South Carolina was expecting sunshine Tuesday after days of rain, but it will take weeks for the state to return to normal after being pummeled by a historic rainstorm that has led to deadly flooding, burst dams and more than $1 billion in damages.
State residents reeled under the effects of weekend flooding that killed at least 11 people, sent more than 1,000 to shelters and left about 40,000 without drinking water. South Carolina Electric and Gas said fewer than 1,000 residents were without power early Tuesday.
A tropical air mass over much of South Carolina since Thursday dumped up to 51 centimeters (20 inches) of rain in some parts of the state between Friday and Sunday, the National Weather Service said.
Even as the rain tapered off, officials warned of the likelihood of new evacuations because of dam failures.
Authorities said early Tuesday a dam in the Columbia area failed, and officials urged residents who live on about a dozen roads nearby to seek higher ground immediately.
In South Carolina there are about 2,400 dams, almost all privately owned, according to media reports. At least nine of them have failed in the past few days, Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin said in a report by the French news agency AFP.
Gov. Nikki Haley warned communities downstream that a mass of rainwater working its way toward the low-lying coast could cause more flooding and displace more residents.
“This is not over. Just because the rain stops does not mean that we are out of the woods,” Haley said Monday.
President Barack Obama also signed a disaster declaration on Monday, making federal aid available to the southern state that has been drenched with a level of rain that — as Haley put it — the region has not seen in 1,000 years.
South Carolina’s geography and poor spending on infrastructure left several town and cities like islands as nearly 500 roads and bridges remained closed Tuesday morning as engineers work to determine the structures’ safety, according to the Department of Transportation.
Many of the closures are in the Columbia area, which registered record rainfall this week and where as many as six people drowned in their cars from flooding.
A 90-mile stretch of Interstate 95 is still closed between Interstates 20 and 26 due to flooding and overall poor road conditions.
At least 11 weather-related deaths in South Carolina and two in North Carolina were blamed on the vast rainstorm, described by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration as a “fire hose” of tropical moisture aimed directly at the state.
By Monday, the heaviest rains had moved into the mid-Atlantic states, but not before making history in South Carolina.
The 42.2 centimeters (16.6 inches) of rain that fell at Gills Creek near downtown Columbia on Sunday made for one of the rainiest days recorded at a U.S. weather station in more than 16 years.