Severe rainfall in South Carolina has caused nine deaths, forced closure of more than 500 roads and bridges, and resulted in the rescue of hundreds of people who were left trapped in homes and cars. The flooding is expected to continue, officials said.
The floodwaters swamped vehicles of five people, drowning them. The state Department of Public Safety said weather related car crashes killed four others. The truck of a state department employee was washed away by the rapidly approaching waters. Two deaths were also reported in North Carolina as a result of the floods. As reported by CNN, these deaths were motor vehicle accidents, and they occurred in Cumberland and Jackson Counties.
As many as 1,000 people have been forced to take refuge in shelters around South Carolina, officials said. Forty thousand people were left without drinking water, which caused the opening of several water distribution centers. Another 26,000 people were left without electricity. Residents were warned to remain alert, especially in Columbia which experienced record breaking rainfall over the weekend.
South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley said in a news conference, “This is not over. There’s still a lot of water out there.” Danger still persists in the state, despite the rains having lessened in intensity. Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin said, “I believe that things will get worse before they get better. Eventually the floods will abate, but then we have to access the damage, and I anticipate that damage will probably be in the billions of dollars, and we’re going to have to work to rebuild. Some peoples’ lives as they know them will never be the same.”
Tommy Rollins, a Columbia resident, had woken up Sunday to the sound of rushing water. “It sounded like someone was taking a shower in every room,” he said. “Within 10 minutes, water was bubbling up through the hardwood floors. We had about 30 minutes and then it was 4 feet deep.” There was chest-deep water as he and his wife stepped off their porch. They were eventually rescued by their neighbor’s boat.
To carry out rescue operations, around 1,300 National Guard troops have been deployed along with in excess of 250 state troopers, other state workers and assessment crews from the federal government and other states. Hundreds of water rescues were executed. Dozens of people were rescued by a helicopter.
Approximately 550 roads and highways were closed in the state, Christy Hall, acting Transportation Secretary, said. With rainwater rapidly flowing towards the coast, there could be more closures, Hall added.
The severe rainfalls have come as a result of a weather system that brought tropical moisture into South Carolina and did not move on. “It was a garden hose that just kept pouring ashore in one spot, and that spot was South Carolina,” CNN meteorologist Chad Myers said.
“This is an incident we’ve never dealt with before,” Haley said, adding that the possibility of further flooding persists as rains in Midlands and Upstate South Carolina continue to flow into the area called Lowcountry, which is already swamped. Almost 30 streets were flooded on Monday, as reported by the Huffington Post. “It’s still a pretty desperate situation,” National Weather Service forecaster, Dave Loewenthal, said. “We are going to have river flooding for weeks, if not months.”
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