SC highways, interstates busier as Irma evacuees head back home

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South Carolina roads are busier than normal as thousands of evacuees are heading back to the Lowcountry, Georgia, and


Tuesday afternoon, east of Columbia, Interstate 26 didn’t look much like an interstate.

To Joseph Labonte, it looked like something else.

“It was like being in a parade, basically,” he said. “Moving slow and steady all the way, yeah. That’s the best way I can explain it.”

Labonte is just one evacuee of thousands passing through the Palmetto State. They’re bound for the state’s Lowcountry, Georgia, or, in his case, Florida.

“The eyewall, I think, went right over our hometown,” said Labonte, who’s from Lakeland. “I expect to see a lot of street lights out and a lot of power out. They’re clearing debris right now, from what I’ve heard from my neighbors. I know there’s a big tree down in my neighborhood, but hopefully, it’s drivable until I get home.”

Charlie Scheffer is headed home to Florida too. He’s not quite sure what he’ll find.

“A guy called me and told me it’s all together, but I got big oak branches down all over everything,” he said of his Edgewater home.

Right now, the only thing in between them and home is the intense traffic.

“Right now, I-26 eastbound has lots of traffic – heavy volume of traffic,” said L. Cpl. Judd Jones with the South Carolina Highway Patrol. “It’s running, but slowly running.”

Jones said corridors like I-26 eastbound to I-95, I-95 southbound, and even I-77 southbound will continue to see congestion as evacuees migrate back to their homes for the next day or so.

“The thing I can tell you is be patient,” Jones said. “They’re probably stressed a little bit, so just be patient with them. They need to have a little patience too, so everyone can be safe on our roadways.”

Dale Dremann is following that advice as he heads back to Sun City in Beaufort County.

“I’m not in a hurry,” he said with a grin. “I don’t care.”

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