Hurricane Joaquin is long gone and the heavy rains have subsided in South Carolina, but flooding continues to devastate areas of the state as rivers run over and dams threaten to burst. Two more people were killed Wednesday in the flood waters, bringing the death toll for the coastal state to 17. Although federal aid has been approved for the region, the storm’s damage isn’t yet complete. And now additional flooding is expected in the coming days as dams become weak, threatening even more residents with an onslaught of flood waters.
Near the capital city of Columbia, some residents were able to remain in their homes through the storm and initial flooding, kept safe from the water by flood walls and dams. The state received more than two feet of rain over the weekend – what the governor and others have since referred to as a “thousand-year rainfall” – and the rain didn’t stop until Tuesday to end a nearly two-week streak. Although the skies are now clear, the immense amount of water on the ground still poses a threat to local communities. Some of those residents who resisted evacuation during the storm have now fled their homes, seeking shelter in local school gymnasiums, due to fears of dams breaking.
The storm has already displaced thousands of residents from their homes, either because they are flooded or due to lack of utility services. They now huddle in community storm shelters, where relief workers can supply clean water and food. Those who fled their homes out of fear were right to do so, considering that 13 dams have failed in the state and some 270 state-maintained roads and 140 bridges are now closed due to the flood conditions, according to state officials. The National Weather Service warns that additional flooding – mainly as rivers collect flood water and become overwhelmed – could continue through the weekend, even if there is no more rain. Based on this news, Governor Nikki Haley acknowledges that more evacuations are possible in some eastern counties. “Things are getting better in the Midlands,” she said. “Things are about to get worse on the coast.”