Traffic along Beaufort County evacuation routes remained light Wednesday morning in spite of a slightly southern shift taken by Hurricane Florence overnight.
From midnight to 9 a.m. Wednesday, westbound traffic on U.S. 278 near the intersection of I-95 was about 20 percent lower than usual, according to data from the S.C. Department of Transportation.
Westbound traffic on the bridge to Hilton Head Island during that same time frame was down 36 percent, with about 2,600 vehicles leaving the island, according to the data.
South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster issued a mandatory evacuation for the state’s entire coast Monday afternoon, but then lifted the order for Beaufort, Jasper and Colleton counties late Tuesday morning.
When McMaster lifted the order Tuesday, Beaufort County was not in the path of the Category 4 storm and not included in any storm surge watch or hurricane watch issued by the National Hurricane Center.
However, early Wednesday morning the storm’s path shifted south and west, with projections engulfing more of South Carolina and western North Carolina.
Beaufort County is still not under any storm surge or hurricane watches, but that could change, according to Michael Emlaw, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Charleston.
“This forecast is changing fairly quickly, and I would not be surprised if we have a hurricane coming back off the coast back toward our area,” Emlaw said. “The uncertainty is tremendous.”
Capt. Bob Bromage, spokesperson for the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office, said Tuesday that if the evacuation order is reinstated, local law enforcement agencies would rapidly restore evacuation plans.
Crews from the S.C. Department of Transportation were stationed along U.S. 278 and U.S. 21 Wednesday morning in case an evacuation order is reinstated for Beaufort County.
The Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office is holding a press conference with Hurricane Florence updates at 11:30 a.m. Wednesday.
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This story will be updated throughout the day as traffic patterns may change.