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S.C. Gov.: Flooding At 1,000-Year Level; At Least 5 Dead

Updated at 1:10 a.m. ET Monday:

A powerful rainstorm continues to soak South Carolina. At least five deaths have been reported across the state. Several sections of interstate highways have been closed including a 70-mile portion of I-95. In the state's capital Columbia, rescue operations will continue through at least Monday. Many schools and universities have canceled Monday classes and some businesses will also be closed. Forecasters predict it could be Tuesday before the rain stops.

Updated at 4 p.m. ET

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley says her state is experiencing a 1,000-year flood as torrential rains triggered in part by Hurricane Joaquin have inundated the state and much of the Mid-Atlantic.

Despite staying well offshore, Joaquin has wreaked havoc on the U.S. Eastern Seaboard. President Obama on Saturday declared a state of emergency in worst-hit South Carolina.

It is the sort of weather event expected only once in 1,000 years, Haley told an afternoon news conference in the capital, Columbia. She called it "historic rainfall." The Congaree River, which flows south of Columbia, was at its highest level since 1936, she said.

"This is not an incident that we've dealt with before," Haley said.

She said there had been three flood-related fatalities in the state and urged residents to stay inside. "If you are in your house, stay in your house. This is not something to be out taking pictures of."

"It's not over. We are in the middle of it. We have at least another 24 hours. There is more rain is coming," she said.

Haley emphasized that it's not like a direct hit from a hurricane, which the state has experience with, but

Rain and flood warnings for much of the U.S. East Coast continue through today. The rainfall will reach into the Southeast and the Tennessee Valley with flash-flood threats in several states, including parts of New Jersey, Georgia and North Carolina.

Joaquin is forecast to pass very near Bermuda late tonight or early Monday as a major storm that could do considerable damage.

As of 2 p.m. ET, Joaquin was centered about 125 miles southwest of Hamilton, Bermuda's capital city. The Category 3 storm, with winds of 105 mph, is moving northeast at 15 mph.

In South Carolina, The Post and Courier reports:

"Storms today could produce heavy rainfall, which has been the case since Thursday for most of the Lowcountry. The historic downfall has caused several event cancellations and has closed numerous Lowcountry roads. Residents are urged to stay home as much as possible.

"A flash flood warning has been extended until 11:45 a.m. for Charleston, Berkeley, Colleton and Dorchester counties. A coastal flood advisory is in effect from noon to 4 p.m. High tide is expected to occur about 2:08 p.m."

And the Weather Channel reported this morning:

"Saturday afternoon's high tide in Charleston, South Carolina — about 8.29 feet or 1.29 feet above flood stage — was the highest measured there since Hurricane Hugo over 26 years ago. Combining with torrential rain, major flooding up to waist deep was seen in parts of the South Carolina Lowcountry.

"Adding to the high water, swells from Hurricane Joaquin are propagating to parts of the East Coast."

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Scott Neuman is a reporter and editor, working mainly on breaking news for NPR's digital and radio platforms.
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