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As the death toll rises, South Carolina warns of more flooding to come

October 6, 2015 at 6:50 PM EDT
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JUDY WOODRUFF: The sun came out today in South Carolina after days of a deluge triggered historic flooding. But the death toll rose again to 15. More than 75 miles of Interstate 95 remained closed, and officials warned there’s more flooding to come.

William Brangham has our coverage.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: The rain has finally stopped, but waterways around Columbia, the state capital, were still swelling today.

MAN: This residential section, it is populated with a lot of different ponds and large lakes, and, so, unfortunately, all of them have overfilled the banks. They have wrecked the dams. They have ruined all the bridges. And as you see now, this one lake behind us has already gone from being topping over the top of this bridge to where now it’s emptying out.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: To the southeast, in the nearly cut-off town of Manning, the water was chest-high in Ashley Perillo’s house.

ASHLEY PERILLO, Flood victim: This is all we own. What we got on us now is all we own. Our kids only got one outfit on their body right now.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Manning is one of the many places getting inundated for a second time, as runoff from higher elevations heads for the coast.

Governor Nikki Haley warned today, that means, even as parts of the state start drying out, others still face danger.

GOV. NIKKI HALEY (R), South Carolina: The Midlands, now all that water is going to start moving down to the low country. And so we are going to be extremely careful. We are watching this minute by minute.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Haley said the towns of Orangeburg, Conway, Georgetown, and Jamestown are prime candidates to face the flood threat in coming days. Meanwhile, for hundreds of people, home is a school gymnasium.

WOMAN: I just grabbed my grandkids and left everything and just came onto the school and just started praying. That’s all I did. I just started praying. And I said, lord, just take care of us. And he did.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: The Red Cross has 26 shelters operating statewide, including this one at A.C. Flora High School in Columbia with cots for about 200 people.

ANTHONY TORNETTA, American Red Cross: This is a safe place for them to come, get out of the weather. Temperatures are starting to drop. It’s nightfall. This is an opportunity for them to get warm, get some food, regroup, recover, and think about what next steps are.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Back in Columbia, the next steps for more than 1,100 National Guardsmen and others involve working to shore up dams and repair breached levees. Today, crews used heavy machinery to deliver massive sandbags in a bid to keep the water at bay.

I’m William Brangham for the PBS NewsHour.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Utilities are also trying to restore safe drinking water for some 400,000 customers around Columbia.

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