Police: Memorial Day traffic jam on Folly was 'unintended'

Provided/Jared Chrysostom Traffic backed up on Folly Beach during a checkpoint conducted by Charleston police on Folly Road on Memorial Day.

Charleston police cut an inspection checkpoint short on Memorial Day after the operation caused major traffic headaches for drivers leaving Folly Beach.

A social media backlash ensued as people caught in the jam posted about the traffic mess.

The backup of cars was unlike anything Jared Chrysostom had seen on the Edge of America, minus traffic caused by a wreck, he said.

Chrysostom, 31, said he watched one woman pull her car over because she was worried about running out of gas.

"It was pretty crazy," Chrysostom said. "It was literally farther than the eye can see."

Chrysostom's father, Paul, owns Mr. John's Beach store on Folly Beach and said he watched the frustration on drivers' faces.

"They looked miserable," he said. "I don't blame them."

Some criticized the lack of communication from Charleston police.

"They should have at least contacted the city," said Folly Beach Councilman D.J. Rich.

Folly Beach Public Safety said they were given no advance notice of the checkpoint.

"The City of Folly Beach was unaware of the checkpoint and had no input on how or where it was being conducted," a post on the city's Facebook page said. "We appreciate the feedback that we have received from the public in regards to the checkpoint but wanted to share the fact that we were just as much surprised by the checkpoint as you were."

Charleston police halted the operation after 55 minutes, when Folly Beach Public Safety officials expressed concern about the congestion that had backed into side streets on Folly Beach off of Folly Road.

"Upon being informed about this unintended consequence our police department ended the checkpoint immediately," said police spokesman Charles Francis.

The checkpoint started at 4 p.m. and was supposed to last an hour and a half, said Charleston police.

Francis said the purpose of the checkpoint was targeting drunk drivers as well as checking that drivers were in possession of their license, registration and proof of insurance.

The operation resulted in nine citations, Charleston police said.

South Carolina Mothers Against Drunk Driving representatives said such checkpoints reduce traffic fatalities by 20 percent and despite this weekend's circumstances they are typically very effective.

"We couldn't say that's the right spot at the right time, but certainly Memorial Day weekend is a very dangerous time of year," said MADD Program Director Steven Burritt.

Paul Chrysostom said he understands the importance of police checkpoints, but didn't agree with the way it was done.

"It must have taken hours to get out of there. I understand the danger of the roads, but why didn't they have a bunch of police out on the side of the road, ready to pull someone over?" he said. "It was a disaster."

Reach Natalie Caula Hauff at 937-5594