As heavy rains led President Barack Obama to declare a federal emergency in South Carolina, several churches in eastern Orangeburg County were cancelling their Sunday services.

Both the cancellation of church services and the record-breaking rainfall are rarities for the region.

With heavy downpours all day on Saturday, more rain is expected Sunday and into Monday, according to National Weather Service meteorologist Chris Rohrbach.

Rohrbach said rainfall predictions include 4 to 5 inches through Sunday and an average of 3 to 4 inches overnight and into Monday.

The area remains under a flash flood watch until 8 a.m. Monday.

Orangeburg County Office of Emergency Services Director Billy Staley said that localized street flooding is also possible. Just as there were some flooded roadways in the area early Saturday morning, the same can be expected Sunday.

The rainfall on Friday night and early Saturday morning created flooding problems on some roads, particularly in eastern Orangeburg County.

Grooms Road near the Berkeley County line was closed and will reopen after the rain passes in a couple of days, Orangeburg County Public Works Director Sinkler Boone said.

Rohrbach said that Holly Hill, Vance and Eutawville received 5.5 to 7.5 inches of rainfall accumulation on Friday night through midday on Saturday, according to radar estimations.

The city of Orangeburg and its outlying areas received the lightest accumulation, about 2 inches, during that timeframe, Rohrbach said.

And the western portions of Orangeburg County, like Neeses, Norway and Springfield, received about 4 inches during that same span.

As for the weakening Hurricane Joaquin in the Atlantic Ocean, Rohrbach said that it “doesn’t seem to play much of a role in the heavy rainfall.” Rather, it is a result of a low-pressure system moving northeast from the Gulf of Mexico and moisture in a system over the Atlantic Ocean.

Rohrbach noted that it will be Tuesday before the T&D Region can expect to see sunshine again.

Another concern about the heavy rainfall accumulation is the rising waters of the Edisto River.

Staley said the river will crest at some point, but it likely won’t be Sunday.

The county’s Office of Emergency Services is constantly analyzing data and reviewing the latest rainfall accumulations and predictions as the river water rises, Staley said.

He urges those near the Edisto River to use extreme caution.

The National Weather Service predicts that the Edisto will exceed its flood level of 8 feet and reach at least 9 feet Monday afternoon and rise to just under 10 feet by Tuesday afternoon.

After reaching that threshold, the river will begin to return to its average depths.

Once the Edisto reaches 8 feet, the NWS says, “Some minor flooding occurs along the boardwalk at Edisto Gardens and downstream from the Highway 301 bridge. Some roads off Chiquita Street near the river begin to flood.”

If the river reaches 10 feet, “Farmland and lowlands along U.S. 301 near Orangeburg will begin to flood,” according to the NWS.

There are also concerns about flooding of the Congaree River in Calhoun County.

Calhoun County Director of Emergency Services Bill Minikiewicz said on Saturday afternoon, “everything’s holding right now.”

“The Congaree River hasn’t risen about its banks yet,” he said.

Minikiewicz said that earlier on Saturday, crews responded to a power line that was down in the Stump Hole area.

As for Bamberg County, Emergency Services Director Sharon Hammond said there weren’t any accidents or major flooding.

Hammond noted there are isolated areas of standing water.

S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control Deputy Director Jamie Blair said flooding can create situations in which animals, reptiles and insects are more likely to come in contact with humans, resulting in bites and stings.

In addition, “water from flooding can carry viruses, bacteria, chemicals and other physical items picked up as it moves through storm water systems, across industrial sites, yards, roads and parking lots. These threats can cause serious illness and injury and should be avoided if at all possible,” Blair said.

Because of the president’s emergency declaration, federal resources will be available to state and local efforts to protect the public during the storm and recovery.

The state’s public information phone system is operating around the clock to answer citizens’ questions about flooding and other emergency information. The toll-free number is 1-866-246-0133.

Contact the writer: mbrown@timesanddemocrat.com or 803-533-5545 Follow on Twitter: @MRBrownTandD.

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Crime Reporter

Martha Rose Brown covers crime and other topics. The South Carolina native has been a journalist for the past 15 years.

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