Noah may have had it worse. But South Carolina hasn’t seen rainfall like this in recorded history. Fed by a rare combination of weather patterns, an “atmospheric river” hosed the Palmetto State for several days and nights in early October, sending rivers over their banks, washing out roads, breaching dams, and flooding downtowns and neighborhoods that have stood high and dry for decades. Damage is likely to clear the billion-dollar mark with room to spare — and for many citizens, insurance will not cover their losses.
While a feared landfall by Hurricane Joaquin did not materialize, the hurricane's circulation fed into a rare weather pattern that brought huge amounts of moisture into the Carolinas. As the storm built, the Washington Post's "Capital Weather Gang" explained the unusual weather in detail (see: "The meteorology behind South Carolina’s catastrophic, 1,000-year rainfall event," by Jeff Halverson. "As Hurricane Joaquin tracked north, well east of the coast, a separate, non-tropical low pressure system was setting up shop over the Southeast late last week," the Post explained. "This system drew in a deep, tropical plume of water vapor off the tropical Atlantic Ocean. At the same time, this upper-level low pressure system tapped into the moist outflow of Hurricane Joaquin. The moisture pipeline fed directly into a pocket of intense uplift on the northern side of the non-tropical vortex. Within this dynamic “sweet spot,” thunderstorms established a training pattern, passing repeatedly over the same location and creating a narrow corridor of torrential rain stretching from Charleston to the southern Appalachians. The remarkable thing about this process is that it was sustained for three days."
The Post followed up with a closer look at the flood damage (see: "South Carolina in flooding disaster amid record-breaking rainfall and dam breaches," by Angela Fritz and Jason Samenow). "One to two feet of rain have fallen in central and eastern South Carolina, amounts that should occur — on average — once every 1,000 years. At the coast, flooding is occurring not only because of the deluge from the sky but also exceptionally high tides pushing water ashore," the Post reported.
In the aftermath of the storm, volunteers gathered to begin the long process of cleanup and recovery. The State (Columbia, S.C.) offers a look at that effort here (see: "Photos: Saturday cleanup"). Meanwhile, the flooding has disrupted home sales in Charleston, where homes under contract will have to be re-inspected for the bank, reported the Post and Courier (see: "Some pending home sales to face new inspections after South Carolina flooding," by Warren L. Wise).