The Latest: Crews work to restore city's water system

AP News
Posted: Oct 06, 2015 6:24 PM
The Latest: Crews work to restore city's water system

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — The latest on the rainstorm that pounded parts of the East Coast (all times local):

6:15 p.m.

Crews are rushing to try to repair a breach in a Columbia canal that is threatening to cut off the main intake valve for the city's water system.

City Utilities Director Joey Jaco said about 200 workers are trying to sink a barge and then put bags with rocks and sand on top to try to mostly close a breach in the canal that is allowing water to run back into the Congaree River.

Jaco says the breach wasn't a problem when the Congaree River was raging earlier this week, but with the river flow slowing, the Columbia Canal is in danger of getting too low.

Jaco thinks the breach can be fixed by Wednesday morning before the level gets below the intake pipe. But if it doesn't, the city has what is likely less than a day's supply of water for its 375,000 customers in a reservoir.


Another dam outside South Carolina's capital of Columbia has been breached, bringing the number of such dam failures to 11 so far.

Emergency Management Division spokesman Derrec Becker says Lake Elizabeth in the Highway 21 and Hardscrabble Road area outside Columbia failed on Tuesday.

Becker says the dam is considered a "small, neighborhood dam," and that he did not know whether a special evacuation order had been declared downstream.

The spokesman says South Carolina officials are now monitoring 35 other dams throughout the state for potential issues.


5:45 p.m.

South Carolina officials have reopened part of Interstate 95 for local traffic, but people driving through on the main highway along the East Coast are still being sent on a 168-mile detour.

The interstate has been closed for three days because of flooding. The state Emergency Management Division said Tuesday afternoon that a 13-mile stretch of I-95 in Clarendon County will remain closed because inspectors don't think it is safe enough yet for traffic on the bridges over the Black and Pocotaligo rivers.

Authorities plan to inspect those bridges again Wednesday afternoon or Thursday morning.

Through traffic will still be routed through Columbia along I-20, Interstate 77 and I-26 — which will make a typical 74-mile trip on I-95 into a 168-mile journey.


5 p.m.

In the small town of Kingstree, roads, schools and businesses are closed from the floodwaters and wild animals are searching for higher ground.

Town Manager Dan Wells says he was involved in an unexpected rescue mission Tuesday when a wild hog that had been swept into the rushing Black River slammed into the side of a bridge. The struggling sow started swimming to the bank, got out of the water and then tried returning when people approached.

A stun gun dropped the exhausted hog and it was carted away to be released in nearby forests and fields.

"It wasn't on my list of things to do today, I can tell you that," said Wells, who help haul the hog off the bank and into the truck.


3:30 p.m.

The South Carolina National Guard is trying to bolster a major breach in a waterway near Columbia and is working with local officials to try to help keep other smaller dams in the state's flooded regions from bursting.

South Carolina National Guard commander Maj. Gen. Robert Livingston said Tuesday's planned operation involved helicopters dropping 1-ton sandbags from Chinook helicopters on a break between a canal and the Congaree river in Columbia.

"These are big sandbags," the two-star general told reporters at the Emergency Management Division headquarters outside Columbia.

The general said one dam that was getting their attention was the dam in Orangeburg, but that efforts to alleviate pressure with regulated water releases seemed to be working.

The state is trying to recover and dry out after days of heavy and historic rains.


2:15 p.m.

While much of Columbia has been crippled by historic flooding, the sprawling University of South Carolina has not been hit nearly as hard.

Classes have been canceled, but the dorms on campus still have electricity and Wi-Fi. Students can still flush the toilet and shower, and the school is handing out free bottled water.

The campus covers 480 acres in downtown Columbia populated by nearly 33,000 students and 6,000 faculty and staff — practically a small city within the state's capital city.

Spokesman Jeff Stensland says flood damage is limited, though the university remains under an advisory to boil water.

Some students have been working to help others, such as Cory Alpert, who with friends organized a list of more than 1,700 volunteers for the city and charities like the United Way.


2 p.m.

Authorities have released the name of a 15th person killed in flooding in South Carolina, bringing the death toll to 17 in two states.

Richland County Coroner Gary Watts on Tuesday said that the body of 30-year-old Sampson Pringle was recovered from a lake on Tuesday morning. Watts says there had been flooding in the area where Pringle's body was recovered.

Watts did not say how Pringle died.

Pringle's vehicle was found on Monday, and his family reported him missing.


12:20 p.m.

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley says she doesn't have a dollar amount right now for the damage done by the historic rains and flooding in the state.

Haley said Tuesday that officials are still assessing the damage and trying to get roads and bridges repaired.

"We're not going to stop until we need everything we need to get back up and running and fixed again," she said.

She said the disaster "could be any amount of dollars."


12 p.m.

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley says God has smiled on the state in the form of sunshine, but she warns residents not to become complacent because several rivers have still not crested after the historic rains.

Haley said Tuesday that the state has officials on the ground in different areas watching and reporting about the water and rivers "minute by minute."

She says there could still be some evacuations along some coastal areas of the state over the next 48 hours.

The governor also says more than 800 people are currently staying in shelters.


11:30 p.m.

State public safety officials say 16 people have been killed in a storm that dumped historic levels of rain on South Carolina.

The Department of Public Safety says that eight people have drowned in South Carolina and six people died in traffic accidents. Two other people were killed in North Carolina.

Six of the deaths were in Richland County, South Carolina, where many areas surrounding the capital city of Columbia have battled record water levels.

On Tuesday, Richland County Coroner Gary Watts identified a man found drowned in his car as an 82-year-old Richard Nelson Milroy of Columbia. Watts says Milroy was found dead in his car after 10 p.m. on Monday in a neighborhood north of downtown Columbia.

Public Safety says its officers have responded to more than 4,300 calls for service, including more than 1,800 collisions.


10:20 a.m.

Gov. Nikki Haley is planning to give an update on the state's response to historic rainfall and flooding that has deluged many areas and claimed at least 11 lives in South Carolina.

Haley's office says the governor is addressing reporters at 11:30 a.m. Tuesday at the South Carolina Emergency Operations Center in West Columbia.

On Monday, Haley warned communities downstream from the capital city that a mass of water was working its way through waterways toward the low-lying coast — bringing the potential for more flooding and more displaced residents.


10 a.m.

Officials say they mistakenly reported that another dam in the Columbia area failed Tuesday as historic flooding hits the state.

Department of Health and Environmental Control spokesman Jim Beasley says that the Upper Windsor Dam has not failed and that earlier reports were incorrect.

But officials say they're monitoring the dam closely. The dam blocks water that would flow down into the same area that was heavily damaged by floodwaters Sunday.

The Richland County government had sent out alerts by email and social media shortly after 9 a.m. saying the dam had been breached. The National Weather Service issued a flood warning because of the incorrect report.

Richland County government later tweeted that there was no breach. State officials say residents don't need to evacuate.

Richland County Sheriff's Lt. Curtis Wilson says it's not clear where the incorrect information originated.


7:30 a.m.

Columbia, South Carolina, Mayor Steve Benjamin says he's proud of the way people in the flooded city are working together to help their neighbors.

Benjamin said he visited a shelter at A.C. Flora High School on Monday night and saw people who didn't know each other taking care of each other.

Benjamin says the city plans to expand the number of water distribution points Tuesday. As many as 40,000 homes have no water service, and those with service have been told to boil the water for at least one minute before using it for drinking or cooking.

Benjamin says that order is likely to be in effect for "quite some time."

He said the city is working to restore water service, a problem that has been complicated by a breach of a dam near a city water plant.


7 a.m.

Authorities say another person has died in historic flooding that has inundated South Carolina's capital city.

Richland County authorities told local news outlets an 82-year-old man who had been missing was found dead in his vehicle Monday. Richland County Sheriff's Lt. Curtis Wilson says the man's car had been underwater in a residential area north of downtown Columbia.

The man's name hasn't been released. So far, the state Department of Public Safety says there have been 11 weather-related deaths in South Carolina. Two other deaths in North Carolina have been blamed on the storm.


5:50 a.m.

Power has been restored to thousands of residents drying out after torrential rains and flooding throughout South Carolina.

South Carolina Electric and Gas says that less than 1,000 residents are without power early Tuesday. Duke Energy says only a handful of its customers are still waiting for electricity to come back on.

That's compared with more than 25,000 outages statewide Monday morning. That figure included about 6,000 outages among the state's electric cooperatives, and their updated figures had not yet been released Tuesday morning.


5:40 a.m.

Hundreds of roads and bridges remain closed in South Carolina as engineers work to determine the safety of many thoroughfares after historic flooding.

The state Department of Transportation says nearly 500 roads and bridges are still closed Tuesday morning. Many of those are in the Columbia area, which registered record rainfall this week.

A 90-mile stretch of Interstate 95 is still closed between Interstates 20 and 26 due to flooding and overall poor road conditions.

Officials are warning residents not to try to drive through or around standing water and debris that have covered many roadways. There have been at least 10 deaths in South Carolina since the storms started last week, while there have been two storm-related deaths in North Carolina.


5:15 a.m.

Officials across South Carolina are imploring people to donate water to residents in the state's flood-ravaged capital city area.

Spartanburg County Sheriff Chuck Wright said in a news release overnight that his officers took 7,000 bottles of water to Lexington County on Monday, and they were all distributed in two hours.

He says his officers are accepting more donations until noon Tuesday and will take them down to the Columbia area.

Along South Carolina's southern coastline, the towns of Bluffton and Hilton Head Island are asking residents to drop off water donations at the Beaufort County Association of Realtors office.

And in Aiken, sheriff's deputies are seeking donations of bottled water and packaged supplies to send to first responders in the area.

Water has been shut off for many residents in the Columbia area due to multiple water main breaks in the wake of historic flooding. People who do still have water service are being asked to boil it for at least one minute before drinking or cooking.


4:30 a.m.

South Carolina is expecting sunshine Tuesday after days of wet weather, but it will take weeks for things to return to normal from a historic rainstorm.

Even as the rain tapered off, officials warned of the likelihood of new evacuations. That was illustrated Monday afternoon when an evacuation was ordered in one of two towns east of downtown Columbia where two dams were breached.

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.

At least 12 weather-related deaths in two states were blamed on the vast rainstorm, including those of five people who drowned in their cars in Columbia alone.

A solid week of rainfall also sent about 1,000 to shelters and left about 40,000 without drinkable water.