'Fire hose' of moisture slams South Carolina; 12 killed

  • Floodwaters close in on homes on a small piece of land on Lake Katherine in Columbia, S.C., Monday, Oct. 5, 2015. After a week of steady rain, the showers tapered off Monday and an inundated South Carolina turned to surveying a road system shredded by historic flooding.

    Floodwaters close in on homes on a small piece of land on Lake Katherine in Columbia, S.C., Monday, Oct. 5, 2015. After a week of steady rain, the showers tapered off Monday and an inundated South Carolina turned to surveying a road system shredded by historic flooding. Associated Press

  • A home in floodwaters on Sullivan's Island, S.C., Monday, Oct. 5, 2015. The Charleston and surrounding areas are still struggling with floodwaters due to a slow moving storm system.

    A home in floodwaters on Sullivan's Island, S.C., Monday, Oct. 5, 2015. The Charleston and surrounding areas are still struggling with floodwaters due to a slow moving storm system. Associated Press

  • A kayaker makes her way down floodwaters on Sullivan's Island, S.C., Monday, Oct. 5, 2015. The Charleston and surrounding areas are still struggling with floodwaters due to a slow moving storm system.

    A kayaker makes her way down floodwaters on Sullivan's Island, S.C., Monday, Oct. 5, 2015. The Charleston and surrounding areas are still struggling with floodwaters due to a slow moving storm system. Associated Press

  • Zach Stadelman walks along a flooded street in Wilmington, N.C., Sunday, Oct. 4, 2015. Numerous roads in Brunswick and New Hanover counties in southeastern North Carolina are impassable as a storm system that inundated South Carolina moves north. (Mike Spencer/The Star-News via AP)  MANDATORY CREDIT

    Zach Stadelman walks along a flooded street in Wilmington, N.C., Sunday, Oct. 4, 2015. Numerous roads in Brunswick and New Hanover counties in southeastern North Carolina are impassable as a storm system that inundated South Carolina moves north. (Mike Spencer/The Star-News via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT Associated Press

  • Floodwaters surround mobile homes following flooding in Florence, S.C., Monday, Oct. 5, 2015. Flooding continues throughout the state following record rainfall amounts over the last several days.

    Floodwaters surround mobile homes following flooding in Florence, S.C., Monday, Oct. 5, 2015. Flooding continues throughout the state following record rainfall amounts over the last several days. Associated Press

  • A vehicle and a home are swamped with floodwater from nearby Black Creek in Florence, S.C., Monday, Oct. 5, 2015. Flooding continues throughout the state following record rainfall amounts over the last several days.

    A vehicle and a home are swamped with floodwater from nearby Black Creek in Florence, S.C., Monday, Oct. 5, 2015. Flooding continues throughout the state following record rainfall amounts over the last several days. Associated Press

  • Street signs are surrounded by floodwater from Black Creek in Florence, S.C., Monday, Oct. 5, 2015 as flooding continues following several days of rain.

    Street signs are surrounded by floodwater from Black Creek in Florence, S.C., Monday, Oct. 5, 2015 as flooding continues following several days of rain. Associated Press

  • Floodwaters from nearby Black Creek swamp a neighborhood along East Black Creek Road in Florence, S.C., Monday, Oct. 5, 2015. Flooding continues throughout the state following record rainfall amounts over the last several days.

    Floodwaters from nearby Black Creek swamp a neighborhood along East Black Creek Road in Florence, S.C., Monday, Oct. 5, 2015. Flooding continues throughout the state following record rainfall amounts over the last several days. Associated Press

  • Floodwaters surrounds a home and a truck in the Black Creek neighborhood following flooding in Florence, S.C., Monday, Oct. 5, 2015. Flooding continues throughout the state following record rainfall amounts over the last several days.

    Floodwaters surrounds a home and a truck in the Black Creek neighborhood following flooding in Florence, S.C., Monday, Oct. 5, 2015. Flooding continues throughout the state following record rainfall amounts over the last several days. Associated Press

  • A vehicle is flooded following heavy rains and flash flooding along Black Creek in Florence, S.C., Monday, Oct. 5, 2015. Flooding continues throughout the state following record rainfall amounts over the last several days.

    A vehicle is flooded following heavy rains and flash flooding along Black Creek in Florence, S.C., Monday, Oct. 5, 2015. Flooding continues throughout the state following record rainfall amounts over the last several days. Associated Press

  • Water surrounds homes and cars in the Black Creek neighborhood following flooding in Florence, S.C., Monday, Oct. 5, 2015. Flooding continues throughout the state following record rainfall amounts over the last several days.

    Water surrounds homes and cars in the Black Creek neighborhood following flooding in Florence, S.C., Monday, Oct. 5, 2015. Flooding continues throughout the state following record rainfall amounts over the last several days. Associated Press

  • Floodwater from nearby Black Creek nearly covers a picket fence along East Black Creek Road following heavy rains and flooding in Florence, S.C., Monday, Oct. 5, 2015. Flooding continues throughout the state following record rainfall amounts over the last several days.

    Floodwater from nearby Black Creek nearly covers a picket fence along East Black Creek Road following heavy rains and flooding in Florence, S.C., Monday, Oct. 5, 2015. Flooding continues throughout the state following record rainfall amounts over the last several days. Associated Press

  • ADDS NEAR GILLS CREEK - Military vehicles block a road near businesses damaged by flooding near Gills Creek in Columbia, S.C., Monday, Oct. 5, 2015. Days of torrential rains kept much of South Carolina and its capital gripped by floodwaters early Monday.

    ADDS NEAR GILLS CREEK - Military vehicles block a road near businesses damaged by flooding near Gills Creek in Columbia, S.C., Monday, Oct. 5, 2015. Days of torrential rains kept much of South Carolina and its capital gripped by floodwaters early Monday. Associated Press

  • A pickup truck rests against the side of Gills Creek near a bridge in Columbia, S.C., Monday, Oct. 5, 2015. Days of torrential rains kept much of South Carolina and its capital gripped by floodwaters early Monday.

    A pickup truck rests against the side of Gills Creek near a bridge in Columbia, S.C., Monday, Oct. 5, 2015. Days of torrential rains kept much of South Carolina and its capital gripped by floodwaters early Monday. Associated Press

  • Hunter Baker surveys flood damage to his neighborhood near the flooded Black Creek following heavy rains in Florence, S.C., Monday, Oct. 5, 2015. Flooding continues throughout the state following record rainfall amounts over the last several days.

    Hunter Baker surveys flood damage to his neighborhood near the flooded Black Creek following heavy rains in Florence, S.C., Monday, Oct. 5, 2015. Flooding continues throughout the state following record rainfall amounts over the last several days. Associated Press

  • Hunter Baker drives his boat down a flooded East Black Creek Road to his home following heavy rains in Florence, S.C., Monday, Oct. 5, 2015. Flooding continues throughout the state following record rainfall amounts over the last several days.

    Hunter Baker drives his boat down a flooded East Black Creek Road to his home following heavy rains in Florence, S.C., Monday, Oct. 5, 2015. Flooding continues throughout the state following record rainfall amounts over the last several days. Associated Press

  • A mailbox is nearly submerged in floodwater in a neighborhood near the overflowing Black Creek in Florence, S.C., Monday, Oct. 5, 2015. Flooding continues throughout the state following record rainfall amounts over the last several days.

    A mailbox is nearly submerged in floodwater in a neighborhood near the overflowing Black Creek in Florence, S.C., Monday, Oct. 5, 2015. Flooding continues throughout the state following record rainfall amounts over the last several days. Associated Press

  • Firefighters use tanker trucks to pump water into Palmetto Health Baptist Hospital in Columbia, S.C., Monday, Oct. 5, 2015. A large part of the city is without water due to flooding from the east coast storm that hit the area.

    Firefighters use tanker trucks to pump water into Palmetto Health Baptist Hospital in Columbia, S.C., Monday, Oct. 5, 2015. A large part of the city is without water due to flooding from the east coast storm that hit the area. Associated Press

  • A vehicle and a home are swamped with floodwater from nearby Black Creek in Florence, S.C., Monday, Oct. 5, 2015 as flooding continues throughout the state following several days of rain.

    A vehicle and a home are swamped with floodwater from nearby Black Creek in Florence, S.C., Monday, Oct. 5, 2015 as flooding continues throughout the state following several days of rain. Associated Press

  • Firefighters use tanker trucks to pump water into Palmetto Health Baptist Hospital in Columbia, S.C., Monday, Oct. 5, 2015. A large part of the city is without water due to flooding from the east coast storm that hit the area.

    Firefighters use tanker trucks to pump water into Palmetto Health Baptist Hospital in Columbia, S.C., Monday, Oct. 5, 2015. A large part of the city is without water due to flooding from the east coast storm that hit the area. Associated Press

  • A strong northeast wind blows sand across Highway 12 at the north end of North Carolina's Hatteras Island as road crews clear sand off the highway and shore up the dunes on Monday, Oct. 5, 2014.  High tides and waves over the weekend pushed sand and ocean water up on the highway.  (Steve Earley/The Virginian-Pilot via AP)

    A strong northeast wind blows sand across Highway 12 at the north end of North Carolina's Hatteras Island as road crews clear sand off the highway and shore up the dunes on Monday, Oct. 5, 2014. High tides and waves over the weekend pushed sand and ocean water up on the highway. (Steve Earley/The Virginian-Pilot via AP) Associated Press

  • Waves and high tides over the weekend washed out a section of the beach road in Kitty Hawk, NC near Mile Post 4, seen on Monday, Oct. 5, 2015.  (Steve Earley/The Virginian-Pilot via AP)

    Waves and high tides over the weekend washed out a section of the beach road in Kitty Hawk, NC near Mile Post 4, seen on Monday, Oct. 5, 2015. (Steve Earley/The Virginian-Pilot via AP) Associated Press

  • Firefighters use tanker trucks to pump water into Palmetto Health Baptist Hospital in Columbia, S.C., Monday, Oct. 5, 2015. A large part of the city is without water due to flooding from the east coast storm that hit the area.

    Firefighters use tanker trucks to pump water into Palmetto Health Baptist Hospital in Columbia, S.C., Monday, Oct. 5, 2015. A large part of the city is without water due to flooding from the east coast storm that hit the area. Associated Press

  • Floodwaters surround mobile homes following flooding in Florence, S.C., Monday, Oct. 5, 2015. Flooding continues throughout the state following record rainfall amounts over the last several days.

    Floodwaters surround mobile homes following flooding in Florence, S.C., Monday, Oct. 5, 2015. Flooding continues throughout the state following record rainfall amounts over the last several days. Associated Press

  • Floodwaters surround a camper and a truck in the Black Creek neighborhood following flooding in Florence, S.C., Monday, Oct. 5, 2015. Flooding continues throughout the state following record rainfall amounts over the last several days.

    Floodwaters surround a camper and a truck in the Black Creek neighborhood following flooding in Florence, S.C., Monday, Oct. 5, 2015. Flooding continues throughout the state following record rainfall amounts over the last several days. Associated Press

  • A pickup truck rests against the side of Gills Creek near a bridge in Columbia, S.C., Monday, Oct. 5, 2015. Days of torrential rains kept much of South Carolina and its capital gripped by floodwaters early Monday.

    A pickup truck rests against the side of Gills Creek near a bridge in Columbia, S.C., Monday, Oct. 5, 2015. Days of torrential rains kept much of South Carolina and its capital gripped by floodwaters early Monday. Associated Press

  • Floodwaters rise over the banks of Gills Creek, destroying several businesses in Columbia, S.C., Monday, Oct. 5, 2015. Days of torrential rains kept much of South Carolina and its capital gripped by floodwaters early Monday .

    Floodwaters rise over the banks of Gills Creek, destroying several businesses in Columbia, S.C., Monday, Oct. 5, 2015. Days of torrential rains kept much of South Carolina and its capital gripped by floodwaters early Monday . Associated Press

  • Floodwaters surround a farm and plantation near Huger, S.C., Monday, Oct. 5, 2015. South Carolina is still struggling with floodwaters due to a slow moving storm system.

    Floodwaters surround a farm and plantation near Huger, S.C., Monday, Oct. 5, 2015. South Carolina is still struggling with floodwaters due to a slow moving storm system. Associated Press

  • A vehicle is stranded on Hwy. 41 due to floodwaters near Huger, S.C., Monday, Oct. 5, 2015. South Carolina is still struggling with floodwaters due to a slow moving storm system.

    A vehicle is stranded on Hwy. 41 due to floodwaters near Huger, S.C., Monday, Oct. 5, 2015. South Carolina is still struggling with floodwaters due to a slow moving storm system. Associated Press

  • A man talks on his phone on his porch in floodwaters on Sullivan's Island, S.C., Monday, Oct. 5, 2015. The Charleston and surrounding areas are still struggling with flood waters due to a slow moving storm system.

    A man talks on his phone on his porch in floodwaters on Sullivan's Island, S.C., Monday, Oct. 5, 2015. The Charleston and surrounding areas are still struggling with flood waters due to a slow moving storm system. Associated Press

  • Parts of historic Charleston homes sit in floodwater in Charleston, S.C., Monday, Oct. 5, 2015. The Charleston and surrounding areas are still struggling with flood waters due to a slow moving storm system.

    Parts of historic Charleston homes sit in floodwater in Charleston, S.C., Monday, Oct. 5, 2015. The Charleston and surrounding areas are still struggling with flood waters due to a slow moving storm system. Associated Press

  • Overall aerial view shows historic Charleston at the Battery with minor flooding still visible in Charleston, S.C., Monday, Oct. 5, 2015. The Charleston and surrounding areas are still struggling with flood waters due to a slow moving storm system.

    Overall aerial view shows historic Charleston at the Battery with minor flooding still visible in Charleston, S.C., Monday, Oct. 5, 2015. The Charleston and surrounding areas are still struggling with flood waters due to a slow moving storm system. Associated Press

  • Parts of historic Charleston homes sit in floodwater in Charleston, S.C., Monday, Oct. 5, 2015. The Charleston and surrounding areas are still struggling with flood waters due to a slow moving storm system.

    Parts of historic Charleston homes sit in floodwater in Charleston, S.C., Monday, Oct. 5, 2015. The Charleston and surrounding areas are still struggling with flood waters due to a slow moving storm system. Associated Press

  • Motorists  are stopped at a the Lamar Nathaniel Johnson bridge along the Black River Swamp in Kingstree, S.C., Monday, Oct. 5, 2015. The bridge was closed for precautionary reasons as floodwaters continue to rise.

    Motorists are stopped at a the Lamar Nathaniel Johnson bridge along the Black River Swamp in Kingstree, S.C., Monday, Oct. 5, 2015. The bridge was closed for precautionary reasons as floodwaters continue to rise. Associated Press

  • Residents observe rising floodwaters along the Black River Swamp in Kingstree, S.C., Monday, Oct. 5, 2015. An inundated South Carolina turned Monday to surveying a statewide road system torn apart by historic flooding and going door-to-door to check on people in swamped neighborhoods.

    Residents observe rising floodwaters along the Black River Swamp in Kingstree, S.C., Monday, Oct. 5, 2015. An inundated South Carolina turned Monday to surveying a statewide road system torn apart by historic flooding and going door-to-door to check on people in swamped neighborhoods. Associated Press

  • People stand on the safety of a bridge as homes sit in floodwater in a subdivision west of the Ashley river in Charleston, S.C., Monday, Oct. 5, 2015. The Charleston and surrounding areas are still struggling with floodwaters due to a slow moving storm system.

    People stand on the safety of a bridge as homes sit in floodwater in a subdivision west of the Ashley river in Charleston, S.C., Monday, Oct. 5, 2015. The Charleston and surrounding areas are still struggling with floodwaters due to a slow moving storm system. Associated Press

  • Floodwaters encroach on a large home in Columbia, S.C., Monday, Oct. 5, 2015. After a week of steady rain, the showers tapered off Monday and an inundated South Carolina turned to surveying a road system shredded by historic flooding.

    Floodwaters encroach on a large home in Columbia, S.C., Monday, Oct. 5, 2015. After a week of steady rain, the showers tapered off Monday and an inundated South Carolina turned to surveying a road system shredded by historic flooding. Associated Press

  • Floodwaters break through a walkway in Columbia, S.C., Monday, Oct. 5, 2015. After a week of steady rain, the showers tapered off Monday and an inundated South Carolina turned to surveying a road system shredded by historic flooding.

    Floodwaters break through a walkway in Columbia, S.C., Monday, Oct. 5, 2015. After a week of steady rain, the showers tapered off Monday and an inundated South Carolina turned to surveying a road system shredded by historic flooding. Associated Press

 
 
Posted10/6/2015 7:00 AM

COLUMBIA, S.C. -- People across South Carolina got an object lesson Monday in how you can dodge a hurricane and still get hammered.

Authorities struggled to get water to communities swamped by it, and with waterlogged dams overflowing, bridges collapsing, hundreds of roads inundated and floodwaters rolling down to the coast, the state was anything but done with this disaster.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"This is a Hugo-level event," said Maj. Gen. Robert Livingston, head of the South Carolina National Guard, referring to the September 1989 hurricane that devastated Charleston. "We didn't see this level of erosion in Hugo. ... This water doesn't fool around."

Much-feared Hurricane Joaquin missed the East Coast, but fueled what experts at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration called a "fire hose" of tropical moisture that aimed directly at the state. A solid week of rainfall has killed at least 10 people in South Carolina and two in North Carolina, and sent about 1,000 to shelters. About 40,000 have been left without drinkable water.

One of the latest to die was McArthur Woods, 56, who drove around a barricade and drowned Sunday night. His passenger managed to climb on top of the sedan, which stalled in the rushing water. A firefighter rescued her after someone heard her screams.

"She came out the window. How she got on top of the car and stayed there like she did with that water- there's a good Lord," Kershaw County Coroner David West said.

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By Monday, the heaviest rains had moved into the mid-Atlantic states. Along the Jersey Shore, some beaches devastated by Superstorm Sandy three years ago lost most of their sand to the wind, rain and high surf.

South Carolina authorities mostly switched Monday from search and rescue into "assessment and recovery mode," but Gov. Nikki Haley warned citizens to remain careful as a "wave" of water swelled downstream and dams had to be opened to prevent catastrophic failures above low-lying neighborhoods near the capital.

"South Carolina has gone through a storm of historic proportions," Haley said. "Just because the rain stops, does not mean that we are out of the woods."

Indeed, shortly after the governor's news conference, two dams in two separate towns east of downtown Columbia burst on Monday afternoon, forcing the evacuation of some neighborhoods.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

James Shirer, who lives in the area, saw one of the dams, in the town of Forest Acres, fail and a 22-acre lake drain in 10 to 15 minutes.

"It just poured out," Shirer said.

The 16.6 inches of rain that fell at Gills Creek near downtown Columbia on Sunday made for one of the rainiest days recorded at a U.S. weather station in more than 16 years.

An Associated Press reporter surveying the scene by helicopter saw the entire eastern side of the capital city awash in floodwater. Neither trailer parks nor upscale neighborhoods were spared: One mansion's swimming pool was filled with a yellowish broth.

South Carolina is accustomed to water, but not like this.

The state hosts 30,000 miles of rivers and streams that mostly run from the Appalachians to the sea, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. It also has another 24,000 miles of "perennial waterways" - streams that are usually dry but can turn deadly in flash floods. Now swollen by a week of rain, they have carved new channels through an aging infrastructure.

According to the American Society of Civil Engineers, 1,048 of the 9,275 bridges were structurally deficient before this storm. Some 550 roads and bridges remained closed Monday, including nearly 75 miles of Interstate 95. The governor said they will need close inspection to ensure they're safe.

Some towns were entirely cut off. About 60 miles southeast of the capital, all four roads leading into the county seat of Manning were closed, isolating 4,000 people. Many smaller communities in Clarendon County are in a similar predicament, Sheriff Randy Garrett said.

"I'm the sheriff of a bunch of islands," Garrett said.

The National Guard's Blackhawk helicopters were the best - and only - way to reach some places, and authorities were just starting to identify "vulnerable areas that may not be completely obvious," said Livingston, a two-star general.

The Blackhawk crew including Chief Warrant Officer 2 Antonio Montgomery finished its rescue training just in time for the storm, and quickly put it to use.

Some people waved towels at them, begging for rescues; Neighbors would then step out onto their porches, too, asking to be lifted to safety.

Montgomery, 34, served in Iraq 10 years ago, but there is something different about helping a place where his crew has lived, he said. "It's our home. We've all had friends and families who have lost things."

At a Red Cross shelter in Rowesville, Nyshambi Vega of Holly Hill, about 50 miles northwest of Charleston, settled onto a cot with her boys - ages 2, 1 and 5 months - and hoped for the best.

Like most of her neighbors in her public housing complex, the 24-year-old mother had hoped to ride out the storm. Then the water reached her front door, and the toilet backed up. They were rescued Sunday morning by firefighters who walked small boats through the parking lot.

Along with her boys, all she managed to carry with her was a bag stuffed with diapers and baby formula. The water came up to her chest, and she struggled to hold the baby over her head as she waded to the boat.

"His feet were dipping into the water as we tried to get into the boat, so it was scary and dangerous," Vega said Monday as the infant snoozed, content, in her lap.

Most of her neighbors got out with nothing but the clothes they were wearing, she said, "And the clothes we had on our backs were wet."

Safe water, however, was in short supply: In Columbia, officials brought in bottled water and portable restrooms for the 31,000 students at the University of South Carolina, and firefighters used a half-dozen trucks and pumps to ferry hundreds of thousands of gallons of water to Palmetto Health Baptist Hospital.

Bett Williams' family has lived below Rockyford Lake for nearly a half century; she said she had never seen flooding there before. But on Monday, she had only a few moments before fleeing with her 12-year-old daughter and 9-year-old son to a shelter at the nearby AC Flora High School.

"We grabbed our cellphone chargers and the dog," she said. "We still hope and pray it will be OK."

___

This story has been corrected to show that two dams burst in two separate towns east of downtown Columbia. It also has been edited to correct a previous version that said Gills Creek had the single rainiest day in the U.S. since 1999. Based on a more complete review, federal weather officials say Gills Creek had one of the rainiest days in the past 15 years, but it was not the rainiest.)

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Contributing to this report were Associated Press writers Bruce Smith in Charleston, South Carolina; Mitch Weiss in Greenville, South Carolina; Susanne M. Schafer in Columbia; Jonathan Drew in Raleigh, N.C.; Meg Kinnard in Blythewood, South Carolina; and Seth Borenstein in Washington, D.C.

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