More rain forecast for soggy East Coast
4 deaths in Carolinas tied to Joaquin; Obama declares emergency
CHARLESTON, S.C. — While spared the full fury of Hurricane Joaquin, parts of the East Coast still saw record-setting rain Saturday that shut down roads, waterlogged crops and showed little sign of letting up.
Much of the drenching was centered in the Carolinas, but coastal communities as far away as New Jersey were feeling the effects of unrelenting rainfall. Rain and flood warnings remained in effect for many parts of the East Coast through Sunday.
President Obama declared a state of emergency in South Carolina and ordered federal aid to help state and local efforts.
Three people died in separate weather-related traffic incidents in South Carolina since the heavy rains began, the state’s highway patrol said. The casualties were two motorists who lost control of their cars and a woman hit by a car while walking beside a highway.
Downtown Charleston was closed to incoming traffic Saturday as rain flooded roads and left some motorists stranded as flood waters engulfed their cars. At least two bridges were washed out in other parts of the state.
Several shelters were opened in coastal counties, and health officials warned people not to swim or play in the flood waters.
Inland areas of South Carolina also were battered by rain. In Columbia, which is in the middle of the state, business owners spent Saturday caulking and duct-taping windows and readying sandbags.
The Greenville-Spartanburg Airport in South Carolina recorded 2.3 inches of rain Saturday, smashing the previous record of 0.77 inches, set in 1961, according to John Tomko, National Weather Service meteorologist at Greenville
In North Carolina, Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler says farmers are starting to see the impact of the continuous rain on their crops. Apples in Henderson County are starting to split because of waterlogging, and farmers can’t get into the fields to harvest other crops. “I had one farmer tell me this is like getting all of your cash assets, put them on a clothesline, waiting for the wind to blow them away,” Troxler said.
Flooding closed numerous roads throughout the mid-Atlantic region, and power companies reported scattered outages in several states.
In New Jersey, storms dislodged an entire house from its pilings in a low-lying area of Middle Township, in the southern part of the state. No one was in the residence.
The National Weather Service in Greenville, S.C., said that in the Carolinas and parts of northern Georgia “bursts of heavy rain are likely” that could cause some rivers and streams to flood significantly.
The rain levels had the potential to be “life threatening and historic,” the service said on its Web site.
Once the rain ends, the threat of flooding persists because the ground is too saturated to absorb more water, meteorologists say. And high winds could bring down trees; a falling tree hit a vehicle near Fayetteville, N.C., killing a passenger.
The storm also has been linked to a drowning in Spartanburg, S.C.
Flood watches and warnings also are in effect in Delaware and parts of New Jersey, Maryland and Virginia.
Randy Shirley walks with his dog, Lulu, through a flooded parking lot Saturday in front of the Citadel BeachHouse in Isle of Palms, S.C.