SC Highway Patrol begins I-26 lane reversals in preparation of evacuation

Published: Sep. 2, 2019 at 5:45 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - South Carolina Highway Patrol has begun the process of flushing traffic from Columbia to Charleston along the eastbound lanes of I-26.

This means that Highway Patrol is clearing all eastbound lanes to make I-26 entirely westbound.

This is in preparation for the noon evacuation of coastal areas due to Hurricane Dorian making its way to the Carolinas.

On Monday, S.C. Department of Public Safety and S.C. Department of Transportation along with supporting agencies reversed the direction of traffic along certain evacuation routes to ease the flow of traffic away from the coast:

  • Hilton Head - One lane is reversed to create three lanes traveling west on US 278 at the intersection of the Spanish Wells Drive and Moss Creek Village Drive. This reversal is approximately two miles in length.
  • Charleston to Columbia - A full, four-lane reversal on I-26 in Charleston begins at the interchange of I-26 and I-526. The full reversal continues west until the I-26 crossover to I-77 just outside Columbia in Lexington County.

In a Monday news conference held by the governor and other state officials, they say traffic was double more than usual Monday morning and were able to start reversals and hour and a half earlier.

Governor McMaster said he does not believe his mandatory evacuation order for coastal counties was made too early.

“We know that we can’t make everyone happy with these actions and these orders. We know some people may be inconvenienced but this is the best way to keep south Carolinians alive – it means getting out of the way this dangerous storm,” McMaster said.

Lane reversals in South Carolina started back in 1989, prior to Hurricane Hugo hitting, former Governor Carroll Campbell decided the best way to get people out of the state and up from the coast was to reverse the lanes of traffic, to get people out quickly.

Mike Campbell, the former governor’s son, stresses the importance of starting the lane reversals early.

“It’s not just South Carolina that’s evacuating, it’s other states and they’re going to use our interstate system as a corridor to go where they’re going. So you’re going to have all of that coming together so the earlier you can have these evacuations to get these people on the road,” Mike Campbell said. “Plus he [Governor McMaster] has a double whammy this time because he’s also having to deal with holiday vacation travel as well from people returning from labor day vacation, so he had to start this as early as he did.”

Troopers are stressing to be patient because you’re not only seeing those leave from the coast of South Carolina but also from the coast of Georgia and Florida.

Trooper David Jones, with the South Carolina Highway Patrol, said, “If you know a back road, and you’re headed to work tomorrow, it may be a good time to take that because interstates may become congested with a lot of traffic, but for now, so far so good. Our main message is we have troopers all over the state working and if a traveler or motorists needs us, *47 calls us directly, and we’re going to be there for them.”

Troopers say it’s too early to tell when traffic will be reverted to back to normal, but they are continuing to monitor the roads.

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