Ten deaths in 'dangerous, very real' weather situation in SC

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS/WBTV) - At least ten people have died after historic rainfall in South Carolina flooded homes, washed away roads and submerged cars in several feet of water.
As of Monday evening, the South Carolina Department of Transportation said nearly 550 roads and bridges are closed as rescues and evacuations continue. "This is dangerous, this is very real," Governor Nikki Haley said.
Mobile users, tap here to see photos of the October floods.
Many drivers tried to make it through flood waters, but their vehicles quickly got swept away. First responders used boats to reach many of the stranded.
Governor Haley said many of the dead had drowned. Richland County Coroner Gary Watts said one woman's body was found near Sunset Boulevard on Sunday. Two more bodies were found near an area called Gills Creek, which experienced some of the worst flooding and heaviest rainfall.
An SC DOT worker is included among the dead. According to SCDOT, 45-year-old Timothy Wayne Gibson died in flood waters on Garners Ferry Road on Sunday while overseeing work.
Haley warned that even as the rain subsides, the threat remains as water moves downstream. New road closures will take effect as water winds its way down toward the coast. Officials told residents that a road "may look perfect" but it could still collapse, as they've seen in some cases.
"South Carolina has gone through a storm that has never happened before," Haley said. She called South Carolina a strong and faithful state.
Late Monday afternoon, neighbors in the Forest Acres community were told to heed mandatory evacuations as another dam broke. The community is surrounded by the City of Columbia and includes many shopping areas, homes, and apartments.

Kevin Hare and Susan Woodring are supposed to get married on Saturday in Tennessee. They just moved in to the Forest Acres neighborhood in February. Early Sunday morning they heard a roar.

"We could see water coming over the bridge and our yard was a river and we basically threw things into a bag a ran out the house" Woodring said.

On Eastshore Road, water eroded the earth and gutted the couple's backyard. The bridge nearby doesn't have any support underneath. No one is allowed near the area – which is why Kevin and Susan have been evacuated.

"How many times our house has been about to flood," Woodrinf said. "Just kind of watching and waiting to see if all of our stuff is going to be okay."

"This is unprecedented," said Tom Toyber, president of the Upper Rocky Ford Lake Homeowners Association. "We've never seen anything like this."
Lines were long outside water distribution centers as residents tried to get clean drinking water before curfew restrictions set in Monday night. Several communities either have contaminated water or extremely low pressure. "We've got enough supplies," Haley said regarding the amount of water for citizens.
SCEMD released the following as of Monday morning:

  • Fifteen counties remain fully activated at Operating Condition One.
  • At least 10 counties or municipalities have declared States of Emergency. Many have imposed overnight curfews.
  • At least nine weather-related deaths have been reported.
  • Boil water advisories are in effect for customers of the City of Columbia, West Columbia and other water providers. Up to 40,000 people are currently without drinking water or reporting low water pressure.
  • Five hospitals in Columbia are reporting water problems due to low water pressure and the boil water advisories. State and local agencies are working closely with each hospital.
  • Nearly 400 roads and over 150 bridges have been closed due to flooding conditions.
  • Over 31,000 power outages have been reported across the state.
  • The S.C. Highway Patrol reports Interstate 95 between I-20 in Florence County and I-26 in Orangeburg County remains closed. Interstate traffic in that affected area is being rerouted.
  • The S.C. Highway Patrol reports 148 collisions overnight.
  • The S.C. Dept. of Health and Environmental Control warns of the dangers associated with rising floodwaters, including drowning, bacterial and viral infection from sewage overflows.
  • The S.C. Emergency Management Division is coordinating all state agency efforts and has currently responded to more than 80 requests for local assistance.
  • SCEMD’s 24 hour public hotline has answered more than 1700 calls with questions about the ongoing flooding.
  • Public Information Phone System continues to handle inquiries from the public. Over 1,700 calls have been placed to PIPS operators.

The number to call is 1-866-246-0133.

"One motorist struck a tree," said Derrec Becker with SCEMD. "One drowned in a vehicle when floodwaters rushed so quickly."

Copyright 2015 WIS. All rights reserved. WBTV contributed to this story.