), sit down to talk about the morning they were rescued from their home.
Vince Kolb-Lugo/SC Public Radio
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There was a before and an after. On the evening of October 3rd, 2015, Julie Latham thought the rain would be like the hundreds she’s experienced. To be safe, the family moved to the second story of their home, and brought snacks to eat in case the power went out. By 4:30 a.m. the following morning, the backyard was inundated.

On a cloudless summer afternoon, Julie Latham and her children, Davis and Megan, are glad to be sitting in the living room. One month earlier, contractors were putting up the last of the new drywall and trim. Today, they share their story.  

Before. 

October 3rd, 2015, Hurricane Joaquin was still off the coast in the Atlantic Ocean, but weather experts were warning of heavy downpours. “We kept getting the flash flood alerts on our cell phones,” says Julie, “we looked around, but we just didn’t think anything was going to happen.” Not sure what to expect, Julie’s husband lowered the water in the pool to keep it from overflowing, and the kids gathered snacks to take to the upstairs bedrooms.  

As seconds gave way to minutes, the water continued to rise, engulfing each step in a shorter time than the one before. At the height of the flood, water covered each new step in about 15 minutes time.
Credit Credit Vince Kolb-Lugo SC Public Radio
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As seconds gave way to minutes, the water continued to rise, engulfing each step in a shorter time than the one before. At the height of the flood, water covered each new step in about 15 minutes time.

The next morning, Julie and her husband awoke to find water covering the flood of the lowest room in the house. Over the next two hours, the Latham family tried in vain to slow the rising water level and save photo albums. 

At 6:30a.m., with only a few possessions, the Lathams piled into jon boats steered by their neighbors, and were taken to a safer location upstream. 

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After. 

Recovery in the Lake Katherine area of Columbia was a neighborhood affair, with those less affected taking charge of the situation. Perishable items were distributed to families escaping their homes. Households took in who neighborhoods to feed families. And everyone took turns mucking and gutting affected homes. 

Julie Latham keeps this cross, signed by Lake Katherine community members, as a memento of community support after October’s flood.
Credit Credit Vince Kolb-Lugo/SC Public Radio
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Neighbors involved in the rebuild sign a cross and give it as a gift to the Latham family.

In June, builders were driving the final nails into the Latham’s rebuilt home. Other houses in the neighborhood are in various stages of construction. Some are elevated. Others haven’t been touched.

Davis and Megan finished another year of school and are doing typical summer things – sleeping late, hanging out with friends. Julie and her husband are back at work. In their rebuilt home, things are getting back to normal, but the memory of that morning still lingers.