Flood Recovery – Infrastructure Failures

Reading Time: 2 minutes
The unprecedented flooding in South Carolina reminds us of not only the dangers of high waters during the initial event, but also of its aftermath. This hits home with us here at ECS, as we have five offices in South Carolina – Florence, Greenville, Taylors, Charleston, and Columbia. Our thoughts and prayers are with our local employees, friends and clients as well as the entire Palmetto State. This post is the third in a series that we will publish over the coming weeks and months to document our experiences and offer useful information for recovery.

In our previous post, we discussed dam failures. Since these structures have the potential to cause death and destruction during an uncontrolled release, they tend to be an anticipated hazard. However, some types of damage to structures during floods are not always obvious or expected. Here are just a few scenarios:


  • Buildings and roads built at the top or bottom of a steep slope or a slope with weak soils can be susceptible to slope failures that can either cover or undermine them.
  • Bridges over streams and rivers suffer damage to their abutments and piers through the impact of debris being washed downstream.
  • Storm structures with minor construction defects might operate in partial flow without issue. However, during heavy rains, the pipes and structures become pressurized, forcing water to find defects in pipe joints or pipe to structure connections. These tend to cause previously undetected man-made sinkholes to open up as the overlying soil is washed away. Sinkholes are also caused by geologic conditions in certain areas.
  • Retaining walls, when properly designed and maintained, should incorporate features to allow free drainage of water behind the walls without allowing the surrounding soil to escape. When retaining walls fail, the results can be devastating.
  • During heavy wind-blown rains, water can find its way into defects in roofing and building cladding systems. If improperly constructed, the water can penetrate the interior finishes. The combination of airborne fungal spores and water inside the building can cause mold to grow and reproduce.

In any of these cases, these conditions should be reported to the owner of the facility who should in turn contact a licensed engineer and the appropriate governmental agency. If the situation appears to pose an immediate danger to the public, contacting emergency services through 911 or the local fire department emergency number is appropriate.

If you need emergency support for any of the issues we’ve described, ECS has dedicated a webpage to help our friends and neighbors in South Carolina recover from this natural disaster and its aftermath. To contact an ECS professional, just click here.