The Latest: Contingency plans announced to save water supply

AP News
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Posted: Oct 07, 2015 8:19 PM
The Latest: Contingency plans announced to save water supply

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

8 p.m.

Officials in Columbia, South Carolina, are looking for other options to protect the capital city's main water source after a portion of the Columbia canal collapsed, forcing workers to stop building a dam meant to plug an earlier breach.

Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin called the collapse a setback and encouraged the city's 375,000 water customers to conserve water. But he said officials have contingency plans in place to make sure the city does not run out of water.

Those plans include pumping water from the canal to the reservoir that feeds the water plant. Benjamin said those pumps are already in place. A second plan involves working with the National Guard to pump water directly from the Broad River.

The Columbia Canal was built in the early 1800s and provides 35 million gallons per day to the city's water plant. Record rainfall caused a breach in the canal downstream from the water plant, bringing the canal's water level to dangerously low levels. Workers spent most of the day Wednesday piling rocks in the canal to dam the water ahead of the breach while National Guard helicopters dumped giant sandbags into the water.

Work stopped when a second portion of the canal collapsed Wednesday afternoon.

Benjamin said he is confident city officials will work hard to make sure the city does not run out of water.

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5:45 p.m.

Gov. Nikki Haley took an aerial tour of areas near the coast and warned coastal residents to monitor rivers swelling during the next couple of days as the mass of rainwater works its way toward the ocean.

"While the sun is shining, we want to remind everybody the waters are flowing down. We very much flew over and saw that water flowing. We see what's coming," she told reporters Wednesday in coastal Horry County.

Haley said there will be more road closures in counties near the coast because of the water draining downstream.

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5:40 p.m.

Richland County authorities say two men who died after falling through a washed-out road did not drive around a barricade.

Lt. Curtis Wilson with the Richland County Sheriff's Department says there was a barricade on the road but it was in the wrong lane. Regardless, Wilson said the workers should not have been driving because there was a curfew in place.

The men were workers for the Kentucky-based R.J. Corman Railroad Group. Company spokesman Noel Rush said the men were among about 95 workers the company had sent to the area to repair a washed-out railroad for Norfolk Southern.

The accident happened just before 3 a.m. on Wednesday. Authorities had a curfew in place between midnight and 6 a.m.

One of the men who died was from Lexington, Kentucky, and the other was from Chesapeake, Ohio. The company did not release their names.

A company jet flew the three who survived back to Kentucky, where they met with their families and grief counselors Wednesday.

Wilson said he did not know why the barricade was in the wrong lane.

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5:30 p.m.

South Carolina National Guard and Columbia utility crews have paused work dropping sandbags on a breach in the city's canal.

A break in the levee that separates the canal from the Congaree River was brought on by the massive rainstorms and has threatened the water supply of 375,000 people in the city.

Guard spokeswoman Col. Cindi King said work was suspended because of issues with nearby power lines and what she called "shifting earth."

King said officials from South Carolina Electric and Gas were evaluating the stability of the situation.

She said they hoped to resume Thursday morning.

The operation involved moving heaving track hoes into place, which were to assist dropping a barge into the canal to reinforce it. Also, heavy rock bags and sand bags were being placed along portions of the levee and into the break in the canal.

King said about 100 heavy bags had been dropped by CH-47 Chinook helicopters by the time the operation was paused.

The canal was built in the early 1800s and supplies 35 million gallons of water to the city's water plant each day.

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4 p.m.

Authorities say the two men killed in South Carolina when the pickup truck they were in drove around a barricade and off a washed out road into the water were out-of-state contractors working to check damaged railroad tracks.

Richland County Coroner Gary Watts said divers found the bodies of 58-year-old Robert Vance of Lexington, Kentucky, and 53-year-old Ricky McDonald of Chesapeake, Ohio, on Wednesday afternoon.

Deputies say five men were in the truck when it drove around a barricade around 3 a.m. Wednesday and hit a 20-foot section of road that had been washed out, plunging into the floodwaters below. The other three men swam to safety.

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Federal disaster aid has been opened up for three additional South Carolina counties.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency says Wednesday it has amended the disaster declaration for the recent flooding in order to make survivors in Berkeley, Clarendon and Sumter counties eligible for its individual assistance program.

President Barack Obama has already signed a disaster declaration, ordering federal aid to help recovery efforts in South Carolina. The action taken Monday made federal funding available to people in eight counties.

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2:55 p.m.

Officials say two people who disappeared in waters after they drove around a barricade on a closed road have died, bringing the death toll from days of historic rain and floods to at least 19 in the Carolinas.

Deputies in Richland County, South Carolina, said Wednesday that the pair's truck plunged into water at a 20-foot gap where the pavement was washed out.

Sheriff's spokesman Lt. Curtis Wilson said three people in the pickup managed to get to safety around 3 a.m., but divers found the two others dead inside the truck by divers hours later. Their names weren't released.

Nine people have now been killed in the flooding in Richland County. All were in vehicles. Seventeen of those killed since the storm started last week were in South Carolina.

Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott says deputies have found other vehicles of people who haven't been seen since the flood. He did not give specifics on how many people may be missing.

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1:50 p.m.

Officials in Richland County say they've gotten reports that caskets are popping out of grounds swollen from days of historic rainfall.

Richland County Coroner Gary Watts would not say Wednesday where caskets have surfaced but said officials would work to relocate them.

The state Department of Health and Environmental Control says it is monitoring cemetery flooding across the state and is surveying cemetery operators to assess their needs.

The agency says it has 11 confirmed instances of disinterment from six counties

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1:10 p.m.

Gov. Nikki Haley is taking a trip toward South Carolina's coast to assess flood damage and talk with reporters.

Haley's office says she is planning to hold a media availability at 3:45 p.m. Wednesday at the Horry County Emergency Management Division Headquarters in Conway.

During a briefing in Columbia earlier Wednesday, Haley said the central area of the state is recovering as flood waters recede, but officials are keeping a close eye on the southeastern portion.

Haley also said 62 dams across the state are being monitored and that 13 had already failed.

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12:20 p.m.

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley says state wildlife officials have made at least 600 rescues during the flooding that has ravaged the state.

She says the central area of the state is recovering as the waters recede, but officials are keeping a close eye on the southeastern part of the state.

She says 62 dams across the state are being monitored and 13 had already failed.

She says she understands that questions are being raised about the state's infrastructure, but she says they are still in response and recovery mode. She says there will be time for analysis later.

Haley was joined by FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate, who said the agency would be here "for a long time."

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12:05 p.m.

The University of South Carolina's game against No. 7 LSU has been moved to the Tigers' home field as Columbia works to rebuild following days of historic rainfall and treacherous flooding.

The school says Wednesday that the game slated for Saturday in Columbia has been moved to Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

Coach Steve Spurrier says his team wants to "do the right thing" and trusts the decision of Gov. Nikki Haley and others to move the game.

All of Columbia has been under a boil water advisory for days due to pipeline breaks and flooded areas. A crowd of about 80,000 was expected for the game, and Spurrier says he thinks it's the right call for the game to be moved rather than further tax Columbia's infrastructure.

Spurrier says a game time for the new location has not been set.

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11:45 a.m.

A North Carolina-based relief organization headed by Franklin Graham is sending truckloads of supplies to help residents in flood-ravaged South Carolinians.

Samaritan's Purse says it is sending two tractor-trailers full of supplies like heavy-duty tarps, generators and chain saws.

The organization says it is also bringing volunteers to help clean out homes damaged by flood waters and help families in need. The group is also bringing chaplains to help provide emotional and spiritual care.

The group will be based at Shandon Baptist Church in Columbia.

Since 1998, Samaritan's Purse says it has helped more than 29,000 families in 35 states after floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, fires and ice storms.

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10:40 a.m.

Officials say it is now safe for some people to return to their homes after they evacuated early Wednesday because of a dam that was expected to collapse.

Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott said late Wednesday morning that the Beaver Creek dam is now stabilized and it is safe for residents to return home.

He says, "We've passed the critical stage we had earlier today."

Authorities had ordered residents in about 1,000 homes downstream from the dam to evacuate and seek higher ground.

Lott says, "There is no danger of any dam break whatsoever."

The sheriff said the decision to evacuate was based on the recommendations of engineers at the dam.

Trucks carrying about 400 tons of rocks were brought in to stabilize the dam.

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10:20 a.m.

A senior South Carolina Army National Guard official working with the operation to shore up the Beaver Creek Dam in the Columbia says he's hopeful the worst has been averted at the scene.

Col. Brad Owens says crews from the Guard and the South Carolina Electric and Gas worked through the night and into Wednesday morning using sandbags and dropping rocks to hold back the Beaver Creek Dam waters along Polo Road. Owens says part of the roadway has been eroded and has been closed for days.

He says the operation has focused on shoring up the area around a culvert and pipe that allows water to flow from the dam and into the area of Sesquicentennial State Park. Because of the possibility of a dam failure, the residents of the nearby Wildewood Downs area have been urged to evacuate.

Owens, the director of the Joint Staff for the National Guard, says, "We are putting in more rock and sandbags as we speak, but we believe the situation is improving, not degrading."

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10:20 a.m.

Republican presidential candidate and U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham says historic flooding in South Carolina could "break the bank" of federal emergency officials, forcing Congress to step in to appropriate possibly more than $1 billion to help with relief efforts.

The South Carolina lawmaker on Wednesday morning visited A.C. Flora High School, where dozens of people sought shelter after the latest dam breach threatened their homes. Graham says he wanted to assess the damage personally and determine what role the federal government can play in cleanup efforts.

He says: "It's going to take weeks to really get a good assessment of the damage. We're talking hundreds of millions (of dollars), maybe over a billion."

But he warned state and county officials not to use the disaster as an opportunity to ask for money unrelated to flood damage. He criticized the federal government's aid package to the northeastern United States following Hurricane Sandy in 2012, calling it a "pork-laden monstrosity."

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8:55 a.m.

Crews are working to repair a breach in the Columbia canal that is threatening the main water supply for 375,000 people.

Columbia Utilities Director Joey Jaco says officials were working Wednesday to build a rock dam a few hundred feet north of the breach, which is near the city's hydroelectric plant in view of morning commuters crossing the Gervais Street bridge.

Jaco says officials had hoped to have the dam completed by Wednesday morning. But the normally calm waters of the canal looked more like a whitewater rapids course after days of record rainfall, making it difficult for workers to move equipment to put the dam in place.

Jaco says the National Guard is helping by using helicopters to bring in sandbags and says the dam should be in place sometime Wednesday. Jaco says the only danger now is for the canal to breach in a second spot. But he says the levy shows no signs of buckling.

The canal was built in the early 1800s and supplies 35 million gallons of water to the city's water plant each day.

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8:55 a.m.

Gov. Nikki Haley plans to give an update on statewide efforts to clean up and contain damage in the wake of historic rainfall and historic flooding.

Haley's office says the governor will be available to speak with news outlets at 11:30 a.m. Wednesday at the South Carolina Emergency Operations Center in West Columbia.

Haley has warned that areas downstream of Columbia could be the next endangered by waterways swollen and overflowing after record-setting rainfall in the state.

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8:30 a.m.

Crews are filling a sinkhole with rocks in the hope that it will keep a compromised dam in the Columbia area from breaching after historic flooding hit the state.

Local news outlets report that dump trucks were seen arriving at the Beaver Dam on Wednesday morning with about 400 tons of large rocks.

Authorities have ordered residents in about 1,000 homes downstream from the dam to evacuate immediately and seek higher ground in the event the dam doesn't hold.

Authorities worked overnight to try to stabilize the dam after a sinkhole formed nearby, pumping water out of the pond to relieve pressure on the dam.

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8:05 a.m.

Charleston County schools are open for the first time in almost a week, but it's likely that some students still won't able to get to classes because of the fallout from historic rain and flooding.

The district said Wednesday that buses would not be able to make it to a number of stops because of high water or because students live along dirt roads that the buses are not driving.

The district says students who could not make it to school should contact their schools. The district has 48,000 students and 84 schools. Charleston County schools were last open Thursday. Schools remain closed in several nearby counties

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6:55 a.m.

Authorities are ordering people living near a compromised dam in the Columbia area to evacuate immediately.

The South Carolina Emergency Management Division said Wednesday morning that people living in the area that surrounds the Beaver Dam in the Wildewood area should leave their homes now.

Richland County authorities say the dam could breach at any time. People living in the area are urged to move to higher ground or to seek shelter at A.C. Flora High School in Columbia. Police say the evacuation order affects 1,000 homes.

Authorities worked overnight to try to stabilize the dam after a sinkhole formed nearby, pumping water out of the pond to relieve pressure on the dam.

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6:40 a.m.

Rescue crews are searching for two people who have been missing in Lower Richland County after their pickup truck entered flood water.

Sheriff's deputies tell local news outlets they were called out at around 3 a.m. Wednesday to a road that had been closed for several days after being washed out.

Authorities say the driver of the pickup drove around barricades that had been set up to block traffic. Three people managed to get out safely but told emergency crews that two others did not.

Teams are searching the area in rescue boats and dive gear.

Richland County was under a curfew from midnight Tuesday until 6 a.m. Wednesday.

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5:45 a.m.

Classes are still closed at the University of South Carolina's Columbia campus due to flooding, but officials say they're allowing faculty and staff to return Wednesday.

Classes at the school's flagship campus that's attended by more than 30,000 students are canceled all week as Columbia and its surrounding areas assess damage from record-setting rainfall and the flooding that has followed.

The school says it's following closing determinations set by Richland County, where government offices are also reopening Wednesday.

Columbia is also still under a boil water advisory, meaning all water must be boiled for a minute before cooking or drinking. Schools in the area have also canceled classes through Friday.

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5:35 a.m.

Authorities in South Carolina are still working to stabilize a Richland County dam that was compromised as a result of historic flooding.

Sheriff Leon Lott tells local news outlets Wednesday morning that crews worked through the night to repair a sinkhole that formed near the Beaver Dam in the northeast part of the county.

Crews from the South Carolina Electric and Gas Co. are pumping water out of the pond to relieve pressure on the dam.

The Emergency Management Division says a reverse 911 call went out just before 10:45 p.m. Tuesday urging residents within a half-mile radius of Beaver Dam to seek higher ground immediately.

Lott says evacuations are voluntary and that he doesn't think more will be needed.

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4:40 a.m.

Things are starting to return to normal in South Carolina after days of devastating rains, with the weather clearing and electricity largely restored. But some residents are still worried about a second round of flooding from rivers swollen by the deluge.

Some residents of Georgetown, between Charleston and Myrtle Beach, were preparing by stacking sandbags or moving their possessions as rivers crest upstream causing the potential of more flooding in an area where water was a foot deep or more in places over the weekend.

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley says the state is monitoring the situation closely and warns there may have to be evacuations from areas along the coast.

She says the sun coming out is good news for the storm-weary state but says officials continue monitoring any potential for additional flooding.