Officials are strongly urging drivers to stay off the roads in the Midlands for a third straight day as they check to see whether previously flooded bridges are safe to cross.
Meanwhile, state emergency crews are centering their attention on the Myrtle Beach and upper Charleston region. Flash flood warnings remain in effect in Georgetown, Horry, Marion, and Williamsburg counties as the National Weather Service predicts 2-5 inches of rain will fall before noon Monday.
Seven deaths have been reported statewide during the storm — all occurred along roadways. Three of the fatalities happened within 24 hours in Columbia on Sunday. Among those lost in the flooding was a state Department of Transportation employee whose vehicle was swept away by the rushing water. SCDOT identified the maintenance employee as 45-year-old Timothy Gibson.
The National Weather Service reported that more than 16 inches of rain was reported in southeast Columbia on Sunday. On the opposite side of town, all-time records were set at the Columbia Metropolitan Airport for one-day, two days, and three-day rainfall totals.
Statewide, the Highway Patrol said on Sunday night alone its troopers worked 148 collisions, 125 calls for assisting motorists, 53 trees in road, 66 reports of flooding. More than 540 road and bridge closings are in place statewide. (See a complete list here)
Approximately 31,000 power outages have been reported across the state as of Monday morning, but utilities warn that more outages could be coming as trees topple in the coming days.
Significant flooding has been reported in Conway and Georgetown and roads in the region remain impassable near creek crossings. Rod Stalvey of Georgetown affiliate WGTN reports the flooding levels are the worst he has seen since Hurricane Hugo. “We probably had more rain and more flooding during Hugo, but I have never seen this much rain inundate one area in a 24-hour period as long as I have lived in Georgetown,” he said. “And I’ve lived here a long time.”
Georgetown County has opened three emergency shelters for those evacuating their homes.
Conway town leaders have also declared a state of emergency. The National Weather Service is also worried about the Waccamaw River reaching flood stage as rainwater makes its way downstream.
In the Tri-County area north of Charleston, a flash flood warning remains in effect for Berkeley, Charleston and Dorchester counties as rain continues falling and floodwater from upstate makes its way downstream. The Edisto River in particular is predicted to reach major flood stage near Givhans Ferry about 30 miles northwest of Charleston.
In the Midlands, a boil water advisory remains in place for more than 375,000 customers on the City of Columbia water system. City officials say their water treatment plants have been strained with the record rainfall and pipe bursts across the system. They warned it could be 3-4 days before clean water is flowing again. Sumter, Cayce, and Chapin are also under a boil water advisory.
Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin also instituted a 12-hour curfew overnight Sunday, saying the situation was treacherous enough that law enforcement did not want any drivers on the roads.
Drivers are being told to stay completely off the roads in Clarendon County, as many bridges and culverts have become unstable during the flooding. A National Guard vehicle toppled into a creek near Summerton Sunday. Adjutant General Robert Livingston told media on Monday that the roadway had become weakened during the storm. “The road was seemingly dry, but it just dissolved up under the vehicle,” Livingston said. “We have gotten to the point that we are actually putting engineering teams out in front of our vehicles to make sure that the roads are sound.”