COLUMBIA — Gov. Henry McMaster lifted mandatory evacuation of eight barrier islands in three counties on Tuesday threatened by storm surge in Tropical Storm Irma.
Four islands have reopened: Hilton Head Island and Daufuskie Island in Beaufort County; and Knowles Island and Tulifinny Island in Jasper County.
Four of others have restricted access to be determined by local officials: Fripp Island, Harbor Island and Hunting Island in Beaufort County, and Edisto Beach in Colleton County.
But McMaster did not order an evacuation of Charleston, which saw its third-highest record tide in the harbor with Irma and heavily flooded parts of downtown. The governor said he did not order an evacuation because Charleston has more routes out of the city than the barrier islands, and he had to weigh the economic impact of emptying a city that is one of the state's top tourist attractions and business hubs.
"A lot of thought went into that. Of course, Charleston is not an island. It's a peninsula, so it's a lot easier to get off," McMaster said. "But also evacuating an entire city is something you have to take great, great caution doing because there's a lot of economic impact for such a thing. And under the circumstances, we believed then and believe now that the warning that we gave repeatedly of storm surges in excess of four to six feet was the right way to do it. And that turned out precisely to be the case."
After a news conference at the South Carolina Emergency Management Division, McMaster left by helicopter to survey damage along the South Carolina coast with the state National Guard. To avoid disruption to the recovery efforts, McMaster's spokesman said the governor would not touch down in the Lowcountry but would assess the situation from the air.
Meanwhile, two people in South Carolina were killed in the storm on Monday, state officials said: Zhen Tain, 21, of Florida, who died in a two-car wreck on Interstate 77 in Columbia, and Charles Saxon, 57, of Calhoun Falls, who died when a limb fell on him.
The City of Columbia said later Tuesday that Arthur Strudwick, a public works assistant superintendent in the forestry and beautification division, was killed in a single-vehicle accident Monday night on Farrow Road while traveling to a downed tree. The Sumter County Coroner's Office said a 54-year-old man was found dead in his home Tuesday morning after suffering carbon-monoxide poisoning from a generator he was using after losing power.
More than 140 road closures across the state, many in the Upstate, came from blocked by downed trees and power lines. The Upstate also has most of the state's nearly 200,000 power outages.
State officials are encouraging motorists to seek detours southbound on Interstate 95 in Dillon County where crews have closed a lane to repair a culvert damaged in the storm. Repairs also are needed on the U.S 21 bridge to Hunting Island. Both repairs could take at least a day.
S.C. Department of Natural Resources officials said they assisted with three people and their pet water rescues in Beaufort County on Monday.