Checkpoints, extra patrols in SC expected during St. Patrick's Day weekend

astice@islandpacket.comMarch 14, 2012 

  • The St. Patrick's Festival on River Street begins Friday, and the 188th parade steps off at 10:15 a.m. Saturday. For a schedule of events, including maps of the parade route and portable-toilet locations, go to the city of Savannah's 2012 St. Patrick's Day guide.

As Savannah police set up barricades Wednesday along River Street in anticipation of St. Patrick's Day crowds, law enforcement on the South Carolina side of the river was gearing up to handle the spillover.

"Savannah is known nationwide for its St. Patrick's Day celebration, and we expect people from South Carolina to travel down there," Cpl. Bob Beres of the S.C. Highway Patrol said. "They need to be cognizant of Georgia laws and realize that drinking and driving is not tolerated in any state."

The Highway Patrol will have two checkpoints this weekend and increase patrols, Beres said.

On Friday, troopers will request driver's licenses, registration and proof of insurance beginning at 9 p.m. on S.C. 46 near S.C. 315 in Jasper County.

On Saturday, troopers will have another checkpoint beginning at 11 p.m. on S.C. 170 near the traffic circle with S.C. 46.

Neither checkpoint has a set ending time.

Beres also encourages motorists to report suspected impaired driving by dialing #HP (#47) on their phones. It's a free call that a dispatcher will direct to the nearest trooper, he said.

Beaufort County got a head start on St. Patrick's Day festivities, when more than 20,000 people took in a parade Sunday on Hilton Head Island.

The Beaufort County Sheriff's Office, which had 40 additional officers on patrol, reports that the celebrations went fairly smoothly. Six people were arrested, and 11 citations and two written warnings were issued, according to Sgt. Robin McIntosh. The main offenses were public disorderly conduct, underage drinking and marijuana possession, she said. The Sheriff's Office's plans no increased patrols this weekend.

In Savannah Friday and Saturday, event organizers estimate the crowd could range from 300,000 to 1 million people. Nearly all of Chatham County's 15,000 hotel rooms have been booked, according to The Associated Press.

Beres said finding a place to stay would be a good idea for revelers intending to drink.

"People expect to leave their residence, have a good time and then come home, but if you take a gamble," he said, "there's a chance you won't."

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