In the wake of record flooding, South Carolina residents remain resilient

One South Carolina resident says the flooding has given him an appreciation for what Katrina refugees went through, and many are banding together to help.

Randall Hill/Reuters
David Carroll (r.) of Waccamaw Lake Drive pulls a boat carrying neighbors Rick Woodward, Miki Woodward, and Matt Desjardins in Conway, S.C., on Tuesday. Residents across the state helped one another in the face of floodwaters from unprecedented rainfall through the weekend.

Hurricane Joaquin brought more than two feet of rain to South Carolina in the past three days – a deluge that swamped communities, flooded roads, tore down dams, and as of Tuesday, left 14 people dead.

But amid the devastation, residents remained resilient. Steve Benjamin, mayor of the state capital, Columbia – among the hardest-hit areas with more than 20 inches of rain – praised locals for supporting one another during the worst of the storm, which was the kind seen only once in 1,000 years.

“Been a trying few days but our city has shined,” he tweeted Monday. “I've been so inspired seeing neighbor helping neighbor and strangers lifting each other up.”

Take Rawlings LaMotte, a residential real estate broker, who saw an area in front of his gated subdivision in eastern Columbia fill up with five feet of water – and who, with the help of a friend, ferried people to safety in a motor boat early Sunday.

"I told one of my friends earlier today, this put everything we've seen with Katrina into perspective," Mr. LaMotte told The Associated Press. "Until you've experienced something like this, you have no idea how bad it really is."

In Conway, near the state's eastern shore, three men in a Jeep rescued a stranded driver whose car had stalled in the middle of a flooded road Sunday night.

“Looks like he just wanted to get home,” said Alex Gardner, who was in the Jeep, told WMBF. “And the only way home was to ride through water. So he did what really was his only option. And it ended up costing his car. But I’m glad we were there to help him.” 

Joseph McDougall, who over 12 years built a career selling watermelons and tomatoes outside his brother’s business in Columbia, lost everything in the storm. But instead of dwelling on the damage, he looked to the promise of rebuilding, telling USA Today that he intended to “have a ball” restoring his business.

"I started this place with $100, so I cannot look at anything as a loss," Mr. McDougall told the news outlet. “Everything is a gain for me.”

Though sunshine was forecast for South Carolina Tuesday, the challenge is far from over.

Columbia city officials on Tuesday urged residents from other areas to donate water to the city, which lost water service during the storm. They also issued orders to the capital’s 375,000 water customers to boil any water before drinking.

The police department at Myrtle Beach on the state’s coast asked people to stay home. “They don't need to be out in this," a spokesperson told The Weather Channel.

And Gov. Nikki Haley told citizens to remain careful, even as state authorities shifted focus from search-and-rescues to assessment and recovery.

"South Carolina has gone through a storm of historic proportions," Governor Haley told the AP. "Just because the rain the stops does not mean that we are out of the woods."

Columbia’s Mayor Benjamin warned locals to brace themselves, as well.

“I believe that things will get worse before they get better,” he told Fox6Now. “Eventually the floods will abate, but then we have to access the damage, and I anticipate that damage will probably be in the billions of dollars, and we’re going to have to work to rebuild. Some people’s lives as they know them will never be the same.”

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