Date of Award

Winter 12-15-2015

Degree Type



School of Journalism and Mass Communications

Director of Thesis

Vance Kornegay

First Reader

Stephanie Shank

Second Reader

Stephanie Shank


Nearly two months have passed, and South Carolina is still recovering from the unprecedented inundation of rain that pelted down in early October. Record amounts of precipitation pounded the state over just a few days, resulting in the flooding and erosion of land, the deterioration of public infrastructure and the loss of human life and capital.

The worst of it was in the capital city. Columbia recorded the highest water levels and the highest number of fatalities of all the affected areas. The city’s utilities could not handle the torrent of water: dams were destroyed, canals were compromised, roads were decimated and watersheds were ruptured. Houses and lives were claimed as the landscape was rearranged and eroded. The damage incurred over a short 36 hours wreaked economic havoc for governments, businesses and individuals at every level. President Obama declared a state of emergency in the Palmetto State on Oct. 4, but parts of Columbia were inaccessible or still underwater until the third week of the month. The recovery process started with setbacks: boil-water advisories, leaking sewage, overflowing manholes and debris-crowded streets. Those able to help came out full-force, whether lending time, giving money or providing donations. In the week following the flood, Columbia response teams had a lucky problem: the donation centers could not process the influx of donations from all over the state and the rest of the Southeast.

But damage and heartbreak linger even after floodwaters recede. Some repairs will take months, some years. Multibillion-dollar projects – if funded – are an expensive and slow process, amidst a steadily growing metropolitan population and an ever-expanding downtown area. The state and her people face a long road to recovery from the flooding of October 2015 in the reconstruction of its public utilities, waterways and neighborhoods.

The following paper and photographic edition capture just a glimpse of the damage incurred to the Columbia area. This is a compilation of both data and observations: first, with a description of the flood and how it happened, and a short record of the aftermath; then, a summary of the foreseeable repairs needed to reinforce the water and sewage treatment facilities, roads, bridges and homes affected by the floodwaters. The accompanying photographs were taken a few days after, a week after, and a few weeks after the floodwaters receded.

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© 2015, Rebecca Johnson