Most of I-95 reopens after S.C. floodwaters recede

By Greg Grisolano, Land Line associate editor | 10/7/2015

Portions of Interstate 95 in South Carolina are finally beginning to reopen following days of torrential rainfall and flooding.

The South Carolina Department of Transportation says it has reopened I-95 from I-26 in Orangeburg up to Exit 119 and from Exit 132 to I-20 in Florence to local traffic such as emergency vehicles or vehicles carrying relief supplies.

The interstate remains closed to all traffic from Exit 119 to Exit 132. All southbound ramps at Exit 119 have been reopened all the way to I-26, and all northbound ramps from Exit 132 have been opened all the way to I-20. A 74-mile stretch of the interstate had been closed until Tuesday evening.

The Weather Channel is reporting as many as 17 fatalities related flooding. However, the latest reports from the South Carolina Emergency Management Division state that there have been 15 fatalities – nine drownings and six traffic fatalities.

During a Wednesday afternoon press conference, Gov. Nikki Haley said the state is monitoring 62 of South Carolina’s thousands of dams. Thirteen dams have failed, forcing residents to evacuate their homes and communities. Localized flooding in the lowland areas of the state along the coast are still possible, as the surging floodwaters make their way to the ocean.

President Barack Obama signed a disaster declaration for the state earlier this week, and federal relief funds are already flowing into South Carolina. U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx announced Tuesday that $5 million in emergency funds from the FHWA was made available to SCDOT for road and bridge repairs. In addition to those dollars, disaster aid in the form of grants for temporary housing, home repairs, low-cost loans for uninsured property losses and other programs are available for individuals and business owners.

South Carolina experienced torrential rains on Friday, Oct. 2, which continued for several days. Rainfall reached more than 20 inches in many areas and produced significant flooding that damaged the state’s highways and bridges. Critical routes in the state, such as I-95, are closed and travelers are experiencing lengthy detours to bypass affected areas.

The FHWA’s Emergency Relief program provides funding for highways and bridges damaged by natural disasters or catastrophic events.

In addition to the death toll, 268 state-maintained roads and 136 state-maintained bridges remain closed because of flooding, according to reports from the South Carolina Department of Transportation. SCDOT has been providing updates on road and bridge closures via its Twitter account. In addition, the agency offers a free mobile app for smartphones that provides real time traffic and roadway conditions.

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