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South Carolina Floods Still Threaten Coastal Towns

by Matthew Grimson /  / Updated 

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Authorities warned residents along South Carolina's coast Wednesday to prepare for more flooding as water from swollen rivers made its way towards the Atlantic.

"This event is not over," South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley said, warning that localized evacuations were likely in state's lowlands as the water shifted.

Some residents of Georgetown, between Charleston and Myrtle Beach, were getting ready by stacking sandbags or moving their possessions as rivers crest upstream.

"This is still a very dangerous situation and will be over the coming days ... all of the water from the system has to go somewhere," said Derrec Becker, spokesman for the South Carolina Emergency Management Division.

Swollen dams also remained a threat. Authorities were monitoring 62 across the state, Haley said, and 13 had failed. She pushed back against criticism that authorities had failed to properly prepare dam infrastructure, pointing out that the floods were a one-in-1,000-year event.

The death toll from the historic floods rose to 19 Wednesday — 17 in South Carolina and two in North Carolina.

Five people were in a pick-up truck that drove into flood water in the Lower Richland County, South Carolina, at 3 a.m. ET, authorities said. Three managed to swim to safety, but two drowned. Police later found one body in the truck, while the other was recovered by a dive team.

"Driving around barricades is deadly," Becker said, once again urging motorists not to ignore safety signs and road blocks.

An evacuation order for about 1,000 homes close to the Beaver Dam, near Columbia, was lifted Wednesday morning after authorities and locals worked through the nights to stabilize the dam after a sinkhole formed nearby.

Distributing safe drinking water continued to be a challenge. In the region around Columbia, as many as 40,000 homes lacked water, although some service was restored Tuesday. Mayor Steve Benjamin said 375,000 water customers will likely have to boil their water before drinking or cooking for "quite some time."

South Carolina was soaked by what experts at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration called a "fire hose" of tropical moisture spun off by Hurricane Joaquin, which mostly missed the East Coast.

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