State Officials Say It's Too Soon To Go Home To Wilmington

Sep 21, 2018

State transportation officials are warning hurricane evacuees from Wilmington not to go back home this weekend. They say residents shouldn’t let the good weather fool them into thinking it is safe to return.

“We know they’re going stir crazy and want to go back down – especially to the Wilmington area. We cannot provide a safe route to Wilmington,” said Department of Transportation spokesman Steve Abbott.

The state secretary of the Department of Transportation Jim Trogdon said in a news conference today that it is crucial to keep the few roadways that are open to the southeast part of the state free from traffic to allow emergency personnel and supplies in quickly. Officials are asking drivers to restrict travel east of U.S. Highway 1 and south of U.S. 70.

“If there's no power in the area where your destination is, and the roads have limited amount of surface ability in getting to that area - and there's no water and sewer and there's no ability to get fuel once you get there - it's not a good weekend to travel to those locations,” Trogdon said.

The Department of Transportation also has these warnings:

  • Road conditions may continue to change quickly through the weekend.
  • Do not cross a barricade even if the road is free of water.
  • A barricade may mean the road is unstable due to washout underneath even if the road appears dry on the surface.
  • Even a few inches of water can sweep a moving vehicle off a road.
  • If you cannot see the asphalt of a road it is possible the road is completely washed out.

    This photo taken in Scotland County shows a truck that was pushed off the road by flowing water into a destroyed shoulder. DOT officials say even a couple inches of water can overtake a moving vehicle.
    Credit Courtesy of Scotland County Schools

Many roads are getting worse rather than better this weekend as rivers crest a second time. In some places, the second crests are only inches lower than the highest water levels earlier this week.

More than 2,000 Department of Transportation employees are working around the clock to inspect and clear roads, but hundreds of roadways are still under water.

“We have estimated right now 300 sites that will need longer term or more permanent repairs,” Trogdon said, “And I expect that number to continue to grow.”

Department officials say their highest priority is to reopen Interstate 95 and Interstate 40 because of their importance for state commerce.