Flooding closed off the main entrances to the Bridgeview Village apartment complex for several days.
As days of heavy rain swelled the Cooper River, residents of the Bridgeview Village apartment complex were trapped. Even Monday evening, the community’s two main exits on North Romney Street remained impassable for most vehicles. With the help of police, residents of the 300-unit complex say they were able to move the dumpsters blocking a single-lane road that cuts through the woods surrounding the complex. Although it doesn’t have a name, that road now serves as the only way in or out of the neighborhood. But for the first few days, even it was too flooded to use.
“They opened that up Sunday. So Friday, Saturday, Sunday — it was three days we were stuck here,” says Charles Smith, age 69, whose apartment looks out onto the knee-deep water still blocking North Romney Street. “We just sat and waited for the water to go back down. That’s about the only thing you can do.”
Smith says he uses his bicycle to get around. His hands are covered in grease as he replaces the reflectors on his bike and makes a few other minor repairs. “It was a mess in here, but now we can get out,” he says. “They had those dumpsters there and there was no way for you to get out of here, unless you were walking through the water.”
Like many of the residents in Bridgeview, Smith was faced with the struggle of outlasting the storm on what he had in his home. Some in the community say they relied on bootleggers for cigarettes and supplies to make it through the weekend.
“Nobody brought nothing. They only brought a couple of sandbags for a few of the doors over there. They didn’t bring nothing for the rest of the people,” says Smith. “I tell you, it’s been hell. I wouldn’t walk in that water. Shit, I’d rather wait until it all goes away before I try to get anywhere.”
Charles Smith has lived in Bridgeview Village apartment complex for almost 10 years
Wading up to the front entrance of Bridgeview on Monday, we watch as one car makes it about halfway through the floodwaters before stalling. The empty bottles and beer cans that litter the street are swept by in the tide. The driver and passengers are able to push the vehicle the rest of the way. Another car waits behind them on dry ground to see if they make it before turning around.
Once we finally make it through the water and into the complex on foot, we can see just how bad the damage is. Flooded cars sit throughout the parking lots, their doors open and hoods raised in an attempt to dry out. Some residents have driven their cars onto the curb to get a few more inches between them and the water. A police car idles at the front entrance of the complex to keep an eye on anyone who tries to enter. The first few people who walk by say they don’t actually live at Bridgeview, which most residents still call by its old name, Bayside.
Primarily, a low-income community tucked away behind a cemetery and recycling center in a northern part of the Charleston peninsula, Bridgeview has a history of trespassing problems. One guy explains that he’s just passing through. A young woman says she came to visit a friend before the storm hit. Bad timing, she says.
Out of school since Thursday, a group of kids run past with water guns. Enjoying the break in the rain, they talk about the floodwater surrounding the community.
“It was making people’s cars just break down. All the graveyards around here were halfway flooded. And they got alligators swimming in the water down that way,” says Desire Holliman, a 13-year-old at Sanders Clyde Creative Arts School. “An ambulance was broke down, too. The fire truck had to help them get out the water. And then, they had a little boat on the police truck in case somebody needed to get through to help them.”
In the days following the flood, the kids have passed the time by watching cars try to make it through the standing water — most of which, they say, were unsuccessful.
“When we woke up Friday morning, everything was just flooded,” says Ja’leek Lott, who also attends Sander Clyde. “We’ve just been in the halls and enjoying the cars and fire trucks going back and forth. It’s fun, but it’s not, like, actually fun. We just want to see if they actually make it through. But some cars didn’t make it through.”
Omarion Simmons bends down to refill his water gun in one of Bridgeview’s parking lots. He says it’s like having a community pool, you just can’t swim in it.
“For a few days, we didn’t have anything to do but rap,” says Simmons.
When asked if they know who has lived in Bridgeview the longest, the kids all respond, “Mrs. Josephine” in unison. On the way to her apartment, the kids pass by the manager’s office at Bridgeview. Hanging in the door is a note explaining that the office is closed due to extreme weather conditions. Residents are advised to call the office and leave a message in the event of a maintenance emergency.
“Please note, they will respond based on their ability to access the property, which is very limited right now,” the sign reads. “Please be safe and stay inside if possible.”
As they reach Mrs. Josephine’s apartment, the kids open the door and rush inside. Dressed a faded floral housedress, Mrs. Josephine has just sat down to dinner. The kids say she’s lived in Bridgeview for 41 years. Mrs. Josephine won’t say exactly how long she’s lived in the neighborhood, but she says she’s been there for more than 30 years. And in that time, this month’s storms have been the worst she’s seen.
“Yesterday, we didn’t have no way of getting in and out. They had those barricades up where nobody could come in. And now it’s just one way in and one way out,” she says.
Pushing the kids out the door, Mrs. Josephine adds, “I haven’t seen any flooding here since [Hurricane] Hugo’s time. But this is worse.”
This seems to be the consensus among most of the longtime residents of Bridgeview. Heading down the narrow stretch of road that’s become the community’s only path to the outside world, drivers repeatedly blast their car horns to warn potential oncoming traffic. With the road only wide enough for one vehicle to travel at a time, drivers are forced to pull to the side as another car approaches. For Charles Smith, the past few days in Bridgeview are reason enough to leave.
“This is the first time I’ve ever seen a flood in Bayside, for the almost 10 years I’ve been here, anyway. And I hope I don’t see no more,” says Smith. “After 10 years, I’m getting the hell out of here. This is enough. Imagine we get trapped in here again and can’t get out.”