South Carolina emergency management officials worked around the clock to oversee rescue operations when a catastrophic flood hit the state in early October. Governor Nikki Haley called the rains the worst “in 1,000 years” and urged residents to avoid driving, since conditions were “changing by the minute.”
The National Weather Service (NWS) reported that one area of Columbia received nearly 17” of rain in 17 hours with more rainfall expected over the next 24 hours. Rivers reached their highest levels in decades, and the flooding of roads and highways was so severe that 75 miles of I-95 was shut down.
The NWS issued warnings of catastrophic flash flooding for Berkeley, Charleston, and parts of Dorchester County. The agency characterized the flooding in Dorchester County as “life-threatening,” with 140 stranded residents needing to be rescued within a twelve-hour period.
According to South Carolina Emergency Management, 10 counties or municipalities declared states of emergency, while 8 counties or municipalities imposed overnight curfews. Hundreds of National Guardsman were deployed to help with rescues and evacuations, and hundreds more remained on standby.
Authorities commenced search and rescue operations in areas of Columbia and Richland counties. They planned to evacuate citizens in military vehicles and transport them by bus to a safe zone shelter. Crews spray-painted an orange “X” on the doors of houses that had been checked.
Near Charleston, the Coast Guard helped with land rescues in Berkeley County. The city received 11.5 inches of rain in one day according to the NWS. That made it the wettest day on record.
President Obama declared a state of emergency for the state, which will result in federal assistance to help the efforts of state and local officials.