Charleston is called the “low country” for a reason. It’s low! Very low. When it rains the ocean is literally trying to reclaim what is rightfully its own. The rain fall and regardless whether the tide is low or high, the streets fill up with water till cars float and ‘turn around, don’t drown’ becomes the mantra of the day. When I was younger I don’t remember it being so low but then, maybe I was living in high places and did not really know it.
When I look back on the places we have lived they have been on high ground. The higher spots of the city proper or West of the Ashley. It is amazing how fast the streets fill up with water and become places that are suitable for a canoe or a paddle board. With most of the city being below sea level there is no good drainage. The rain falls and then if the tide is coming in, the ocean water meets the rain water and it becomes deep and dangerous,
I work in downtown Charleston and I learned my lesson about the rain soon after I began working. It began to rain and I did not have rain boots with me that day. The water began to rise in the market and it became a happening. We had whitecaps on Market Street and when the few high SUV’s drove past our doors before the police closed down the streets, there were waves rolling up to the front doors of our building. Believe it or not, soon there was a guy in a canoe paddling by. Amazing to see. Within 30 minutes the rain stopped and within the hour the water had receded.
I decided I needed a pair of boots for under my desk in case I had to wade to my car. In all the other rain storms tourists and locals needing to get places just rolled up pants and waded in that water.
Let’s talk about that water. A lot of it is sea water bubbling up through manhole covers like geysers or rolling in from low marsh near the bridge. Regardless it is not clean water. Horses pee all day downtown and the streets reek in the summer. When it rains all that water, pee and garbage is what is in the water filling the streets. It is not fit to wade in.
I thought I was good. I brought in my boots to avoid making contact with the nasty water. I thought I was good. I was not. I was leaving work one day and it had been raining for about an hour. Market Street was a river. I had on my boots. I found what I thought was a place where the water was not as deep and I would be able to get to my car on high ground. I was with a coworker and after looking at the water and talking about how high or low it was we picked the perfect spot to make it without getting wet. We both stepped down. And down we went.
We knew the water was at least up to our upper calf area but we estimated wrong. We stepped down and the water totally filled our boots because the water was over the knee. With disgust we waded over to our cars and went home.
I prepared for this in the future. I walked around and really found the high ground and where to walk to get to my car without getting wet with my boots on. My paisley boots lived under my desk and I was able to avoid that nasty water for a very long time. Then came the day it began to rain before I could get to work. When I got to work I could not get into the building because the streets were a flowing river in front of the building. Where were my boots? Under my desk. I realized I needed two pairs of boots. I needed one pair for the car. I need to be able to wade in or out of the high waters that fill the streets when it rains.
That day a city employee came to my rescue. I was standing in the rain with my umbrella watching the water rise with no way to wade into the office. I had on heels, panty hose and a little black dress. The city worker had a pick up truck with big wheels parked right next to me. He called to me. He offered to drive his truck the few feet in the water and drive up on the side walk to get me past the water. He would deliver me straight to the front door of my office and I would be dry and stinky water odor free.
That very day after work I got a second pair of boots. I needed a pair for the car and a pair for the desk. I had spent $40 on my paisley boots but I was not going to spend that again just to wade through nasty water. I went to Walmart and got a pair of white fishing boots for about $10. I am set. I am prepared for every Charleston flooding scenario. Take heed people. Don’t walk or wade in that nasty water when the streets flood. Get boots. Two pairs Two pairs are needed in Charleston when it rains.