State officials reversed more than 100 miles of a major South Carolina highway ahead of schedule Monday as Hurricane Dorian evacuations led to traffic volumes double typical levels.
All lanes of Interstate 26 now are heading westbound from Charleston to Columbia. Traffic, as expected, has been heavy with tourists leaving at the end of the Labor Day weekend joining the thousands of evacuees.
Work started at 5 a.m. Monday in Columbia at Interstate 77 with law enforcement blocking access to eastbound I-26, state Department of Public Safety Director Leroy Smith said. Cars traveling east on I-26 in Columbia will be diverted to I-77 and U.S. 321.
Troopers continued traveling east on I-26 closing off on-ramps until reaching Interstate 526 in North Charleston, Smith said.
Since 10:30 a.m., vehicles leaving Charleston have been able to drive west using all lanes of I-26, with the first of those cars arriving in Columbia around noon, said state Transportation Secretary Christy Hall.
Law enforcement is present to direct traffic.
There is access to the reversed lanes of I-26 at the intersection of I-526 for those leaving Charleston, Mount Pleasant, West Ashley, North Charleston and Summerville.
Those unable to get to I-526 can head to I-26's westbound lanes at U.S. 78, U.S. 17A using exit 199 near Summerville, Jedburg Road using exit 194 and S.C. 27 near Ridgeville.
There will be eight exits on the reversed side of the interstate open for drivers who need to stop for gas or to exit before reaching Columbia.
Those exits are near Ridgeville, Bowman, Orangeburg and Sandy Run. Drivers who exit the reversed lanes for fuel will re-enter the interstate on the usual westbound side until reaching Columbia.
The lane reversal will remain in place until the storm arrives, which could be as early as Wednesday night.
Similar procedures will be followed on U.S. 278 leaving Hilton Head Island.
Lane reversals out of the Myrtle Beach area were not ordered.