Spartanburg County officials say one person has died as floodwaters swamped vehicles in several spots around north Spartanburg early Thursday.
Meanwhile, emergency crews say they were able to rescue a second driver who was clinging to a tree limb for safety after floodwaters washed away a section of roadway. The area had received four inches of rain in just three hours, according to the National Weather Service.
The Spartanburg County Coroner’s Office said 56-year-old Silvia Arteaga died after her car submerged in flood waters at a railroad underpass along New Cut Road in the Una community. Responding firefighters say they found four submerged cars under the bridge just northwest of the Spartanburg city limits.
Fire crews said they found Arteaga’s body inside one of the cars. An autopsy is scheduled later Thursday. The firefighters also found another driver who they were able to get to safety. The two other cars had been abandoned.
Less than a mile away, the county emergency management coordinator Doug Bryson said sheriff’s deputies, EMS, and other first responders were able to make a dramatic rescue along Hayne Street. Bryson said the normally calm Three Mile Creek had overwhelmed a concrete culvert underneath the roadway, completely washing out the road. Around 1:00 a.m., a pickup driver — not realizing the roadway was gone, got washed downstream. Bryson said a second driver saw what happened and called 911.
“Had that second vehicle not been behind him, I don’t think there was anybody else on the road,” Bryson said. “There’s no telling how long it would have taken before anybody would have known (about the washout) and it probably would have had more tragic results.”
Bryson said he was among those who responded to the scene. Rescuers said they found the driver clinging to a tree limb and calling for help. The emergency management coordinator said he, a sheriff’s office sergeant, and two firefighters from Westview-Fairforest station were able to reach the driver, throw him a throw-bag/rope and safely pull him to the bank.
(For images of the washed-out roadway, visit Spartanburg Herald-Journal website)
He urged drivers to continue being careful even as the floodwaters recede, as more rainfall is expected in the coming days when Hurricane Joaquin passes off the South Carolina coast.