South Carolina Floods – Dams Breached as Death Toll Rises to 15

In their latest statement on the current flood disaster affecting wide areas of the state, South Carolina Department of Public Safety said that at least 15 people have died as a result of the floods and severe weather since 01 October 2015.

The statement said:

“There have been SIX traffic fatalities statewide that were weather-related since the emergency declaration began. There now have been NINE weather-related fatalities involving drowning, including one additional drowning fatality announced this morning in Richland County. This now brings the TOTAL weather-related fatalities to 15.”

Nine weather-related fatalities involving drowning:
7 in Richland
1 in Kershaw
1 in Spartanburg

Six weather-related traffic fatalities:
2 in Aiken
2 in Greenville
1 in Anderson
1 in Horry

A further two flood-related deaths have also been reported in North Carolina.

Turn Around, Don’t Drown

South Carolina Highway Patrol report that troopers are continuing to see motorists attempting to drive around barricades. South Carolina Department of Public Safety stressed yesterday that the roads are still dangerous in many areas. They warned:

“Do NOT attempt to drive around barricades. They are set up for your safety.”

Roads blocked by floods. Photo: South Carolina
Roads blocked by floods. Photo: South Carolina Department of Public Safety

Emergency Response and Damage Assessment

South Carolina Governor, Nikki Haley, paid tribute to emergency responders:

“As we move from response mode to assessment and recovery mode, we are still encouraging people to be cautious and stay home. Do not attempt to drive through or remove barricades. We continue to lift up and celebrate our first responders and crew members working all hours to keep us safe: 1300 National Guardsmen on duty, 150 water rescues by DNR officers, 1000 DOT maint workers on the roads, 3196 response calls by Hwy Patrol, many utility workers actively working to restore power and water, and DSS workers staffing over 30 shelters across our state”.

Haley said there had been 175 water rescues so far in South Carolina, and more than 800 people were temporarily housed in shelters.

More than 70 miles of Interstate 95 in the state remained closed, with five to eight bridges still awaiting structural checks, she said.

For a full list of current road closures and diversions, see the dedicated South Carolina Department of Transport page here.

Interstate 77 crossing the Congaree River This view is just north of the Interstate 26 junction. Photo: South Carolina
Floods in South Carolina. Interstate 77 crossing the Congaree River. This view is just north of the Interstate 26 junction. Photo: South Carolina Department of Public Safety

Disaster Declared

The US President has declared South Carolina a Major Disaster zone, meaning that federal financial assistance can be made available to those affected. Several counties are already qualified for FEMA assistance. Assessments are continuing to assess and that number may rise over the next few days and weeks.

Homeowners, renters and business owners affected by the recent flooding in South Carolina can register with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for disaster assistance here.

The presidential disaster declaration makes federal assistance available to eligible individuals and business owners in Berkeley, Charleston, Clarendon, Dorchester, Georgetown, Horry, Lexington, Orangeburg, Richland, Sumter and Williamsburg counties.

South Carolina Governor, Nikki Haley, assesses the flood damage. Photo: South Carolina Governor's Office
South Carolina Governor, Nikki Hayley, assesses the flood damage. Photo: South Carolina Governor’s Office

Atmospheric River

The National Weather Service (NWS) said that a “fire hose” of tropical moisture, also known as an atmospheric river, caused the record rainfall in the Carolinas. The atmospheric river is shown on the animation from NWS below:

About the video, NWS say “This water vapor loop, showing the content of water in the atmosphere, shows Hurricane Joaquin bypassing the U.S. after pounding the Bahamas and a separate area of low pressure spinning across the Southeast U.S. that helped stream historically heavy rainfall inland. This imagery, taken from the GOES East satellite, is from October 1 to October 5, 2015”.

The image below, from NWS, shows the rainfall totals for affected areas between 01 and 05 October 2015.

Image: NWS
Image: NWS

Dams Breached

South Carolina Emergency Management Division said earlier today that 18 dams across the state have been breached. State and local officials are closely monitoring the situation.

NWS say that rivers in the state are at major flood stage in 5 locations:

Lynches River at Effingham
Waccamaw River near Conway
Black River, Kingstree
Edisto River, Givens Ferry
North Fork Edisto River, Orangeburg

There is a fear that heavy rainfall in catchment areas will dramatically increase river levels downstream over the coming days, significantly prolonging the flood disaster in South Carolina.

Columbia Canal breach. City U&E, SCE&G & National Guard are working to stabilize Canal breach. Helicopters on site now. Photo: City of Columbia Government
Columbia Canal breach. City U&E, SCE&G & National Guard are working to stabilize the Canal breach. Photo: City of Columbia Government

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