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If you’re an evacuee returning home or perhaps a tourist headed to the coast, North and South Carolina officials are urging drivers to use alternative routes and an abundance of caution.
Even though the former Hurricane Florence has moved on, hundreds of road closures, flooding and rising rivers continue to threaten safety and extend travel times to popular destinations such as Myrtle Beach.
In some areas, officials said conditions were changing so rapidly that roads must be closed without much advance notice. On Wednesday, North Carolina continued to warn drivers against using GPS directions because some apps had trouble keeping up with the road closures.
“A road that is open now may be closed later because rivers are still cresting,” said Steve Abbott, a spokesman for the N.C. Department of Transportation. “While we realize it’s frustrating for people who want to go back to work or see about their homes, we would prefer they not go.”
But for those traveling anyway, state officials said, they should check the latest information on road closures in North Carolina at https://tims.ncdot.gov/tims. For South Carolina, check at https://www.scdot.org/travel/travel-road.aspx#.
North Carolina authorities advised against traveling in the south central and southeastern parts of the state, broadly running south of U.S. 264 and east of Interstates 73 and 74. They also said there are no safe or reliable routes to or from Wilmington.
For motorists, that can mean much longer travel times.
Parts of I-95 are flooded, for example. North Carolina is telling drivers going southbound from the Virginia line to detour west onto U.S. 64 and then take a route that leads them to U.S. 321 near Hickory and then south to I-85 south, near Gastonia.
Abbott said officials wanted to avoid recommending that motorists go through Charlotte, which already experiences heavy rush-hour traffic.
In another case, North Carolina residents frequently use U.S. 74 to reach Myrtle Beach. However, parts of the highway are flooded. Motorists may want to consider routes through South Carolina, Abbott said.
But getting to Horry County, which includes Myrtle Beach, may grow even more difficult, according to a report by the Sun News.
Anticipated flooding from the Pee Dee, Little Pee Dee and Waccamaw rivers threatens to make more roads impassable and limit access to the area, the Sun News reported.
“The same thing in 1999 with Hurricane Floyd,” South Carolina Department of Transportation spokesman Pete Poore told the Observer on Wednesday. “The storm clipped South Carolina and we said, ‘Hooray, the hurricane has passed’ and then the water started coming down.”
Some major roads south of Myrtle Beach, such as U.S. 31, offered clear access to the Myrtle Beach area, according to the Sun News.
Many people who had booked vacations along the coasts have been scrambling to reschedule or make alternative arrangements in other areas, said Tiffany Wright, spokeswoman for AAA Carolinas.
Wright said her group was urging members not to use GPS to map their route because they could be sent into flooded areas. She said motorists should check state websites for information before leaving.
NCDOT says fewer than 900 roads remain closed statewide because of Hurricane Florence, down from a peak of more than 2,200. Many of them are in the southeast corner of the state. Among the roads still closed Wednesday:
▪ I-40 is closed from Exit 385 near Wallace to the New Hanover County line because of flooding.
▪ Southbound I- 95 is closed from I-40 in Johnston County south to Exit 65 at N.C. 82 near Godwin, while northbound is closed from Exit 65 to Exit 73 at Dunn. I-95 is also closed between Exit 56 near Fayetteville and Exit 13 in Lumberton because of flooding.
▪ Dozens of roads are closed in Robeson, Cumberland and Scotland counties, including U.S. 401 and U.S. 501 in several places.
▪ U.S. 74 is closed from I-95 east into Columbus County and then again in several places after its merger with U.S. 76 through Columbus and Brunswick counties to Wilmington.
▪ Several sections of U.S. 17 that had been closed in Brunswick County reopened Wednesday morning, but dozens of other roads in the county remain impassable.
▪ State highways through Bladen, Duplin, Pender and Jones counties are closed in several locations, including N.C. 41, N.C.50, N.C. 53, N.C. 58, N.C. 210 and N.C. 242.
▪ Service on the state ferry between Swan Quarter and Ocracoke expanded Tuesday to include nonresident property owners; visitors will be allowed to return to Ocracoke starting Friday. The Pamlico River ferry resumed operations Tuesday evening, but the Neuse River ferry was not back in business Wednesday morning.