Midlands residents can expect more rainy, dreary weather on Sunday as forecasters called for up to 8 inches of rain during the weekend and potential flooding.
Rainfall totals varied widely in the Columbia area through late afternoon Saturday. Some places had received 2 inches of rain in the previous 24 hours, but other areas had experienced much higher amounts, the weather service reported. Southern Lexington County had gotten 4 to 5 inches of rain, while parts of eastern Richland County had received 6 inches, said Chris Rohrbach, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.
By late afternoon Sunday, the Columbia area can expect another 3 to 6 inches of rain, according to the National Weather Service. The heaviest rain in central South Carolina is expected in Orangeburg and Barnwell, which could get up to 8 inches, he said. The rain should dissipate by early in the week, with the sun expected to break through by Tuesday, weather forecasters said. A flash flood watch is in effect for the Columbia area until 8 a.m. Monday.
President Obama on Saturday declared a state of emergency in South Carolina because of the storms and flooding. The declaration authorizes the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency to coordinate disaster relief efforts.
Also Saturday, the state Emergency Management Division and other agencies increased the state’s operating condition to level one, the highest of five classifications. The agency said level one indicates a disaster or emergency situation is in effect and full emergency operations are ongoing.
The state Emergency Management Division said three people had died in weather-related incidents since Friday, one each in Aiken, Anderson and Greenville counties. Details were not available late Saturday.
The weather knocked out power to thousands of South Carolinians. At 5 p.m., nearly 3,400 customers were without electricity. The bulk of the reported outages were centered in the Lowcountry, where 2,364 South Carolina Electric & Gas Co. customers in Charleston were without power and more than 300 customers in Beaufort had no power, according to the utility's website. In addition, about 100 electric customers in Greenwood were reporting outages.
At noon, about 680 Richland County residents had lost electricity.
The city of Columbia reported no issues Saturday afternoon. But with the worst of the rain expected later, “We are not clear yet,” Assistant City Manager Missy Gentry said.
The city opened its inclement weather center for the homeless at 7 p.m. in partnership with United Way of the Midlands, The Salvation Army, The COMET and Midlands Housing Alliance.
Five Points, which frequently floods, braced for more rain through Sunday. “Everybody is still on high alert,” said Amy Beth Franks, executive director of the Five Points Association. Store owners had put out sandbags on Friday and barricades were still staged on Saturday to block traffic, if needed. “We’ve been lucky so far, but we’re definitely still preparing for flooding should it happen.”
Statewide, more than 70 roads were closed Saturday afternoon because of the weather, including more than 40 in Charleston County. One Lexington County road was closed: Poole’s Mill Road from Mack Edisto Road to Johnson King Road. No Richland County roads were closed.
The DOT said 1,000 employees were working on storm-related issues.
Staff writers Roddie Burris, Tim Flach, Clif LeBlanc and The Greenville News contributed.
A toll-free phone number has been established for public questions about severe weather conditions in the South Carolina. Citizens can call 1-866-246-0133.