UPDATED 8:20 p.m.: Sherri Iacobelli, with the SC Department of Public Safety, echoed Gov. Nikki Haley’s earlier statements, saying the reversal is going smoothly.
“Once motorists get to the crossover in Columbia, we have seen some congestion, primarily in the westbound lanes, but no major back-ups to report,” said Iacobelli, adding motorists are encouraged to use the reversed lanes in Charleston in addition to the normal ones.
“The traffic is lighter in the reversed lanes and it will help move traffic more efficiently. We are cautioning motorists to never attempt to drive around the barricades,” Iacobelli said.
UPDATED 7:50 p.m.: According to SCDOT cameras monitoring I-26, traffic is flowing smoothly. There are two points – the intersection of I-26 and I-77, in addition to mile marker 117 on I-26 westbound near Cayce – where traffic is backing up in the westbound lanes. The flow is moving slowly, but steadily in both areas as the lane reversal approaches Columbia.
UPDATED 6:30 p.m.: Gov. Nikki Haley said lane reversals on I-26 eastbound were going well as of 6 p.m., urging Midlands residents to stay off the roads to allow coastal traffic to move through smoothly.
Average travel times from Charleston to Columbia was 1 hr. and 38 mins., she said, adding that anyone who gets on the reversed lanes on I-26 will not be able to get off the interstate until Columbia. She warned motorists to fuel up and not to cross the interstate median.
Secretary Christy Hall of the S.C. Department of Transportation said the lane reversals could remain in effect until Friday. She added that state officials will reevaluate continuously as the storm progresses.
UPDATED 5:20 p.m.: Traffic traveling west on Interstate 26 eastbound lanes that had been reversed are now crossing over to Interstate 77 in the Columbia area.
Lowcountry residents are evacuating in anticipation of Hurricane Matthew.
All exits on Interstate 26 were closed until exit 199, according to signs alongside the highway.
Gov. Nikki Haley called for Lowcountry residents to evacuate beginning at 3 p.m. on Wednesday. Traffic was headed west on all lanes of I-26 out of Charleston by 3:45 p.m.
Charleston Police Chief Greg Mullen said officers would man traffic posts throughout the city starting at 3 p.m., when the evacuation is officially in effect. He asked evacuees to be patient as well.
“We want you to evacuate,” Mullen said. “We do not want you to stay. We’re asking the community to please heed the evacuation order.”
Mullen also warned that first responders will not be as responsive as the storm approaches late Friday.
“If you decide not to evacuate, you are taking on the responsibility of yourself and those around you,” Mullen said. “And you may not receive assistance in the midst of the storm impact.”
Lance Corporal Matt Southern, spokesman for S.C. Highway Patrol in Charleston, said tow trucks from the S.C. National Guard and the Department of Transportation are also on standby to respond to cars breaking down or running out of gas.
Highways where lane reversals are planned:
▪ Charleston to Columbia — Four lanes will be reversed on Interstate 26 east from Charleston at I-26 and I-526 until the I-26 crossover to I-77 near Columbia in Lexington County. Traffic will be heavier on Interstate 77 in that area as a result.
▪ Hilton Head — One lane will be reversed for about two miles to create three lanes traveling west on U.S. 278 at the intersection of the Spanish Wells Drive and Moss Creek Village Drive.
▪ Beaufort — U.S. 21 will be reversed to create three lanes at U.S. 21 Business to U.S. 17. For those who left early Wednesday, traffic on U.S. 21 was not a problem.
In the Midlands, Columbia Police Department officers planned to assist with intersections in the Midlands that would be affected by lane reversals. Those officers planned to help at — I-77 at Shop Road’s northbound exit ramp; I-77 at U.S. 378’s northbound exit ramp; U.S. 378 Westbound at Patterson Road, U.S. 378 at Atlas Road, I-77 at Forest Drive’s northbound exit ramp, I-26 West at Harbison Boulevard; and I-26 West at Lake Murray Boulevard.
Columbia officers also planned to monitor all city roadways, especially those prone to flooding.