South Carolina Flooding Danger Remains as Historic Rainfall Passes

by Alexander Smith and Elisha Fieldstadt /  / Updated 

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The deadly, record-smashing rainfall that soaked South Carolina may have finally passed, but the threat is far from over.

Much of the state was still underwater Tuesday, with more than 20 flooded rivers and 10 failed dams. Gov. Nikki Haley warned residents to "be cautious the next 36 to 48 hours."

"Don't let the sunshine fool you," she said.

While the rain had stopped and the sun was shining, forecasters warned some areas could still see rising water levels as the flooding flowed down to the coast.

"This will take until at least Friday, if not the weekend," said Kevin Roth, lead meteorologist for The Weather Channel said.

At least 17 people have been killed — 15 in South Carolina and two in North Carolina — in what experts have deemed a "1,000-year flood event," meaning that in any given year there is a 1-in-1,000 chance of that much rain.

Countless weather records have been broken, including the one for South Carolina's rainiest day on record.

Six rivers were in a state of major flood Tuesday, with seven in moderate flood and eight in minor flood, according to the National Weather Service. Charleston and other parts of coastal South and North Carolina remained under flood warnings.

Another dam failed late Tuesday afternoon, according to the state's Department of Health and Environmental Control, meaning 12 dams have now entirely collapsed across the state.

Related: Pastor Defies Flood Order to Save Casket for Family

The National Guard was bringing in 700 to 750 1-ton sandbags to dam up the Columbia Canal, a primary source of drinking water, which sustained a major breach, said Joey Jaco, the city's utilities director.

"We need to make sure we get this dam constructed very soon," ideally by Wednesday morning, Jaco told reporters. "We have a lot of holes to fill in the system. ... Should we lose this, we'll have about a half a day to a day's worth of capacity."

Haley said the main danger posed by the lingering water was to people who tried to drive through flooded roads in their cars.

"What we are starting to see is people are starting to move barriers and drive through them," she said. "This is not safe."

President Barack Obama signed a disaster declaration Monday night, ordering federal aid to help recovery efforts.

On Tuesday, 305 state-maintained roads and 166 bridges were still closed, according to the state Transportation Department. At least 800 people were in shelters, and more could be evacuated in the next two days.

North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory took time during a news conference to discuss the rain in his own state to send his thoughts to his southern neighbor.

"My prayers are with the Columbia area at this time," he said, noting that while some areas got more than 18 inches of rain during the storm, McCrory said North Carolina had largely dodged a bullet.

Some farmers had lost their crops, which would be an economic hit for them and the state, but "I'm just thankful that we didn't see houses underwater and people underwater," McCrory said. "Folks in South Carolina were taking the brunt of it."

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