Search and rescue commences amid historic South Carolina flooding

Floodwaters rise as a vehicle and a man navigate flooded streets in Florence, S.C., Sunday, Oct. 4, 2015. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
Floodwaters rise as a vehicle and a man navigate flooded streets in Florence, S.C., Sunday, Oct. 4, 2015. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

Heavy rain continues to fall over the Carolinas this morning after a major storm that gripped the Southeast this weekend, setting unprecedented rainfall totals in parts of South Carolina and leaving its capital Columbia flooded. At least seven deaths linked to the weather have been reported.

Columbia’s police department announced that authorities will commence concentrated search-and-rescue operations today. The operation includes helping residents of Columbia and Richland County who need to be evacuated.

Photos: South Carolina Flooding
Photos: South Carolina Flooding

People who are rescued will be taken out of the flood zone in military vehicles and transported by bus to a designated safe zone shelter, the department said. Crews will also mark a bright orange ‘X’ on the front door of houses that have been checked.

Sunday saw hundreds of rescues from the fast-moving floodwaters in the state. Emergency workers helped people who were stuck in their cars, while others were lifted by helicopter.

There were six weather-related deaths in South Carolina and one-weather related one in North Carolina, according to the South Carolina Emergency Management Division, bringing the total of seven deaths across the two states. The South Carolina Department of Transportation announced Sunday that one of its workers died in flood waters in Columbia.

The National Weather Service Charleston South Carolina tweeted that the flash flood warning for Berkeley, Charleston and Dorchester counties was extended until 9:30 this morning.

South Carolina Emergency Management reported Sunday that 10 counties or municipalities have declared states of emergency, while eight counties or municipalities have imposed overnight curfews. Numerous roads have been closed, and eight swift rescue teams are in operation with more teams coming from out of state. Emergency Management added that school districts in 19 counties are closed or operating on a delayed schedule for today.

As of early this morning, there were 21,150 power outages throughout the state, South Carolina Emergency Management tweeted.

At a news conference Sunday, Gov. Nikki Haley urged residents to stay off the roads as conditions were “changing by the minute,” with roads flooding and rivers at their highest levels in decades.

South Carolina officials advised residents not to drive any time Sunday or today, citing dangers including downed power lines and bacteria in the water.

Many residents of Columbia were without drinking water Sunday evening because of water main breaks from the flooding, and officials say those affected should be prepared to be without potable water from the city system for three to four days.

Earlier, the city issued a boil water advisory for all of its 375,000 customers.

The storm has produced once-in-a-generation rainfall totals in the state from Charleston to Columbia. On Saturday, Charleston had the wettest day on record with about 11.5 inches of rain. Meanwhile, Columbia received 6.7 inches of rain, making it an all-time calendar day rainfall total.

“The flooding is unprecedented and historical,” Marshall Shepherd, a meteorologist and director of the atmospheric sciences program at the University of Georgia, told The Associated Press.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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