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Flood waters shifting to Lowcountry

A car floats in Gills Creek over Devine Street on Monday.
A car floats in Gills Creek over Devine Street on Monday. gmelendez@thestate.com

The number of deaths from historic flooding that ravaged parts of South Carolina rose to 14 Tuesday, and officials are concerned about flood waters shifting to the Lowcountry area.

The fatalities included eight drownings and six traffic deaths. Two other deaths in North Carolina have been blamed on the storm.

We are still in prayer mode.

S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley

At a Tuesday news conference, S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley said the biggest threat from the floodwaters is shifting from the Midlands to the Lowcountry, citing towns such as Conway, Georgetown, Jamestown, and counties including Williamsburg, Horry and Florence that could be in harm’s way.

“South Carolina has once again proven we are strong and resilient,” Haley said. “(But) we are still in prayer mode.” Haley said the next 36 to 48 hours will be critical, even if it is not raining.

She declined to discuss a dollar amount for the damages but stressed that state, local and federal officials are working together to help communities. Haley said the state is working with the Federal Emergency Management Agency in all 46 counties to assess damages.

FEMA has been doing aerial inspections of damages and should be on the ground Wednesday, according to the governor. People impacted by the floods are encouraged to call FEMA at 800-621-3362; other information is at www.scemd.org.

Officials said 10 dams have failed so far.

About 460 roads and bridges were closed Tuesday. And 74 miles of Interstate 95 remained closed as authorities continued to inspect bridges along the route.

Haley urged drivers to respect road barriers and closures and not remove the barriers. She said there now are 2,200 National Guardsmen activated in addition to 1,400 Department of Transportation maintenance workers and 268 Highway Patrol troopers.

“Damages will be heartbreaking for a lot of people,” Haley said. “We will get through this.”

Water distribution remained a key problem across much of the state. In Columbia, up to 40,000 homes lacked drinking water, and the rest of the city’s 375,000 customers were told to boil water before using it for drinking or cooking.

More evacuations possible

It will take weeks for things to return to normal from the historic rainstorm.

“It’s still going to take time for all the water to work through the rivers,” National Weather Service meteorologist Mike Proud said Tuesday, adding that dams and ponds may rupture.

Meteorologists have called this the worst weather disaster to hit the state since Hurricane Hugo in 1989. Some 20 inches of rain fell in parts of metro Columbia, and Haley has called it “a 1,000-year level of rain.”

Flash flood warnings will continue through midweek for much of the worst-hit areas. Haley said further evacuations of low-lying areas are likely.

In Columbia, the University of South Carolina canceled classes for the week and clean water remained on short supply.

“This is a time of faith. This is a time of strength. This is a time of taking care of others,” Haley said.

In North Carolina

N.C. Gov. Pat McCrory said Tuesday he had surveyed storm damage in the state, and acknowledged that South Carolina took the brunt of the impact. “We’re here to help them in any way we can,” McCrory said. “It could’ve been us at any time.”

Some roads remain closed in the state because of flooding, and McCrory warned people not to cross them.

McCrory also planned to meet with state agriculture officials and farmers about the impact the floods have had on peanut, sweet potato, cotton and tobacco crops. “Certain crops are just sitting in the field rotting,” he said.

Staff writers Michael Gordon and Katie Peralta, the Associated Press and The (Columbia) State contributed.

S.C. breached dams map

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