Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Homes inundated by flood waters in Columbia, South Carolina. (Photo: Sean Rayford/Getty Images)

Homes inundated by flood waters in Columbia, South Carolina. (Photo: Sean Rayford/Getty Images)

'Once-In-A-Millenium' Flooding Creates 'Otherworldly Scenes' in South Carolina

Officials warned that the historic deluge will likely worsen as climate experts discussed connections between warming planet and extreme weather

Sarah Lazare

South Carolina's once-in-a-millennium flooding this weekend left at least seven people dead and much of the state paralyzed—and as rains continued into Monday morning, officials warned that the deluge is likely to worsen.

"This is the worst flooding in the low country [the region around the South Carolina coast] for a thousand years, that’s how big this is," Gov. Nikki Haley said at a news conference on Sunday. "That’s what South Carolina is dealing with right now." Haley's statements followed President Barack Obama's declaration of a state of emergency on Saturday.

Vehicles were submerged and electricity cut off to thousands due to the extreme weather, which was touched off as Hurricane Joaquin moved over the Atlantic in the direction of Bermuda. The most impacted areas stretch from South Carolina's centrally located capital city of Columbia to the coast, with towns including Charleston and Georgetown also severely impacted.

"The flooding is unprecedented and historical," Dr. Marshall Shepherd, director of the atmospheric sciences program at the University of Georgia, told The Associated Press. And according to the National Weather Service, Sunday was the wettest day in the recorded history of Columbia.

AP journalists Seanna Adcox and Jeffrey Collins described "otherworldly scenes" in the capital on Sunday "as floodwaters nearly touched the stoplights Sunday at one downtown intersection. Rainwater cascaded like a waterfall over jagged asphalt where a road sheered apart and many cars were submerged under flooded streets."

Climate scientists have linked South Carolina's catastrophic rains to climate change.

"Joaquin has been traveling over a record-warm ocean surface and undoubtedly that has contributed to its rapid intensification," Michael Mann, director of the Earth System Science Center at Pennsylvania State University, told The Huffington Post last week. "In a very basic sense, warmer ocean surface temperatures mean there is more energy available to strengthen these storms. So we expect more intense hurricanes in general in a warmer world."

And as Bobby Magill noted in Climate Central last year, "Charleston is also among the East Coast’s most vulnerable metropolitan areas to rising seas and a changing climate, which may threaten nearly $150 billion of infrastructure along the South Carolina coast. In the past century, the Atlantic has risen more than a foot along the coast near here and could rise an additional 5 feet by 2100, according to research on climate change’s impact on the Southeast released in November and used as part of the Third National Climate Assessment."


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Simply Don't Exist.

Report on Revolving Door and Tax Policy Sparks Calls for Federal Probe and Reforms

"This is an example of terrible management in the Treasury Department across multiple administrations."

Jessica Corbett ·


Nabisco Strike Ends After Union Members Approve New Contract

"Congratulations to these brave workers on their wins," said one labor writer. "May their determination and grit be an inspiration for workers everywhere."

Jessica Corbett ·


'I Had a Duty of Care': Doctor Praised for Violating Texas' New Abortion Ban

"I hope the law gets overturned," Dr. Alan Braid said, "and if this is what does it, that would be great."

Jessica Corbett ·


'Infuriating Disappointment': Biden DHS Ramping Up Deportations to Haiti

"It is unconscionable for the Biden administration to resume deportation flights to Haiti, despite the country's ongoing political, economic, and environmental disasters."

Jessica Corbett ·


Architect of Texas Abortion Ban Takes Aim at LGBTQ+ Rights While Urging Reversal of Roe

"Make no mistake, the goal is to force extreme, outdated, religious-driven values on all of us through the courts."

Jessica Corbett ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.


Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo