As rains that caused the worst flood in Columbia in more than a century ended Monday, thousands of people in the Midlands lacked water and power, dozens of roads remained impassible and the death toll continued to rise.
At least five people, ranging in age from 24 to 78, died in vehicles found in flooded Columbia-area streets since Sunday, Richland County Coroner Gary Watts said. A sixth death was reported late Monday by the Richland County Sheriff's Department, which said in a news release that an 82 year-old-man who had been missing was found dead in his vehicle, which was submerged on People's Street. Further details, including the man's name, were not immediately available.
Two of the other victims were found Monday morning near Lake Katherine on Shady Lane and on Teague Road, near Sun View Lake. The remaining three victims were found Sunday on Sunset Drive in north Columbia, near the intersection of Devine Street and Rosewood Drive, and near Eastover on Garners Ferry Road.
At least 11 people statewide have died in storm-related accidents since Gov. Nikki Haley declared an emergency late Thursday.
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Water levels on Gills Creek and the Congaree River, which spiked Sunday as more than a foot of rain fell, remained above flood stage Monday.
The rainfall Sunday set a 128-year record for Columbia, according to the National Weather Service. The 16.6 inches of rain that fell at Gills Creek at Forest Drive and Interstate 77 on Sunday was the rainiest days recorded at a U.S. weather station in more than 16 years.
Rising water that breached dams contributed to the flooding Sunday in some areas, including in Forest Acres.
Four dams have broken in Richland County, including two in Forest Acres, the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control said. The dam at Overcreek Road burst Monday afternoon.
A evacuation of nearby residents was underway late Monday afternoon and larger portion of Devine Street near Gills Creek was closed in anticipation of more flooding from the burst dams. More than 130 people were evacuated to the shelter at A.C. Flora High School.
Forest Acres also closed heavily traveled Forest Drive near Trenhom Plaza as a precaution. That area flooded Sunday. Columbia police did the same on Devine Street near Fort Jackson Boulevard, which also flooded Sunday.
The slowly receding water is hampering recovery efforts.
Authorities across Richland County said they would need several days to search homes and cars for people as the flood waters recede.
“We’re preparing for at least 10 days (of recovery) and that’s probably low,” Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott said. “We have a lot of damage to our roads, to our infrastructure.”
To aid the state’s recovery after the historic storm, Gov. Nikki Haley said Monday she asked federal officials for a major disaster declaration that would provide housing assistance to people displaced by flooding and money to local governments for debris removal, emergency protection and repairs.
The White House issued the major disaster declaration on Monday night that could provide aid to as many as 11 counties, including Richland and Lexington. Under the declaration, people without insurance could get as much as $33,000 for home repairs, said Derrec Becker, spokesman for S.C. Emergency Management Division.
The governor spoke with the president Monday morning. She said he expressed his thoughts and prayers for the state.
“Tonight’s federal declaration was an extremely important first step in our recovery,.” Haley said in a statement. “We have now entered the largest recovery program our nation offers in an almost unprecedented time frame. What this allows us to do is to assess the damage of this storm in every single county and continue to add to the list of those eligible for this support — a list we know will grow.”
The S.C. coast received the most rain from the slow-moving storm that struck Thursday. But the Midlands took a wallop Sunday.
Areas around Forest Acres, Eastover, Gaston and Hopkins remained inundated Monday.
Columbia and Richland authorities have conducted hundreds of recoveries and rescues since the storm blanketed the Columbia area. The Richland County Sheriff’s office received more than 2,400 calls for help from Sunday morning to Monday morning.
Roads remain an issue.
Statewide, nearly 400 roads and more than 150 bridges were closed because of the flooding conditions, according to the S.C. Emergency Management Division.
Nearly 170 roads in Richland and Lexington counties were closed Monday.
Traffic in the Midlands was very light Monday with the exception of Interstate 77, S.C. Department of Public Safety director Leroy Smith said.
That interstate is being used as a detour for traffic diverted off I-95, portions of which are closed.
A portion of Interstate 26 remained closed in Lexington County because of the high water levels in the Saluda River.
Water outages and potential contamination worried some city residents.
The city of Columbia does not know how many residents do not have water.
Water was restored for some residents but city officials said they could lose service again. City officials said they are dealing with about a dozen water line breaks.
City officials asked residents to boil water for at least one minute before drinking it or cooking with it.
Columbia and Richland County officials planned to distribute bottles of water at four locations Monday. Another six locations will be added Tuesday.
“There is going to be plenty of water,” Haley said.
The governor said about 40,000 homes statewide were without water.
People scrambled Monday to find water to buy at stores, but most stores were sold out.
A Target employee told more than two dozen customers waiting outside the Garners Ferry Road location on Monday morning that all the store had left for sale was specialized water for babies.
Another two dozen people lined up outside the Big Lots on Garners Ferry for an hour, which had jugs of water in the window, were told the store would not open.
“Look at all these people out here,” said Clark Davis, a maintenance worker in Columbia. “We’re all aggravated because we can’t get what we need.
Power outages dotted the region.
About 9,500 S.C. Electric & Gas customers in Richland and Lexington counties were without power. Haley said outages were reported at about 25,000 home statewide.
Meanwhile, Richland County went under a curfew for a second straight evening in an effort to keep streets clear and avoid people driving into flooded streets.
Some businesses in Eastover reported looting, Richland County Sheriff’s Department spokesman Curtis Wilson said. Additional deputies were assigned to that town, he added.
Midlands schools are closed Tuesday and the University of South Carolina canceled classes for a second day.
State officials asked South Carolinians to avoid unnecessary travel as recovery efforts continue.
“We can’t let our guard down,” state Public Safety director Smith said.
Staff writers John Monk, Cassie Cope and Clif LeBlanc and the Associated Press contributed.
Columbia flood-related deaths
At least five people from Columbia died in vehicles found in flood waters after Sunday’s historic rain storm, according to Richland County Coroner Gary Watts:
Alexandria Maret Holmes, 24, was found at 1:10 p.m. Sunday at 1400 Sunset Drive in Columbia
Timothy Gibson, 45, was found at 6:42 p.m. Sunday on Garners Ferry Road near Eastover
Robert McCarty, 78, was found at 10:25 p.m. Sunday at 4400 Devine St. in Columbia
Melissa Lee Hall, 35, was found at 3:30 a.m. Monday at Shady Lane and Kilbourne Road in Columbia
Robert Edens Allawos, 60, was found 7:15 a.m. Monday at Caughman and Teague roads in Columbia