South Carolina Flooding: Rains Start Moving Off, but Trouble Isn’t Over

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(CNN) — Here’s the good news for South Carolina: The rain will soon stop. Unfortunately, the flooding will linger.

After days of epic rainfall totaling more than 25 inches in spots, six people are dead, dozens of roads and miles of interstate highways were closed and more than half the state was affected by flooding Monday morning, prompting authorities to encourage people to stay home and away from danger.

The hardest-hit swath of South Carolina stretches from the capital of Columbia, in the middle of the state, all the way to the coast, from Georgetown down to Charleston. On Sunday, Columbia endured its rainiest day in history, according to the National Weather Service. Much of Charleston was drenched by 2 feet of rainfall.

At least 600 National Guardsmen, 11 aircraft and eight swift water rescue teams worked to rescue people from turbulent floodwaters over the weekend, according to Gov. Nikki Haley. They performed more than 200 water rescues between Saturday night and Sunday afternoon, the state Emergency Management Division said.

It’s all the result of a weather system that funneled tropical moisture into South Carolina and refused to move on, CNN meteorologist Chad Myers said.

“It was a garden hose that just kept pouring ashore in one spot, and that spot was South Carolina,” he said.

State officials described it as a 1,000-year storm — referring to weather terminology describing a storm with a 1-in-1,000 chance of happening in any given year.

“This is an incident we’ve never dealt with before,” Haley said Sunday.

While the rain is beginning to move out of the region, as much as an additional 2 inches could fall, Myers said. But some rivers may not crest for possibly two weeks, he said, meaning parts of the state will be dealing with flooding for some time.

‘We Have Lost Everything’

Columbia resident Angela Williams watched the relentless rainfall destroy her neighborhood.

“We have lost everything. What I got on my body is what we have,” she told CNN affiliate WIS-TV. “Pretty much everybody down that hill there has lost everything … our vehicles, our clothes, everything.

“But the best thing is that we still have our lives.”

At least six people have died from weather-related incidents, the South Carolina Emergency Management Division said.

One was a state transportation employee.

Timothy Wayne Gibson, 45, died Sunday in floodwaters while overseeing work in Columbia, the South Carolina Department of Transportation said.

Details of the five other deaths were not immediately available.

On Saturday, President Barack Obama signed a statewide emergency declaration retroactive to Thursday, authorizing federal aid in anticipation of more rain.

State Urges People to Take the Day Off

Haley said Sunday she is “heavily encouraging” county offices and schools to close Monday.

“The main reason for that is this is not going to clear up until at least Tuesday or Wednesday,” the governor said.

Dozens of state and country roads across South Carolina were closed Monday, along with 70 miles of Interstate 95 and portions of I-26, I-526 and I-20. Authorities said roads and bridges had washed out, or were blocked with debris or floodwater.

The National Weather Service issued a public service announcement video reminding people not to drive through water on streets, no matter how shallow it appears to be.

“Do not attempt to drive into flooded roadways,” it said. “It takes just 12 inches of flowing water to carry off a small car. Turn around, don’t drown.”

State offices in some counties closed; others opened on delayed schedules. Still, government officials urged people to stay home and away from the hardest-hit areas.

“Regardless of where you are in the state, stay home,” the governor said. “Stay off the roadways.”

Residents Told to Boil Drinking Water

State emergency officials said Columbia residents should boil their drinking water.

“Rising water from flooding can carry viruses, bacteria, chemicals and other submerged objects picked up as it moves through storm water systems, across industrial sites, yards, roads and parking lots,” the South Carolina Emergency Response Team said.

Those unsure about whether to boil their water should contact local officials or boil their water as a precaution, it said.

In Columbia, five hospitals could be evacuated because of water shortages, officials said.