COLUMBIA — Gov. Henry McMaster is lifting the evacuation order for Georgetown and Horry counties too, effective at 9 a.m. Sunday, allowing evacuees to return home before overflowing rivers are expected to shut down major arteries to the Grand Strand.
McMaster’s latest announcement Saturday evening means all evacuation orders issued ahead of Hurricane Florence will soon be lifted.
It came hours after people were allowed to return to Berkeley, Charleston, and Dorchester counties, as well as Edisto Beach, the only part of Colleton County that was under orders to leave.
Orders were lifted for those counties at noon Saturday, after Hurricane Florence was downgraded to a tropical storm.
More than 760,000 people from Edisto Beach to Little River were directed to leave, starting at noon Tuesday. An estimated 441,000 people actually left the coast — about half of those from Georgetown and Horry counties.
"Hurricane Florence, now a tropical storm, no longer poses an imminent threat to South Carolina," reads McMaster's executive order.
The governor asks returning residents to be patient because there will be traffic congestion, as well as blocked roadways or detours. Don't drive around barricades or use emergency lanes needed for first responders, he said.
Several main arteries to the Grand Strand are expected to wash out Monday as the feet of water Florence dumped in the Carolinas gushes downstream.
When that happens, U.S. 378 from Columbia to Conway will become the main way in and out of Horry County, Hall said.
Traffic will then flow to U.S. 501 to the beach. The state Department of Transportation is building two temporary dams to keep that route open.
All state offices closed for the evacuation will re-open Monday. School districts ordered to close can now decide locally when to re-open.
The governor’s latest executive orders, letting people return, do not prevent local officials from setting curfews.
Curfews remain in effect in Horry and Georgetown counties — as well as the town of Andrews, which is partially in Williamsburg County — plus Marion, Dillon, Florence, Chesterfield, Darlington, and Marlboro counties. The curfew hours differ, with some directing people to stay off the streets either 7 p.m. to 8 a.m., or 6 p.m. to 6 a.m., said State Law Enforcement Division Chief Mark Keel.