The South Carolina Department of Transportation (SCDOT) dispatched over 300 Maintenance employees to locations in 32 counties around South Carolina this weekend to clear roads and make repairs to damage created by the series of tornados that struck the state. The work is expected to continue throughout the week.
The majority of SCDOT workers were called in at approximately 6 p.m. on Saturday March 15 to begin removing debris that included downed trees and utility poles. Employees working with law enforcement also closed roads temporarily where downed power lines posed a threat to public safety. In addition, traffic signals and signs were also repaired or replaced. In many cases, the initial task was to remove large trees and other debris from the roadway to the side of the road. Crews will spend the rest of this week removing the collected debris.
Transportation Secretary H.B. “Buck” Limehouse Jr. said it was important for SCDOT crews to react quickly. “I commend the staff in our field offices for being prepared to get out on the highways as soon as the storms passed. The debris on the roads presented an immediate danger to the public that had to be cleared, and it was vital to get the highways opened for other emergency response agencies that were assisting victims of the tornado damage,” said Limehouse.
The significant damage occurred in the central and eastern parts of the state:
• Richland County – SCDOT crews worked Saturday and Sunday to remove trees and utility poles throughout the county. Kelly Mill Road in the northeast part of the county was temporarily closed while somewhere between 40 and 60 trees were downed on that one road. SCDOT crews from Richland County have now been sent to Kershaw County to assist with cleanup there.
• Newberry County – 23 SCDOT employees worked this weekend to remove approximately 125 trees that were downed throughout the county. SC 391 was temporarily closed to traffic.
• Kershaw County – SCDOT workers began Saturday night clearing debris from roadways throughout the county. Material from damaged houses was among the debris that needed removing. Guardrail on one bridge was damaged.
• Lee County – Employees spent Saturday and Sunday removing trees from roads throughout the county. Workers found extensive damage in the Lynchburg area on US 76 and SC 341. SC 341 was closed from 11:30 p.m. Saturday until 1 p.m. Sunday due to downed power lines.
• Aiken County – 16 SCDOT workers were sent out Saturday evening to remove trees scattered throughout the county. The number of employees was doubled on Sunday because of significant road damage in the North Augusta, Belvedere and Clearwater areas.
• Edgefield County – SCDOT employees spent the weekend removing 75 trees of roadways. These employees will spend the rest of this week clearing the piled up debris from the sides of the highways.
• Allendale County – SCDOT crews from Allendale and Barnwell Counties continue to remove storm debris. The resulting damage has been significant enough so that three crews were added on Monday, and another four have been added on Tuesday March 18. The initial damage caused widespread power outages during the weekend in the area. SCDOT provided fuel to other emergency response agencies.
• Pee Dee – Over 60 SCDOT Maintenance workers removed storm debris in several counties. The most significant work was done in Dillon, Florence and Williamsburg Counties.
• Lowcountry – 29 employees worked Saturday night in Lowcountry counties clearing debris. In Berkeley County, I-26 was closed for a period of time at mile marker 191 until trees were pushed to the side of the interstate. Colleton County employees worked through the night to clear approximately 30 trees from several routes. On Sunday, SCDOT employees continued to work at the location between mile markers 190 and 191 on I-26. A tornado that touched in the immediate area created damage to several hundred trees. Both directions on I-26 were reduced to one lane nearly all of Sunday March 16. SCDOT crews were sent from Charleston and Dorchester to assist Berkeley County crews in clearing I-26.
SCDOT worked closely with troopers from the SC Department of Public Safety to keep the highways as safe as possible immediately following the storms. The Highway Patrol reports that no fatalities were recorded for Saturday March 15.