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TWC: South Carolina Flooding: Evacuations Ordered as Columbia Dam Likely to Break

Author: Sean Breslin

Source: The Weather Channel

October 7, 2015

Residents near one Columbia, South Carolina, dam were told to flee Wednesday morning, as it was about to break, potentially putting thousands in the path of millions of gallons of water.

Those new evacuation orders were issued after concern that the Beaver Dam at Pebble Creek could breach. All residents were ordered to evacuate the area, asking that they go to A.C. Flora High School.

"Move to higher ground now. Act quickly to protect your life," wrote the National Weather Service's Columbia office in an alert sent to the area Wednesday morning.

Overnight Tuesday, engineers were confident they'd be able to contain the dam, but by Wednesday morning, it was clear that would no longer be possible, Richland County Sheriff's Department spokesperson Chris Cowan told NBC News. Engineers still hope they can redirect the water if there is a dam break, but urged all residents to leave the area anyway.

Although the bulk of the rain has ended, high waters are still a very dangerous reality after the historic flood event in South Carolina. Rescue crews went door to door in South Carolina's capital city of Columbia as officials continued to free residents that were trapped by severe flooding that swamped virtually the entire state.

“I believe that things will get worse before they get better,” Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin said Monday. “Eventually the floods will abate, but then we have to access the damage, and I anticipate that damage will probably be in the billions of dollars, and we’re going to have to work to rebuild. Some peoples’ lives as they know them will never be the same.”

At least 15 people have died from the floods in South Carolina since the rain began to fall days ago. In the wake of the disastrous flooding event, President Barack Obama signed a disaster declaration for the state of South Carolina, ordering federal aid to supplement state, tribal and local recovery efforts.

Obama's action makes federal funding available to affected parties in Charleston, Dorchester, Georgetown, Horry, Lexington, Orangeburg, Richland and Williamsburg counties. Forms of assistance included are grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans for uninsured property losses and other programs to help individuals and business owners recover.

The rain event has set records all over the state, flooding entire towns. For some locations, this historic rainfall qualifies as a 1,000-year rain event, meaning in a given year there is a 1 in 1,000 chance of observing rainfall totals of this magnitude.

"The flooding is unprecedented and historical," said Dr. Marshall Shepherd, a meteorologist and director of the atmospheric sciences program at the University of Georgia, in an email to The Associated Press.

The University of South Carolina announced Tuesday classes will be canceled for the rest of the week due to the floods. A football game between USC and Louisiana State University is scheduled to be played in Columbia on Saturday, but members of both football programs are discussing alternate locations to play the game.

Parts of Columbia, including the USC campus, lost water service, and plans were being made to deliver bottled water and portable restrooms to the students Monday morning.

As a result, officials are begging residents from other areas to donate water for Columbia residents who lack running water. Collections have been set up all over the state for citizens to bring extra bottled water that will be delivered to the Midlands, according to the AP.

Columbia city officials have released a statement issuing a boil water advisory to all 375,000 of its water customers, advising them to vigorously boil their water for at least a full minute. Any ice made from water that was not boiled beforehand should also not be used.

In the region surrounding Columbia, as many as 40,000 homes lacked drinking water, according to the Associated Press. Mayor Steve Benjamin said 375,000 water customers will likely have to boil their water for "quite some time."

Swift-water rescue teams plucked hundreds of residents from stranded cars and flooded homes all over the state.

Officials say it may take weeks or months to assess all of the closed roads and bridges. The South Carolina Emergency Management Division released a statement saying that partial service will return to I-95. For the area south of the I-95 bridges over the Black and Pocotaligo rivers, I-95 Southbound will be re-opened at Exit 119 (SC 261) and all southbound ramps will be opened southward all the way to I-26, For the area north of the bridges, I-95 northbound from Exit 132 (SC 527) and all northbound ramps will be opened all the way to I-20.

I-95 northbound will be opened from Exit 90 (US 176) to Exit 119 (SC 261) in Manning for local traffic only, but closed to all traffic at Exit 119.

I-95 southbound can be opened from Exit 157 (US 76) to Exit 132 (SC 527) for local traffic only, but closed to all traffic at Exit 132.

Hundreds of roads will remain shut down across the state Tuesday; the South Carolina Department of Transportation has a full list here. Read more here.

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