Downtown Charleston Under Water: Irma Flash Flood Emergency Declared

While Hurricane Irma, which was reclassified as a tropical storm early Monday, spared Miami from a "worst case" scenario, the former hurricane saved some of its worst storm surge impacts for northeast Florida, coastal Georgia, and South Carolina.

A record water surge flooded downtown Jacksonville, leading the National Weather Service to issue a flash flood emergency as the water level rose sharply. Hours of strong winds blowing the ocean inland, and preventing water from the St. Johns River from escaping back into the ocean worsened the flood situation. The flooding, while predicted, is reportedly some of the worst the city has seen. Despite being weaker than Hurricane Matthew was when it passed by the city in 2016, Tropical Storm Irma helped push a greater amount of water onshore, and it struck right at the time of high tide. This caused the city to see its highest storm surge flooding on record.

Meanwhile, a flash flood emergency was issued for Charleston County in South Carolina, which includes the city of Charleston, as as widespread flooding driven by Tropical Storm Irma engulfs the city.  The ocean in Charleston reached its third-highest level, coming up short of the surge seen in Hurricane Hugo in 1989. 

According to the National Weather Service, the combination of extremely high tides combined with heavy rain has resulted in dangerous flooding throughout the downtown area. Areas from Calhoun Street south to the Battery are severely flooded and travel into the downtown Charleston area is not advised. The flash flood emergency is set to last until 8:15 p.m. Just before 1 p.m. the flooding exceeded levels seen during Hurricane Matthew last year, meteorologist Christopher Dolce said.

The surge put White Point Garden under water and sent water coursing through downtown Charleston's historic neighborhoods, the Charleston Post and Courier reports. Residents could be seen wading through hip-deep water; a john boat with four people aboard cruised down South Battery, sending a wake into people's yards. Flooding was so severe that police in Charleston told people to avoid downtown until floodwaters recede.

According to the National Weather Service, the combination of high tides and heavy rain has resulted in dangerous flooding throughout the downtown area.

In Mount Pleasant, the parking lots on both sides of Shem Creek were underwater, swamping some cars whose owners had the bad luck to park there.  "I've never seen anything like it," Town Administrator Eric DeMoura told the Post and Courier.

The rising water breached dunes at Edisto Beach and several water rescues have already taken place in the area, the National Weather Service reports, as Tropical Storm Irma lashes the Palmetto State.  According to The Associated Press, more than 190,000 customers are without power statewide, including more than 26,000 in the coastal county of Beaufort and more than 46,000 in Charleston.

Earlier this week McMaster ordered Hilton Head Island and six of the state's other barrier islands to evacuate ahead of the storm, according to the Associated Press.  Approximately 44,457 South Carolina residents were affected by the orders, and McMaster told the Post and Courier that "compliance, as far as we can tell, has been good" though the state does not have a current count of how many people ignored the order and remained on the islands.

Videos posted on twitter showed just how significant and dangerous the flash flood is: