The sun broke through Tuesday in Columbia, but the damage from the weekend’s historic storm continued to cast shadows in the form of washed-out roads, flooded homes, breached dams and troubled water service.
“Don’t let the sunshine fool you,” Gov. Nikki Haley said.
Dams continued to break in the wake of more than 20 inches of rain falling in some areas of the Midlands. The Lake Elizabeth dam burst Tuesday, the sixth in Richland County and 11th in the Midlands to breach since Sunday.
State officials continue to monitor 35 other dams. Breaches emptied lakes in Forest Acres in a matter of minutes, leaving trickles of water.
Another breach threatened some of the city of Columbia’s water supply.
The S.C. National Guard used a Chinook helicopter to drop 1-ton sandbags in an effort to patch a wall of the Columbia Canal. Upstream from the breach, crews worked to build a boulder dam to push canal water levels high enough to keep the city of Columbia’s water-treatment plant operating.
Thousands of Columbia residents remained without clean water. Others have been dealing with low water pressure since the storm. All Columbia water customers still must boil water for at least a minute because of at least 15 ruptures in water lines.
Columbia-area residents poured into eight distribution centers set up around Richland County to get bottles of water. Supplies were available, but one site ran out.
“It’s definitely a lifesaver,” said Sophia Johnson, who stopped by a distribution spot near Forest Acres. “The rain has stopped, but the problems it caused areas aren’t over.”
The prolonged water woes led the University of South Carolina and Richland 1 and 2 school districts to call off classes for the rest of the week. USC also is considering moving Saturday’s football home game against LSU to another site.
While Williams-Brice Stadium escaped damage, school leaders said they are concerned about access to water inside the stadium, fans trying to make their way to the game over damaged roads and the availability of police and first responders required to host a game.
“With what has happened here in the state of South Carolina and the city of Columbia, football is not nearly as important or important at all when you think about it,” USC athletics director Ray Tanner said.
The storm-related death toll continued to rise. Half of the 14 deaths statewide tied to the rains that started Thursday have been in Richland County. All seven victims in Richland County drowned in vehicle-related mishaps, county coroner Gary Watts said.
The body of Sampson Antwan Pringle, 30, of Columbia was found in Carys Lake at a home on Trenholm Road on Tuesday morning. Watts also identified a victim from Columbia found Monday night at Peeples Street, near Monticello Road. Richard Nelson Milroy, 82, is the oldest person in Richland County to die in the storm.
“We were really glad to see the sun come out today, but to see another fatality is really sad,” said Matt MacGillivray, whose wife discovered Pringle’s body.
At least 10 people are missing in Richland County, though some might not be unaccounted for due to the storm, Sheriff Leon Lott said. Some areas of Lower Richland are accessible by boat only, Lott said, hindering efforts to check on residents.
As of Tuesday evening, authorities had rescued almost 400 people from the water in Richland and Lexington counties. Hundreds more were rescued by neighbors and bystanders.
With the rains subsiding, the state began to send out assessment crews to examine damage from the storm.
President Barack Obama declared portions of South Carolina a disaster area Monday, including Richland and Lexington counties. More counties could qualify for aid to help residents repair housing and governments fix roads if assessments find they suffered significant damage.
The examinations will start in the Upstate, said Haley, who took an aerial tour of the damage to the state Tuesday. “It is hard to look at the loss we're going to have, but everything will be OK,” she said.
Richland County Council voted Tuesday to spend $1.5 million to aid with assessing emergency response and recovery efforts.
Some major roadways reopened Tuesday, including a section of Interstate 26 between Interstate 126 and U.S. 378 at the Saluda River. All of I-26 in South Carolina now is open.
Portions of a 74-mile stretch of Interstate 95, the major artery along the Eastern Seaboard, also reopened for local traffic after being closed Sunday.
But more than 100 roads and bridges remained closed Tuesday in Richland County because of flooding, including 18 roads and bridges that have been washed out. More than 70 roads and bridges were impassable in Lexington and Kershaw counties.
A sinkhole near the Amazon distribution center south of Cayce was discovered after a vehicle drove into it late Monday when the driver ignored barricades across the flooded road, Lexington County administrator Joe Mergo said. The driver was not injured.
Haley warned drivers Tuesday to obey road closures. “This is not safe,” she said. “We want to make sure every bridge and every road that you put your car on is safe.”
The governor and other state officials are worried that waters that covered parts of the Midlands now will stream south into areas that also sustained record amounts of rain.
Haley said downstream cities along major rivers — including Conway, Orangeburg and Williamsburg — were being watched for flooding. She said additional evacuations were possible through Thursday in Richland, Florence, Horry and Marlboro counties.
Staff writers Clif LeBlanc, Jamie Self, Cassie Cope, Jane Dail, Josh Kendall, Tim Flach and Roddie Burris contributed.
Richland County deaths
At least seven people from Columbia have drowned in this historic storm:
▪ 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
▪ Richard Nelson Milroy, 82, was found 10:18 p.m. Monday at Peeples Street near Monticello Road in Columbia
▪ Sampson Antwan Pringle, 30, was found 10:40 a.m. Tuesday at 6838 N. Trenholm Road in Columbia