Part of major highway reopens as South Carolina recovers from floods

Reuters News
Posted: Oct 12, 2015 12:52 PM

By Colleen Jenkins

(Reuters) - A stretch of a major East Coast highway closed for more than a week by historic rains in South Carolina began reopening on Monday, as many schools resumed classes and state crews picked up debris in several hard-hit areas.

Traffic flowed again on the southbound lanes of a 13-mile (21 km) section of Interstate 95 that officials shut down on Oct. 4 after floodwaters swamped portions of the road and damaged bridges.

The closure required motorists to take a detour more than twice as long as the typical 74-mile (119 km) drive on the highway between Interstates 20 and 26. A spokesman for the state transportation department said he did not know when the northbound lanes would reopen.

South Carolina is reeling from a widespread storm that dumped as many as 2 feet (61 cm) or more of rain in parts of the state this month, killing 19 people in drownings or weather-related traffic crashes and inundating hundreds of homes.

"We are going from a massive response situation to a massive recovery situation," Governor Nikki Haley told a news conference. "This is not going to take us years to come out of this."

About 350,000 people remain under boiled-water notices, Haley said. The flooding caused 27 dam breaches, she said, as well as other problems for local water systems.

More than 300 state-maintained roads and bridges remained shuttered on Monday, according to the state's transportation agency.

Classes resumed at the University of South Carolina's campus in Columbia after flooding in the state capital forced a week-long break. The campus did not sustain significant damage, a university statement said.

(Reporting by Colleen Jenkins in Winston-Salem, N.C.; Editing by Lisa Lambert)