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Not over yet: S.C. governor warns of new flooding

COLUMBIA, S.C. -- In a terse warning, South Carolina's governor urged thousands of people in low-lying areas near the coast to evacuate Thursday before a mass of water rumbling toward the ocean floods some places for up to two more weeks.

Flooding threat grows for South Carolina coasts

Gov. Nikki Haley said at a news conference that people in flood-prone parts of four counties should "strongly consider evacuating," including the 10,000 residents of Georgetown. Officials expect to close two of the main state roads out of the historic town in the coming days.

She asked people watching on television to call relatives who may have a false sense of confidence from surviving hurricanes, calling the second round of expected flooding "a different kind of bad." She said the standing water could last up to 12 days.

"We are having an issue getting those people to leave because they have been in hurricane situations," she said.

Haley said flooding is expected in Georgetown in the next 12 hours, followed by Jamestown and the Givens Ferry area in the next 72 hours.

The warning applies to parts of Dorchester, Charleston, Georgetown and Williamsburg counties near the rising Waccamaw and Edisto rivers, but technically it isn't a mandatory evacuation order, said South Carolina Emergency Management Division Director Kim Stenson. Officials couldn't put a number on how many people are affected, but the counties have a combined 600,000 residents.

Haley planned to travel to the four counties Thursday afternoon. "Our number one goal is to convince those people to get out of their homes," she said.

CBS correspondent David Begnaud reported that the military was helping shore up the state's water management system with helicopters dropping more than 700 bags of rock and sand weighing roughly 3,000 pounds each near the breached Columbia Canal in the state capital.

Crews have also managed to stabilize the Beaver Dam where a breach threatened nearly 1,000 people. But concerns over the structures remain statewide.

The number of South Carolina dams being monitored by emergency officials has grown from 62 to 70 across the state as rising waters crest toward the coast.

Gov. Haley has come under fire for a lack of preparedness in what is called a "thousand year storm." The state has suffered 14 dam failures as of Wednesday compared to zero dam failures in hard hit North Carolina.

There are about 50,000 dams in South Carolina, but only 2,200 are large enough to be regulated by the state through the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control.

South Carolina's spending on inspections and maintenance in 2013 was $260,000, roughly 10 percent of North Carolina's 2 million dollar budget.

Earlier, city officials sought to dispel rumors the Columbia was on the verge of running out of water. Despite a setback involving efforts to plug a breached dam near the main water treatment plant, workers had already been working on an alternative plan to pump water directly from another location on the river, Assistant City Manager Missy Gentry said.

Officials said efforts to secure the city's water supply will succeed.

Scott Everett, standing, transports his family on a johnboat along Lee's Landing Circle in Conway, South Carolina, Oct. 7, 2015.
Scott Everett, standing, transports his family on a johnboat along Lee's Landing Circle in Conway, South Carolina, Oct. 7, 2015. Reuters/Randall Hill

"There are no plans to shut off the water system," Mayor Steve Benjamin said. "Zero plans."

The Federal Emergency Management Agency said at least 16 counties had been declared disaster areas.

South Carolina's top agriculture official said he estimates the state may have lost more than $300 million crop losses in recent flooding. Commissioner Hugh Weathers said he flew over flooded areas several times this week and his initial estimate is conservative.

U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham warned the disaster could "break the bank" of federal emergency funds, possibly topping more than $1 billion.

Coast guard crews searched remote areas of South Carolina Wednesday for anyone left stranded from this historic flooding and rescued an 88-year-old-woman running low on medical supplies. Her family was worried water levels could rise high enough to put her in danger.

South Carolina has suffered 17 of the 19 weather-related deaths in the continuing catastrophe.

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