COLUMBIA — All residents who left South Carolina's coast ahead of Hurricane Dorian can return home Friday, a day after the storm passed by without causing the devastation initially feared.
Gov. Henry McMaster lifted the remaining evacuation orders for Berkeley, Charleston, Dorchester, Georgetown and Horry counties at 10 a.m., allowing everyone who followed orders in effect since noon Monday to come back.
Residents along the state's southern coastline in Beaufort, Colleton and Jasper counties could return starting 3 p.m. Thursday.
But the governor cautioned that returning residents could face blocked roads, detours and lengthy travel times. Local authorities are in charge of which roads are open.
While Charleston dodged forecasts for a potential record-high tidal surge, Dorian still left a mess, flooding roads and downing power lines, traffic signals and trees with wind gusts of up to hurricane-force 80 mph. There were 252,000 power outages at 1 p.m. Thursday, as the storm was still off Charleston County's shores.
Fortunately, unlike hurricanes impacting South Carolina over the last few years, Dorian caused no deaths in the Palmetto State.
The northern coastline bore the brunt of the storm for South Carolina, including two tornadoes that spun off Thursday in Horry County. The Waccamaw River at Conway is expected to crest late Friday and drop below flood stage Monday morning. Initial predictions were that major flooding along its banks could continue through next week.
"Projections are coming down," said Department of Transportation Secretary Christy Hall.
She doesn't expect any need to close roads due to river flooding or take emergency measures to keep them open, unlike last September, when torrential rains dumped by Hurricane Florence inundated towns along the Waccamaw and other rivers.
McMaster and Hall were surveying the damage Friday afternoon from a National Guard helicopter.
An estimated 441,000 people, or roughly half of those under evacuation orders, actually left the coast ahead of Dorian's arrival to South Carolina's shores. It was the third time in four years that Charleston-area residents were told to flee a hurricane.
McMaster issued his orders — covering all of Beaufort and Charleston counties and parts of the rest of the coastal counties — on Sunday as Dorian pounded the Bahamas with Category 5 winds of up to 185 mph, killing at least 30 people.
But the hurricane lost some of its power after stalling over the Caribbean nation for a day and a half, then took a more eastward path that kept it offshore of Florida, Georgia and South Carolina.
Dorian howled over North Carolina’s Outer Banks on Friday as a weakened Category 1 hurricane. Its center officially made landfall at Cape Hatteras, midway along North Carolina’s remote, 200-mile long chain of barrier islands, and continued to move northeast at 14 mph.