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Hurricane Joaquin has been wreaking havoc on the east coast, especially on South Carolina where record downpours have left at least seventeen dead and hundreds in need of rescuing. Over the weekend of Oct. 2 there were more than twenty-four inches of rain. Floodwaters have buckled roads, broken buildings, and have even breached five dams in Lexington and Richland counties. There are 127 bridges down and 381 roads closed, including a seventy five mile stretch of Interstate 95. This level of rain has not been observed within the coastal region of South Carolina for years, and the National Weather service even labeled Oct. 4 as the wettest day in the history of Columbia.
More than one thousand law enforcement personnel and transportation department workers are on duty. County officials have issued a curfew, and everyone is asked to stay off the roads and indoors where they should boil water prior to its consumption. The drinking water supply in the state capital has been threatened by water line breaks and rising water surrounding treatment plants. For this reason, 375,000 customers have been advised to boil water before drinking. Anyone still in danger is urged to call 911 and await the arrival of a military vehicle who will then transport them to one of the two dozen shelters open.
Yet even if the rain stops, the floodwaters will remain, and workers will continue to stay busy. Utility crews have been helping thirty thousand people who have been without power, and hundreds of National Guardsmen are standing by. Oct. 3 President Barack Obama authorized federal aid since more rain is expected. There are flood watches from Georgia to Delaware, and as of Oct. 4 North Carolina, South Carolina, New Jersey, and Virginia are under states of emergency.
Two sources have contributed to this extreme weather. The low pressure area channels tropical moisture into the region, which causes heavy rainfall. The moisture the storm is pulling in is amplified by Hurricane Joaquin. This enormous weather system is what is causing historic flooding and leading Charleston to experience record downpours.
Carly Brown, Apex High School social studies teacher, had been planning to visit South Carolina the weekend of Oct. 2. One of her friends from college was to be married near Charleston on Kiawah Island. Unable to attend the rehearsal dinner Friday night because of plans the next morning, Brown decided she would drive down Saturday. “As the week went on and the weather got worse, we started to question if it was a good idea to go down. But it was a really good friend from college, and I’d feel bad if I didn’t go. Saturday morning I run my errands, and the bridesmaids text me and tell me, ‘Don’t come, it’s flooded. We’re stuck in the house and can’t even go to the venue where [the wedding is] supposed to be.’ ”
Friends and families were separated and stranded by the weather. Many plans were canceled because airports were unable to fly. Businesses also experienced a setback because of this. “She’s going to reschedule her reception for some time next month,” says Brown. “A lot of the vendors she’d set up like [a] caterer, florist and photographer. None of them could make it to the island, so she sent all of the flowers to the children’s hospital. They were finally able to leave for their honeymoon on Monday. They were supposed to fly out Sunday, but the airports weren’t flying.” Farms were flooded with immense amounts of rain, Brown recalls her friends telling her the water was up to their tires and vehicles were being swept away by floodwaters, “Then I heard I-95 was completely cut off in some parts because of flooding, so I wouldn’t even have been able to get down to the island. The bride eventually called me and told me she was canceling the reception and not to come down.”
But, visitors and residents of South Carolina are not the only ones impacted by Hurricane Joaquin. El Faro, a missing cargo ship believed to have sunk in the Caribbean Sea during 130 mile per hour winds, was venturing from Jacksonville, Florida to San Juan, Puerto Rico. The ship was carrying a crew of twenty eight Americans and five Polish nationals when it went missing near the Bahamas. The United States Coast Guard are looking for survivors but have only found debris and one survival suit with unidentifiable human remains. The search began Oct. 2, but rough conditions made the mission challenging. The true search could not start until Oct. 4.
Family and friends of the missing crew, as well as other spectators, are questioning the captain of El Faro’s judgement in taking the ship out into such dangerous waters. But, the captain felt optimistic about the journey and “was very confident the ship was doing well, the crew was quite up to date.”
The hurricane dissipated on Oct. 7, but the search for the passengers of the El Faro will continue as will the restoring of safety for South Carolina residents in what many are calling “the thousand year level of rain.” But everyone is bravely facing the weather together, although most people’s plans have been altered. “She sounded pretty upset but also calm because she realized she couldn’t do anything to change it,” says Brown. “You’re just going to have to adapt to what you have. They ended up getting married at a house on the island, and it ended up being smaller and more intimate, definitely not what she planned, but still a heartfelt ceremony.”
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