SANTEE — Travelers stopped at a rest area off northbound I-95 Saturday morning gathered around a road map of South Carolina. They pointed at the map, tapped around on their phones, turned to other travelers.
Is it closed or not?
Though I-95 opened in both directions in South Carolina late Friday afternoon, sections of the interstate were still closed in North Carolina, leaving some travelers confused about their routes.
Closures on I-95 started Monday due to flooding brought on by then-Hurricane Florence's torrential rain bands. That flooding is likely to continue in parts of Pee Dee, where damage is expected to top $1.2 billion, and Horry County into next week.
Jason Cooper, a cook for the Salvation Army, was on his way Saturday to deliver a truckload of food with two other Salvation Army employees. He didn't know of the road closures until another traveler, Rose Gates, approached him at the rest area, he said.
Gates — along with two other people, three cats and a dog — was trying to make it home to Wilmington.
They agreed Gates would follow Cooper into North Carolina and hope for the best.
"We're gonna have to ad lib this one," said Cooper, who said he was putting full faith in his phone's GPS. "We'll figure it out."
For truck drivers like Richard Tillery of Arkansas, the flooding from Hurricane Florence meant not only reroutes and delays, but a loss of business.
Tillery, stopped for a break at a Pilot gas station in Florence, said he had expected a 154-mile deadhead to drop off a load in Sanford, NC. Instead, he was facing an almost 350-mile trip.
The delays also caused him to miss a load that would have earned him about $2,000, he said.
"I've lost about three days of work from this," Tillery said. "It is what it is. My problems are minor compared to some."
Between the time lost during the storm, extensive road closures and the need for emergency relief assistance, Hurricane Florence made tight conditions for truck drivers and trucking companies even tighter, said Rick Todd, CEO of the South Carolina Trucking Association.
"Things are backed up, and it's going to take time," said Todd. "Everyone will have to be patient."
Just to meet the regular demand for shipments, about 50,000 additional drivers are needed to address a nationwide driver shortage, according to the American Trucking Association.
"Weather events like this exacerbate that problem," said Coleman Thompson, vice president of Hunter Transportation Co. in Mount Pleasant. "You don't have any extra manpower to throw at it."
Whenever an area braces for a major storm like Florence, extra pressure is put on truck drivers to make deliveries before it hits, said Keith Johnson, owner of H&J Trucking in Charleston. Then after the storm, there's a strong push from customers to move the goods which were sitting while the storm hit.
And since Johnson's company deals with customers all over the country, he said, not everyone understands why delays may still be occurring after the storm has cleared.
"They expect everything to be rosy," Johnson said. "But these rivers haven't even crested yet."
On top of catching up on a backlog of shipments, many drivers are also asked to help with emergency relief deliveries, Todd said.
"Our guys are very spirited people. They want to help out," he said. "But they also have to keep their customers happy."
Tourism businesses in coastal destinations like Myrtle Beach were also hoping to make up for lost time this week. But by the weekend, the state's most profitable tourist destination had been nearly blocked by road closures to the north and west.
Julie Ellis, spokesperson for the Myrtle Beach Area Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) said officials and hotel owners were encouraging visitors to fly rather than drive.
For those who do plan to drive, the office continued to urge travelers to consult the South Carolina Department of Transportation's website or dial 511 for updated information on road closures.
"We're telling drivers to use caution," Ellis said. "But once you're here, you're in great shape."