Bonnie downgraded as it swirls ups the South Carolina coast

By Reuters/Harriet McLeod   May 29, 2016 | 07:28 pm PT
Tropical Depression Bonnie was swirling over the South Carolina coast on Sunday evening, dumping several inches (cm) of rain as it crawled up the East Coast.

Bonnie came ashore just northeast of Charleston, South Carolina, on Sunday morning, bringing heavy rains, minor flooding and sustained winds of about 30 miles per hour (48 kph).

The system, the first tropical storm to reach the United States this year, dumped as many as 8 inches (20 cm) of rain in parts of South Carolina and Georgia, and caused flooding in low-lying areas and streets, meteorologists said.

"We're not out of the woods because the heavy rain could move back over us today if it really sits on us," said Carl Barnes, a forecaster with the National Weather Service in Charleston.

Heavy rains were still falling in eastern Georgia and portions of the Carolinas, the National Hurricane Center said in its 5 p.m. ET advisory.

Bonnie is expected to maintain its strength over the next 48 hours and inch its way northeastward along the coast, passing over or near the North Carolina coast on Monday night or Tuesday, according to the National Hurricane Center.

Forecasters warned that the storm would likely produce dangerous surf and rip currents along the U.S. Southeast coast, a particular concern during the Memorial Day weekend, when swimmers and surfers flock to beaches.

In spite of the risk, dozens of surfers gravitated to Folly Beach near Charleston over the weekend to ride the storm swell and lumpy waves.

Alli Pulley, desk clerk at The Tides hotel on Folly Beach, said guests were staying put despite the weather and the 132-room hotel was full.

A swimmer went missing in Carolina Beach, North Carolina, just south of Wilmington, and police and U.S. Coast Guard teams were searching the area, authorities said.

Thousands of visitors are also in Charleston for the opening weekend of Spoleto Festival USA, an annual, three-week international performing arts event.

In Texas, a separate storm system, which dumped up to 22 inches (56 cm) of rain in just a few hours, killed at least six people this week, according to local authorities.

Lela Holland, 64, died when her home was overcome by floodwaters and Jimmy Schaeffer, 49, died after driving his pickup truck into high water, police said. Two others bodies were found in nearby creeks.

Two more people were killed in the Austin area. Flora Molima, 23, died after taking a wrong turn and driving into waters that dragged her car into Cypress Creek, police said. Another person died after being swept away by floodwaters.

Emergency services said one person was missing in the area.

Heavy rain prompted the evacuation on Sunday of two prisons in Rosharon, Texas, as the Brazos River is expected to reach historic levels, Texas prison officials said.

In Wichita, Kansas, authorities resumed their search on Sunday for an 11-year-old boy believed dead after being swept away by a rushing creek on Friday, Fire Battalion Chief Scott Brown told KAKE TV. 

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