Gov. McMaster talks school closures and drops evacuation orders for some SC counties
Gov. Henry McMaster gave most S.C. school districts the go-ahead Saturday to reopen in the coming week after Tropical Storm Florence passes.
School districts, including in the Midlands, were closed for most of the week as then-Hurricane Florence trekked toward the state.
“All school closures, except those in Horry and Georgetown counties, are right now, immediately returned to local school authorities,” McMaster said.
Evacuation zones in Horry and Georgetown counties remain under the order. The governor’s office announced later on Saturday that order will be lifted at 9 a.m. Sunday.
In the Columbia area, Richland 2 leaders plan to meet Sunday to decide whether to reopen on Monday, Superintendent Baron Davis said Saturday. And Richland 1 leaders will also meet Sunday to assess their schools.
Lexington County districts have yet to announce their plans.
The University of South Carolina announced it will be reopening classes Monday, not Tuesday as originally planned.
Tropical Storm Florence — continuing to weaken — moved slowly at 3 mph west through the Midlands on Saturday, showering Lexington and Richland counties with 2-4 inches of rain and wind gusts at around 50 mph, the National Weather Service of Columbia reported.
The strongest wind gusts were recorded at 61 mph at the Myrtle Beach International Airport.
The storm’s center is expected to pass the Midlands — still under a tropical storm warning — sometime late Saturday.
Thousands of South Carolinians continue to remain without power.
As of 2:15 p.m. Saturday, 118,833 S.C. power customers were without electricity, down from 171,899 early Saturday, said Nanette Edwards, head of S.C. Office of Regulatory Staff.
At least one South Carolinian has died as a result of the storm, The Associated Press reported.
The S.C. Highway Patrol reported a 61-year-old woman died near the town of Union late Friday after her car struck a tree blown over by high winds.
Also during Saturday’s press conference, the S.C. Department of Transportation announced that crews are racing to keep two highways to Myrtle Beach open in the storm’s aftermath.
The DOT hopes to have structures in place by Monday evening to prevent flood water from closing Highway 378 and Highway 501 Bypass in Horry County.
Heavy rainfall from Florence, downgraded to a tropical storm on Saturday as it moved through South Carolina, is expected to cause flooding to overtop multiple bridges in the Pee Dee region in the coming days.
Portions of S.C. 9 over the Lumber River, S.C. 917 and U.S. 501 over the Little Pee Dee River, and S.C. 9 over the Waccamaw River are expected to be submerged as flood waters rise.
To keep access to Horry open, road crews are working to build a 1-mile long flood control structure on 378 to divert water that would put a causeway 1-foot under the Lynches River.
DOT secretary Christy Hall said an even longer structure, 1.5 miles in length, will be built along the 501 Bypass, where flood waters could rise 3 feet above the roadway.
“We have several quarries open to get materials on site (Saturday) afternoon,” Hall said at a briefing at the Emergency Management Division headquarters on Saturday.
Hall said crews will work through the weekend to ensure the structures are in place by Monday night.
Both Horry and Georgetown counties remain under an evacuation order on Saturday, even as evacuation orders were lifted Saturday for Berkeley, Charleston and Dorchester counties, also Edisto Beach in Colleton County.