SC highways, interstates busier as Irma evacuees head back home - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina

SC highways, interstates busier as Irma evacuees head back home

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(Source: SCDOT) (Source: SCDOT)
COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) -

Tuesday afternoon, east of Columbia, Interstate 26 didn’t look much like an interstate.

To Joseph Labonte, it looked like something else.

“It was like being in a parade, basically,” he said. “Moving slow and steady all the way, yeah. That’s the best way I can explain it.”

Labonte is just one evacuee of thousands passing through the Palmetto State. They’re bound for the state’s Lowcountry, Georgia, or, in his case, Florida.

“The eyewall, I think, went right over our hometown,” said Labonte, who’s from Lakeland. “I expect to see a lot of street lights out and a lot of power out. They’re clearing debris right now, from what I’ve heard from my neighbors. I know there’s a big tree down in my neighborhood, but hopefully, it’s drivable until I get home.”

Charlie Scheffer is headed home to Florida too. He’s not quite sure what he’ll find.

“A guy called me and told me it’s all together, but I got big oak branches down all over everything,” he said of his Edgewater home.

Right now, the only thing in between them and home is the intense traffic.

“Right now, I-26 eastbound has lots of traffic – heavy volume of traffic,” said L. Cpl. Judd Jones with the South Carolina Highway Patrol. “It’s running, but slowly running.”

Jones said corridors like I-26 eastbound to I-95, I-95 southbound, and even I-77 southbound will continue to see congestion as evacuees migrate back to their homes for the next day or so.

“The thing I can tell you is be patient,” Jones said. “They’re probably stressed a little bit, so just be patient with them. They need to have a little patience too, so everyone can be safe on our roadways.”

Dale Dremann is following that advice as he heads back to Sun City in Beaufort County.

“I’m not in a hurry,” he said with a grin. “I don’t care.”

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