[Slate] As Hurricane Joaquin slowly pulls away from U.S. shores, a veritable firehose of rain is being directed at parts of South Carolina—including Charleston. The result: An ongoing flooding risk that may peak at historic levels. On Saturday, President Obama declared a state of emergency in South Carolina to speed up the flow of disaster aid to the stricken state.
As of midday, nearly 20 inches of rain had fallen in parts of South Carolina in the previous 24 hours alone, according to estimates from weather radar. That’s nearly four months of rainfall in a single day, and it exceeds the National Weather Service’s already-dire predictions.
The Charleston region appears to be among the worst-hit so far, though heavy rain is falling across much of the Southeast, from the northern Atlanta suburbs to North Carolina. More than a foot of rain has already fallen in Charleston since the downpour began on Thursday, and much more is on the way. By 8 a.m. Saturday, Charleston had already broken its daily rainfall record of 3.28 inches, set in 1994. By Saturday afternoon, it had doubled the previous record.
When combined with persistent, strong onshore winds, the heavy rain created an exceptional coastal flood in the city on Saturday afternoon—the worst in Charleston Harbor since Hurricane Hugo’s landfall in 1989. Several water rescues were reported in the historic downtown, as waves lapped over seawalls and flooded the low-lying city. Police closed traffic on all roads into and out of Charleston early Saturday in an effort to prevent vehicles from getting stranded or washed away. By Saturday afternoon, police were going door to door in the hardest-hit areas and advising residents to voluntarily evacuate, fire stations were being converted into temporary shelters, and the city was providing free sandbags. Read More