Weather forecasters say South Carolina is about to get drenched.
Heavy rain and flooding are forecast for the weekend as an east-moving weather system is expected to combine with the edge of Hurricane Joaquin to pound the Palmetto State.
According to some forecasts, parts of the state could get a foot or more of rain by Monday — more than South Carolina typically averages during a three-month period. To residents already weary from a week of soggy weather, the rain is nothing to look forward to.
Nearly seven inches of rain could fall in the Columbia area by Sunday morning, according to the National Weather Service. In the mountains, rainfall could exceed 15 inches, according to one weather service forecast, although other forecasts were more conservative.
More than 8 inches are expected to fall in the Charleston area, the National Weather Service reported.
The state is unlikely to suffer a direct blow from a hurricane, forecasters said. Joaquin is projected to slip by South Carolina and hit farther up the East Coast, if it makes landfall at all, later in the weekend.
But state and local officials were preparing for the worst, issuing warnings to people to stay away from flood-prone areas and to take precautions in the remote event Hurricane Joaquin turns toward South Carolina.
Gov. Nikki Haley declared a state of emergency in advance of potential impacts from Joaquin and the weather system approaching from the west. Haley’s emergency declaration puts state emergency plans into effect. That enables agencies to coordinate resources and better respond to requests for state assistance from county emergency managers, the governor’s office said.
“Everyone in South Carolina is urged to continue to monitor the developing forecasts through news media and by following trusted sources online,’’ the governor’s office said. “Pay attention to emergency warnings from local and state public safety officials and take safety actions if instructed to do so.’’
The root of the problem is a rainy weather system moving toward the state from the Tennessee Valley. It’s projected to suck in rain from Joaquin offshore.
“We’ve got two weather systems,’’ National Weather Service forecaster Leonard Vaughan said. “If it was just the hurricane, it probably would not be that much rainfall. But the interaction between the two systems produces heavy rain.’’
A flash flood watch is in effect for the entire state from Friday through Monday.
Some rivers and creeks in the Midlands are expected to begin flooding their banks in the next week. Among those is the Congaree River downstream from Columbia. In eastern South Carolina, the Great Pee Dee is expected to flood over the weekend, with waters continuing to rise into early next week.
Beaches, already eroding from unusually high tides and flooding this past week, will suffer even more in the weekend’s unsettled, stormy weather, weather forecasters said.
“We had some astronomically high tides this week, on top of the rain’’ that’s forecast this weekend, Murrells Inlet charter boat Captain Tom Swatzel said. “That’s got everybody really concerned.’’
Heavy rains were falling in downtown Charleston early Thursday afternoon, but it was the high tides that closed a number of streets and intersections in the city before the rains began, the Associated Press reported.
Already, soggy weather was causing problems Thursday in the Upstate. Spartanburg County Coroner Rusty Clevenger said a 56-year-old woman died Thursday morning when her car was flooded.
In Columbia, city officials urged residents to be cautious of flash flooding. The city has a number of hot spots that flood during heavy thunderstorms, including the intersection of Whaley and South Main streets near the University of South Carolina and along Harden Street in Five Points.
Columbia leaders warned motorists to turn around if they see flooding. Assistant City Manager Missy Gentry said public works employees were cleaning out storm drains. She also said barricades to block roads were being set out, to be put in place in case of floods.
Fire Chief Aubrey Jenkins said residents should not go near downed power lines. He suggested residents stock up on ice coolers to preserve cold foods if the power goes out.
What was shaping up to be a busy fall weekend in Columbia is being washed out by the rain forecast to hit the city. Some events had already been postponed, including Jerryfest in Five Points, which has been moved to late October.
Amy Beth Franks, director of the Five Points Association, said the weekend forecast “makes the event planner in me cry a little bit. There were so many events this weekend.’’
Still, she said Five Points merchants are “no strangers to flooding” and were preparing businesses in low-lying areas for rising waters. The city of Columbia will provide sandbags to the merchants to fight rising flood waters.
Franks urged motorists not to drive through flooded streets in Five Points. The wake created by automobiles creates small waves that make flooding in businesses worse, she said.
The Associated Press and staff writer Cassie Cope contributed to this story.