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Local law enforcement agencies are preparing for heavy traffic if coastal areas are evacuated ahead of Hurricane Matthew.

Gov. Nikki Haley is to make an announcement at 9 a.m. Wednesday. Evacuation would begin at 3 p.m.

Lance Cpl. Sonny Collins of the S.C. Highway Patrol said traffic in The T&D Region was not particularly heavy and there were no major incidents before press time on Tuesday night.

Orangeburg Sheriff Leroy Ravenell encourages residents to stay at home and off the roads as much as possible so that traffic from the Lowcountry can move through the region faster.

Orangeburg County Sheriff’s Office Public Information Director Richard Walker said Tuesday, “Winds are expected to pick up as the storm gets closer. Avoid any power lines that appear to be damaged in the slightest. That is where many deaths come from is a power line that appears to be inactive.”

Walker also noted to check on neighbors and to secure loose items in the yard such as lawn furniture, patio umbrellas and yard decorations that may become airborne and dangerous.

“Follow local weather channels for updates and information on evacuations,” he said.

Holly Hill Police Chief Josh Detter said traffic is expected to increase in the Holly Hill area because U.S. Highway 176 is an evacuation route.

“We’re expecting heavier traffic from people trying to get away from the coast,” he said.

Detter encourages residents who have elderly family members or loved ones with medical issues to head west in case power outages occur.

In the City of Orangeburg, the Department of Public Safety said there were no traffic incidents into Tuesday evening, but officers will be monitoring areas that are prone to flooding, Capt. Alfred Alexander said.

Calhoun County Sheriff Thomas Summers said he is “preparing for excessive traffic” and increasing the number of deputies assigned to handle the flow.

If an evacuation is ordered, it would include lane reversals, including along Interstate 26 through Orangeburg and Calhoun.

To move traffic from Charleston toward Columbia, a full, four-lane reversal would begin at the interchange of I-26 and Interstate 526. The reversal continues west until the I-26 crossover to Interstate 77 just outside of Columbia in Lexington County.

Other reversals impact Hilton Head, Beaufort and Horry County.

Orangeburg County Administrator Harold Young said county residents should anticipate heavy traffic through Friday.

“We encourage all citizens to take this opportunity to complete their emergency plans,” he said.

Meanwhile, S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson issued a warning against price gouging.

“Our state is still recovering from the catastrophic damage caused by the floods in 2015, and as we’ve witnessed before, we will see many neighbors helping each other during this delicate time. However, we may also see some looking to unfairly take advantage of the situation through price gouging of food, gasoline, lodging, water and any other commodities as defined by the statute. Pursuant to state law, price gouging constitutes a criminal violation and an unfair trade practice,” he said.

Wilson urged citizens to remain aware of the possibilities of price gouging and to report any incidents to pricegouging@scag.gov or 803-737-3953.

The S.C. Forestry Commission issued a statewide burning ban.

The burning ban prohibits outdoor burning, which includes yard debris burning and burning for forestry, wildlife or agricultural purposes.

While campfires and open-fire cooking are not included in the ban, the Forestry Commission strongly advised all citizens to be extremely vigilant until the ban is lifted.

The ban will be in effect until further notice.

 

Contact the writer: mbrown@timesanddemocrat.com or 803-533-5545 Follow on Twitter: @MRBrownTandD

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Crime Reporter

Martha Rose Brown covers crime and other topics. The South Carolina native has been a journalist for the past 15 years.

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