More rain a setback for soggy South Carolina

Alex Scroggins stops to help rescue a dog named left behind in a flooded home on Monday, October, 10 2015.
Alex Scroggins stops to help rescue a dog named left behind in a flooded home on Monday, October, 10 2015. jlee@thesunnews.com

Heavy rain returned to parts of South Carolina on Saturday as thousands continued digging out and cleaning up from last weekend’s deluge that left behind disastrous flooding.

Thunder, lightning and a couple of inches of extra rain spread across storm-torn Columbia. While smaller creeks were likely to swell again, the precipitation wasn’t expected to add to the flooding of major rivers and lakes, Gov. Nikki Haley said.

“It’s an anthill compared to what we’ve been through,” she said.

The flooding has caused 20 dams to burst and nearly 100 more are being monitored to make sure they hold, Haley said.

Saturday’s rainfall brought October’s total precipitation in the capital to 12.75 inches – breaking the previous record of 12 inches in 1959 – with 21 days left in the month, the National Weather Service said.

In Myrtle Beach, A cold front brought another swath of rain to the Grand Strand. Forecasters said Saturday that rainfall amounts will be slightly greater than initially anticipated on Friday.

A flash flood watch was issued by the National Weather Service in Wilmington early Saturday and is in effect for northeastern South Carolina and southeastern North Carolina until Sunday. That watch quickly turned into a warning for Horry County and the central Georgetown County area around 1 p.m. Saturday as heavy rain blanketed the area, officials said.

“There definitely could be some street flooding,” Dave Loewenthal, forecaster with the weather service.

In other developments:

▪  South Carolina law officers said they’re making arrests to stave off opportunistic criminals taking advantage of the suffering left by the flooding emergency.

Police in Sumter said they’re looking for a 48-year-old Lexington man who promised to do $2,000 worth of repair work, cashed an upfront check and disappeared.

The Richland County Sheriff’s Department said deputies have arrested and charged two people with looting after stealing a car battery. Sheriff Leon Lott said looters will be charged with a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

Lott said a curfew remains in effect for the entire Columbia area between midnight and 6 a.m. Sunday.

▪  Officials in Georgetown said the Black River crested overnight Friday into Saturday and water levels have dropped 5 inches.

Georgetown County spokeswoman Jackie Broach said the worst flooding appears to be over for some parts of the county.

The rain has swollen rivers past their banks as the water flowed to the coast, threatening coastal cities with more flooding.

The Waccamaw River crested Friday and began to recede. The Black River soon followed. Both rivers empty into Winyah Bay and the Atlantic ocean at Georgetown.

▪  About 13 miles of Interstate 95 remained closed, forcing travelers to take a 168-mile detour through Columbia.

The problem is with about 18 small bridges over the Black and Pocotaligo rivers and surrounding swampland in Clarendon County, state Transportation Secretary Christy Hall said. A contractor was expected to start work Saturday shoring up washed-out foundations under some of the bridges, Hall said.

There was no estimate when the stretch of interstate could reopen.

▪  Columbia water officials exhaled shortly before sunrise Saturday when the stressed downtown treatment plant began taking in more water than it pumped into the flood-ravaged water system.

“We’re on the right side of the equation,” assistant city manager Missy Gentry told City Council Saturday.

The city on Friday activated a 24-inch pipe from the Broad River to feed directly to the plant’s 30 million gallon reservoir, Joey Jaco, Columbia’s director of utilities, said. Smaller pipes had been pumping river water to the plant since Thursday, he said.

The larger pipe began pumping between 4 a.m. and 5 a.m., Jaco said during a Saturday morning public briefing.

The (Columbia) State and (Myrtle Beach) Sun News contributed.