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Drenched, South Carolina Takes Stock Of Flood Damage

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

The rain is expected to come to an end in the Carolinas today after storms that brought some of the region's worst flooding in more than a century. The death toll is now 11 in South Carolina and two in North Carolina. In South Carolina's capital, Columbia, at least five people were found dead in flooded vehicles. Rescuers will be searching vehicles and homes for days. We turn now to Sammy Fretwell. He's an environmental reporter with Columbia's The State newspaper.

Good morning, and I'd like to ask you what are you seeing out there this morning or maybe even late last night in terms of what the flooding has done there in Columbia?

SAMMY FRETWELL: What has happened, from my experience, is that you've had homes flooded, major intersections flooded out that people have never seen happen before. You've had standing water in yards, cars underwater. That's been, pretty much, the legacy of this storm beginning early Sunday. Some of the water began to recede yesterday in some of the places. But about midafternoon, another earthen dam broke, and some of the water levels began to rise. I think we'll find out today how significant that dam break is on property.

MONTAGNE: With all the hype about the powerful Hurricane Joaquin - and it was supposed to be headed for the Carolinas days ago, then it never made land there - these storms - these very destructive storms seem almost to have snuck into the Carolinas. So how prepared were these two states for flooding?

FRETWELL: Actually, I think there was a fair amount of preparation. But I still think there was a bit of surprise at the fact that the predictions did really come true.

MONTAGNE: Really come true as in if not Joaquin, then a hundred-year storm, as some have called it a thousand-year storm?

FRETWELL: Yes, there was a lot of talk about Joaquin. But, in fact, there was a forecast of this heavy rain regardless. And it - Saturday was kind of a non-event. It was rainy, but didn't seem to be anything out of the ordinary. And then we just got zapped overnight Sunday and through most of the day.

MONTAGNE: What sort of stories - and maybe a story that sticks out for you - are you hearing from people who have been caught in the flooding?

FRETWELL: Most of it is - of course, we've had some of these tragic deaths. But most of it is property damage to homes. You know, I was at a house yesterday where a guy was - his - the water level inside his house was well up the wall. It was a - he had to wade through chest-deep water to get out, get his family out. And so yesterday, he basically had a house full of mud. And he was in the process of trying to clear out clothes and other items that - to get to another place to stay for a few days or however long it takes.

MONTAGNE: Reporter Sammy Fretwell covers environmental issues for the newspaper The State in Columbia, S.C. Thank you.

FRETWELL: Yeah, I appreciate you having me on. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.