TWOC4228-traffic-lights.jpg Hurricane Dorian (copy)

Temporary stop signs were set on Cannon Street at the Rutledge Avenue intersection where the traffic lights were not operating on Friday, September 6, 2019. Matthew Fortner/Staff

Many Lowcountry motorists are getting back on the roads today after Gov. Henry McMaster officially lifted evacuation orders for Berkeley, Charleston, Dorchester, Georgetown and Horry counties Friday.

By late Thursday, state crews had removed many fallen trees and other debris from Interstate 26, said James Law, a Charleston-area state Department of Transportation spokesman.

On Friday afternoon, however, there were 215 state road closures, including 40 in Charleston County, Law said.

Earlier Friday, 430 SCDOT workers were dispatched to clear the roads. The department is working in conjunction with energy providers to make sure it's safe for workers to remove trees and debris from the roadways, Law said.

He said employees will work a 12-hour shift today and will be back again Saturday morning. Most of the closures stemmed from fallen trees, but a handful were due to flooding.

"Of course with the water, it's just going to take some time," Law said.

"We've got some vacuum trucks to vacuum out areas where they have drainage on the sides of the roads like in the downtown at Septima Clark, but in other places we'll just have to wait for the water to recede."

Traffic on I-26 is slow but moving, said DOT Secretary Christy Hall, who gave this advice: "Pack your patience."

The biggest traffic concern for the Charleston region is Hwy. 61 (Ashley River Road) in Dorchester County.

"There's a lot of downed trees on that," she said, particularly around Drayton Hall.

Hall said she expects it to be cleared by later Friday afternoon.

The 215 state road closures are largely neighborhood and secondary roads, such as Jungle Road on the back of Edisto Beach, where a lot of trees fell.

North of Charleston, the biggest concern is Pawleys Island where about three feet of sand washed over the road on the island's south end.

S.C. Highway 45 in Charleston County near McClellanville  was blocked in spots. The SCDOT also is working to clear some downed trees on Johns and James islands.

Several intersections around Charleston also had traffic lights out. Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg said he reached out to his colleagues in Columbia and Greenville and they agreed to send crews and bucket trucks down to help fix them. They should arrive later today and work Saturday, too.

Meanwhile, projections for Waccamaw River flooding are being revised downward.

"We do not anticipate any road or bridge issues or need to close anything" along the river, Hall said.

Today’s return of evacuees is expected to contrast sharply from last year when rivers swollen from Hurricane Florence’s rains wreaked havoc in the Pee Dee region.

Last September, hundreds of North and South Carolina highways remained closed for days after the storm had passed, as heavy inland rainfall slowly made its way to the sea long after the storm’s winds and rain had passed by.

“When you think about Florence and the last two or three episodes, we had a lot of roads closed due to flooding," Law said.

"This time, we have more roads closed due to trees.”

Law said Berkeley and Dorchester counties have some closures, “but for the most part, those roads and those counties are in pretty good shape.”

Law said crews will “put a large dent” in the remaining road closures by late Saturday.

Charleston crews also were working to clear downed trees across different parts of the city, beginning at 7 a.m. Friday morning. 

The status of state roads can be found online here at the state transportation department’s website.

The status of Charleston's city roads is online here. The list is updated in real time.

Video feed from live traffic cameras can also be viewed online at the state transportation department website

Robert Behre and Seanna Adcox contributed to this report.

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Reach Robert Behre at 843-937-5771. Follow him on Twitter @RobertFBehre.

Jenna Schiferl is a Columbia native and a reporter at The Post and Courier. She has previously worked as an editor at Garnet & Black Magazine.

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