Evacuation Routes: North (Little River - Georgetown) | Central (Edisto Island - McClellanville) | South (Bluffton - Beaufort)

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 Hurricane Evacuation Travel Question and Answer:

What to do if the Governor orders an evacuation:

A voluntary evacuation order will go out first, followed by a mandatory evacuation. When a hurricane represents a serious threat to the health, safety and well-being of South Carolina residents and visitors, he will order a mandatory evacuation.

      Be prepared:

  •  Expect heavy, slower-moving traffic. Leave as early as possible when an evacuation order goes out.
  • If motorists need to get through traffic quickly, the best advice is to leave early. If motorists have family members with special needs, such as senior citizens or small children, the Highway Patrol encourages them to leave as soon as a voluntary evacuation order is issued.
  • People living in Coastal areas should have an evacuation game plan before hurricane season starts; ideally, it should take no family longer than one-half hour from the time they begin packing until the time they actually get on the road. 
  • Car pool. Do not take multiple vehicles.
  • Make sure vehicle is in good working order: has a full tank of gas; check tire pressure, oil levels, lights, etc. Take food, water, medicine, toiletry items and maps – particularly evacuation routes. Tune into local radio stations, especially local public radio station, to get updates on the situation. 

      Can motorists use other routes besides designated evacuation routes?

  • The Highway Patrol has designated evacuation routes from each coastal area. Motorists are strongly encouraged to take only those designated routes during an evacuation. If they do choose an alternate route that crosses a designated evacuation route, traffic along the designated route will have the right- of-way. Motorists should keep in mind that law enforcement is concentrating its resources along these designated evacuation routes, and it may take longer for an officer to reach them if they have an emergency on an alternate route. Also, during an emergency situation, certain roads may be closed for public safety reasons.  

What if someone needs to get into an area that has been evacuated?

  • Motorists generally will not be allowed to enter any area that is under a mandatory evacuation order. They should monitor the situation closely and take care of any pre-hurricane preparations before any evacuation orders are issued or, at the very latest, while a voluntary evacuation order is in effect.

      What if an evacuee’s car breaks down or runs out of gas?

  • A cell phone can be helpful during an evacuation, but the airwaves will be very busy and callers may have trouble getting through. It’s also a good idea to have change for pay phones as a backup if cellular phone calls cannot be completed. Motorists are asked not to call *HP unless they have a true traffic or medical emergency. SC DOT will have its Incident Management Vehicles out to help as well.

What if a motorist is involved in a collision while evacuating?

  • Law enforcement will have numerous law enforcement officers and other emergency services personnel along all designated evacuation routes. Collisions involving injuries will receive priority in emergency response. When reporting a collision, be as specific as possible about the location, the extent and number of any injuries, and how many vehicles are involved.  It is critical that roadway emergency lanes, medians and shoulders be clear for emergency traffic only. If a motorist is involved in a minor collision without injuries or they have problems with their vehicle, they are encouraged to clear the roadway as much as possible.

How will  emergency vehicles function during an evacuation?

  • There are going to be emergencies during evacuation, and emergency vehicles are going to need a way to get through traffic quickly. Law enforcement will issue citations to motorists who block these lanes by trying to move through traffic quicker themselves. Motorists must stay in line with the flow of traffic. 

If someone needs to stop along a designated evacuation route (i.e. for gas, to use the restroom, etc.), will they be able to get back on the road?

  • There will be comfort stations/rest areas at designated areas along I-26. Department of Natural Resources officers will be on hand to ensure motorists’ safety when they stop and to help coordinate the flow of traffic in and out. Once again, motorists are encouraged to plan ahead by having a full tank of gas when they leave, bringing food items with them and cellular phones. SC DOT personnel will provide bottled water, maps and information. Restroom facilities have been expanded.

How long should it take to evacuate the coastal areas: Hilton Head/Beaufort? Charleston? Grand Strand?

This will vary depending on many factors: such as the weather, traffic volume, cooperation of motorists. If there is a Governor-ordered voluntary evacuation, it may begin 36 hours before the arrival of gale force winds in excess of 39 mph; a mandatory evacuation would begin 24 hours before the arrival of gale force winds in excess of 39 mph. The amount of time it will take during a mandatory evacuation will depend largely on how many people evacuate during a voluntary evacuation and participation during the mandatory evacuation.  

      How far inland should people evacuate?

        The Governor and the Emergency Management Division will be monitoring this and issuing instructions/suggestions based on the storm’s intensity and projected course.  The plan is to move people far enough inland to protect them from rain-induced flooding, winds and storm surge.

      How will people know when they can return home?

People should tune into the local media for any announcements about re-entry. Emergency officials will be assessing any damage just as soon as the storm passes. The evacuation order may not be lifted for all areas at the same time. Motorists should be certain it is clear for them to return to their area before getting on the road because law enforcement cannot permit people to enter any areas where the evacuation order is still in effect. Traffic will be extremely heavy when the evacuation order is lifted and people start returning to the coast. Motorists should stay tuned to the radio as they are returning for any special instructions about traffic. In order to prevent bottlenecks in some areas, law enforcement may be re-directing some traffic onto less heavily-traveled routes. Again, it’s important to be patient and remain flexible.

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