Evacuation routes activated in preparation for Hurricane Florence

September 11, 2018

Tyson Fisher


The Carolinas and Virginia are preparing for a potentially devastating storm as Hurricane Florence approaches. All three state governors have ordered evacuations, putting lane reversals in effect on several highways in South Carolina.

Residents in all hurricane evacuation zones in South Carolina have been ordered to evacuate beginning no later than noon on Tuesday, Sept. 11. Lane reversals for evacuation routes are in effect in the following areas:

  • Charleston to Columbia: Full four-lane reversal on I-26 in Charleston will begin at the interchange of I-26 and I-526. The full reversal continues west until the I-26 crossover to I-77 just outside Columbia in Lexington County.
  • Horry County: Two four-lane reversals along U.S. 501: SC 544 to U.S. 378; and US 501: Between SC 22 (Conway Bypass) to SC 576 near Marion County.
  • Beaufort and Hilton Head area: Possible reversal of U.S. 278 and U.S. 21 if traffic conditions warrant.

For South Carolina evacuation routes, check out the 2018 S.C. Hurricane Guide.

In North Carolina, six counties ordered evacuations as of 6 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 10. Unlike South Carolina, North Carolina does not reverse lanes on evacuation routes. North Carolina Transportation Secretary Jim Trogdon explained that Charleston has only one major route and a much denser population. Meanwhile, North Carolina has multiple alternative routes. For North Carolina evacuation routes, click here.

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam ordered a mandatory evacuation for coastal Virginia residents in Zone A effective Tuesday at 8 a.m. In preparation for evacuations, the Virginia Department of Transportation is working to lift temporary lane closures on major routes. Interstate 64 express lane tolls have been suspended. Virginia evacuation zones can be found here.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has issued a regional emergency declaration for the Southern and Eastern centers, which includes Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia. Motor carriers and drivers providing direct assistance to the emergency in the affected states and jurisdictions in direct support of relief efforts related to Hurricane Florence are granted emergency relief from Parts 390 through 399 of Title 49 Code of Federal Regulations.

On Tuesday, Hurricane Florence maintained Category 4 status with sustain winds of 130 mph. Although the storm is picking up speed, weather systems coming from the central and southern Plains are expected to reach affected areas, causing Florence to slow down. This effect could potentially keep the storm in the area, causing more rainfall and flooding.

Hurricane Florence projected path from NOAA

The National Hurricane Center predicts a life-threatening storm surge and damaging hurricane-force winds along portions of the coastlines of the Carolinas and Virginia. A storm surge watch is in effect for Edisto Beach, S.C., to the North Carolina-Virginia border. A hurricane watch is in effect for the same areas. Hurricane watches are typically issued 48 hours before the anticipated first occurrence of tropical storm-force winds.

Florence is expected to begin re-strengthening later on Tuesday and continue a slow strengthening trend for the next day or so.  While some weakening is expected on Thursday, Florence is expected to be an extremely dangerous major hurricane through landfall, according to the National Hurricane Center.

As of 2 p.m. Eastern, Florence was less than 900 miles southeast of the South Carolina-North Carolina coastline border, moving approximately 15 mph northwest.