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Governor predicts days ahead will be volatile

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By Ashley Heffernan
aheffernan@scbiznews.com
Published Oct. 6, 2015

Gov. Nikki Haley warned S.C. residents to not be fooled by the sunshine today after four days of historic rainfall. She said the next 36 to 48 hours are going to be volatile as water moves downstream from the Midlands to the Lowcountry.

Haley, who held a news conference this morning in West Columbia, flew over several flooded areas of the state in a helicopter earlier in the day to survey the damage.

haley presser 1 web
Gov. Nikki Haley detailed road and bridge closures, recovery plans and flooding statistics during a news conference Tuesday in West Columbia. (Photo/Provided)
“What I saw was disturbing, and it is hard to look at the loss that we are going to have. But everything will be OK,” she said. “What we want to remember is there is a process. We are going to make sure we take every single person in every single county through that process. Our goal is to make sure that the resources are available, our goal is to make sure that the safety is there and our goal is to make sure that we recover and we come out of this stronger than we started. I have no doubt that South Carolina is stronger today than we were yesterday.”

S.C. emergency management officials will be closely watching six areas of the state over the next 36 hours: Conway, Georgetown, Jamestown, Effingham, Orangeburg and Williamsburg.

“Those are the ones that we see the most critical need right now,” Haley said.

Florence, Richland, Marlboro and Horry county residents should expect possible evacuations during the next 48 hours.

“Those lists will change. As the water flows, we will continue to watch that. But that’s what we’re looking at right now,” Haley said. “We have seen that the midland rivers have peaked, and they are now moving to the coast.”

The Edisto, Santee, Black, Waccamaw and Lynches rivers are all at some stage of flooding and are a concern, although none has crested, the governor said.

So far, 10 dams have failed in the state, including three in Lexington County, five in Richmond County and one each in Lee and Aiken counties, according to Catherine Heigel, director of the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control. She said several additional dams are continuing to be monitored for structural integrity.

The S.C. Department of Transportation is reporting 469 road closures in the Palmetto State, which includes 163 bridges. That’s down from the 550 closures that were reported around the same time on Monday.

The number of DOT maintenance crew members on the ground doing temporary repairs has increased from 1,000 to 1,400. An additional 200 engineers are checking the safety, structure and stability of roads and bridges, Haley said.

Since the rain started on Thursday, S.C. Highway Patrol troopers have responded to 4,367 service calls. Of those calls, 1,843 were for traffic collisions, she said.

“The fatality number has now moved up to 14,” Haley said. “I cannot stress enough to the citizens of South Carolina, what we are starting to see is people are starting to move barriers and drive through them, and so other people are driving after them. People are starting to go around barriers. This is not safe. We are doing this to protect you. We are doing this to make sure you don’t travel on a road that we have not fully inspected yet.”

Haley said there are now 268 highway patrol troopers working throughout the state, along with 2,200 S.C. National Guard members. She added that the S.C. Department of Natural Resources has performed 175 water rescues.

Twenty-six shelters are open in South Carolina with 824 occupants. The governor said that number will continue to go up but that there are currently no shortages of food, water and blankets in the shelters.

There are 28 assessment teams on the ground in some of the counties, and the state has the ability to increase to 50 teams.

“We’re starting from the top of the state where it’s now dry and safe,” Haley said. “They are going through and assessing every one of our 46 counties for damage. They are working with every one of the county emergency divisions and DOT local offices on the ground to do the assessments.”

Reach staff writer Ashley Heffernan at 843-849-3144 or @AshleyBHeff on Twitter.

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