Columbia: South Carolina residents today reeled under the effects of weekend flooding that killed at least 11 people and left tens of thousands without power or drinking water.
President Barack Obama signed a disaster declaration yesterday, making federal aid available to the southern state that has been drenched with a level of rain that -- as Governor Nikki Haley put it -- the region has not seen in 1,000 years.
A tropical air mass over much of South Carolina starting Thursday dumped 14 inches (36 centimeters) of rain, a new record, according to the National Weather Service.
That downpour caused sudden and dramatic flooding, bursting dams and leaving residents scrambling for safety.
"It was traumatic, I've never seen anything like this," said Phyllis Jones, a 50-year resident of Columbia, the state capital.
Jones lives in an upstairs apartment at a complex called Willow Creek, whose namesake waterway inundated the ground-floor units on Sunday.
The rain tapered off yesterday and water receded, but Jones said she has not left her apartment "for fear of looting."
She had stocked up on drinking water ahead of the flooding, but then she lost power.
At least four people have been killed in weather-related traffic accidents, while seven more have drowned, the Charleston Post and Courier newspaper reported.
Those killed included five trapped in vehicles overcome by flood water, the paper reported, citing state officials.
Government officials urged people to stay home, and warned that flooding was expected to continue for several days across much of the state.
Some 26,000 people had no power and 40,000 had no drinking water, Haley told reporters on the outskirts of the capital Columbia, which has been especially hard hit.
Many shaken residents sought refuge in shelters, while others were evacuated by boat and air since hundreds of roads and bridges were closed to traffic.
"Our house, car -- we lost everything. Everything is underwater. We didn't get time to do nothing," said Patricia Harde, 48, who fled with her two adult daughters and their four small children, including a four-month-old baby, to a school-turned-shelter.
"The water was coming up to my waist when we left," she added.