Record-Breaking Rainstorms Pummel Carolinas

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Rain pummeling parts of the East Coast showed little sign of slackening Saturday, with record-setting precipitation prolonging the soppy misery that has been eased only by news that powerful Hurricane Joaquin will not hit the U.S.

A flash flood warning was in effect in parts of South Carolina, where authorities shut down the Charleston peninsula to motorists.

Several feet of water had caused vehicles to stall in downtown Charleston and water has inundated some homes and buildings in the area, according to the National Weather Service. At least two to four additional inches of rain was expected by noon. Barbara Vaughn, a Charleston city spokeswoman, said several people were rescued from stranded cars there.

The Charleston Police Department has issued lists of dozens of street closings, and the city’s historic district was almost entirely shut down. Parts of the market area had sandbags piled up to keep the floodwaters out.

Charleston Police Chief Greg Mullen told The Associated Press that officers are going door-to-door to advise residents to voluntarily evacuate areas that are at risk, he said.

“Where we normally are dealing with flooding for a few hours, we’re dealing with it in days here, so it’s going to be significantly different,” Mullen said. “It’s impacting much more of the city. We’re seeing areas flood today that did not traditionally flood.”

Richard Cutler of Charleston was walking his dog, Bailey, through the floodwaters Saturday. He said his basement was flooded, and he was using everything he could to get the water out, including an aquarium pump. But he can’t get out of Charleston to get to a hardware store and buy a sump pump.

The Greenville-Spartanburg Airport in South Carolina was hit 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-Spartanburg.

In Norfolk, Virginia, Bernie Bohm took advantage in a break in the storm to pull his 19-foot sailboat Magic Morning out of the Lafayette River before high tide approached — the first time he’s taken his boat out of the water since March. He said keeps his boat tied to a pier in his backyard and was worried Sunday’s high tides could cause it damage.

“It was just bouncing around too much,” Bohm said of Friday’s high tides, which caused flooding throughout Norfolk. “It’s going to tear into a pier or do whatever and get hurt some kind of way.”

Elsewhere, coastal flooding remained a threat — particularly in the Virginia Beach area and the Outer Banks of North Carolina. The weather service issued a warning for residents living along the coast to be alert for rising water. A combination of high water and high waves could result in beach erosion and damage to docks and piers.

The National Weather Service in Greenville said that “bursts of heavy rain are likely” in the Carolinas and parts of northern Georgia that could cause rivers and streams in the region to flood significantly.

The rain levels had the potential to be “life threatening and historic,” the service said on its website.

Once the rain ends, the threat of flooding persists because the ground is too saturated to absorb water, meteorologists say. And high winds could bring down trees like the one that hit a vehicle near Fayetteville, North Carolina, killing a passenger.

The storm also has been linked to a drowning in Spartanburg, South Carolina.

Flood watches and warnings also are in effect in Delaware and parts of New Jersey, Maryland and Virginia.

In New Jersey, storms dislodged an entire house from its pilings in a low-lying area of Middle Township. The remnants of the home could be seen in Grassy Sound after daybreak Saturday. The house was unoccupied.

Officials in southern Delaware were keeping a close eye on high tides that could exacerbate existing flooding of low-lying roads and properties. They said Saturday’s high tide cycles could be as high as those on Friday, which left standing water in low-lying coastal areas and led to several road closures.

Continued onshore winds, with gusts of up to 40 mph, have kept the flood waters from receding, a problem that could last through the weekend.

Officials in Ocean City, Maryland, say there’s been minimal damage to the resort town despite significant tidal flooding and powerful winds gusting up to 45 mph.

The Carolinas will probably get the worst of it, including possible landslides in the mountains, experts said. South Carolina could get more rain in three days than it normally gets during the entire fall.

“It’s going to be a slow-motion disaster,” said meteorologist Ryan Maue of Weather Bell Analytics.

The rains have had a limited impact on power. A Duke Energy map showed power outages scattered across its coverage areas in North and South Carolina. Charlotte reported the most outages with more than 8,700 customers without electricity by midday Saturday.

Hurricane Joaquin, no longer seen as a danger to the Atlantic Seaboard, continued Friday on a path expected to keep it well off the U.S. coast.

“It looks like we dodged a bullet this time,” New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said amid street flooding at the Jersey shore, devastated by Superstorm Sandy nearly three years ago.

Forecasters warned that even as Joaquin peels away from the coast, its effects will be felt, because it will continue supplying tropical moisture to the gusty rainstorm stretching from Georgia to New England.

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