Southerners exalted in sunshine Saturday and began bailing out from the drenching floodwaters left by two tropical storms, grateful that the threat of a third storm, Lili, was fading.
But the storms left at least 11 people dead in Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina. And although the heavy rains were forecast to end, residents of low-lying areas were not out of danger."Even if it stops raining, the dams could develop problems two or three days from now," said George Ballenger, chief of dams and reservoir safety in Columbia, S.C.
"There's a lag time between the time the water falls and works its way down to the dam," Ballenger said.
Still, the clear skies offered a welcome respite.
"The sun's shining brightly," said Gwen White, a spokeswoman for the Dare County emergency operations in North Carolina, on Saturday. "I don't even know if we're going to get any rain out of it."
Lili was downgraded from a hurricane to a tropical storm shortly before 6 a.m. Saturday, and all tropical storm watches and warnings were canceled along the mid-Atlantic coast. At noon Saturday, Lili's center was located near latitude 35.0 north, longitude 72.4 west, or about 175 miles east of Cape Hatteras, N.C.
Lili was expected to increase in forward speed and turn toward the northeast. Its maximum sustained winds were near 65 mph and some decrease in strength was forecast.
Head-high waves Friday afternoon claimed a 10-foot section of dune fence near the base of the Cape Hatteras lighthouse. The century-old safety beacon, the oldest on the East Coast, was in no imminent danger, authorities said.
"The rains have stopped in the western part of the state and, of course, in the eastern part of the state, Hurricane Lili has gone way offshore," said Graham Wilson, spokesman for the State Emergency Response Team in North Carolina. "The problem in the western part of the state is still some water on the roads."
More than 5,000 South Carolinians were told Friday night to evacuate their homes as rivers and creeks swelled around the state and threatened to flood more low-lying areas.
Earlier, residents boarded up their windows along North Carolina's Outer Banks, shelters were readied and some tourists fled, but the state was spared Lili's full brunt, forecasters said.
A 2-year-old boy died Friday in South Carolina after he wandered away from home. Three others drowned Wednesday when a dam broke, including a 10-year-old boy whose body was not found until Saturday.