LANE REVERSALS: SCDOT opens reversed lanes in I-26 corridor

VIDEO: Lane reversal helps motorists out of Lowcountry ahead of Matthew

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Editor's Note: Live traffic cam footage of I-26 may temporarily switch to other live coverage over the course of the day. It will switch back to shots of I-26 as quickly as possible.

Both sides of I-26 in the corridor between Charleston and Columbia are now westbound. At 3 p.m., the SCDOT officially opened eastbound lanes to westbound traffic headed toward Columbia.

Gov. Nikki Haley encouraged residents of Beaufort and Charleston Counties to evacuate because of Hurricane Matthew.

A rolling closure started on I-26 eastbound near I-77 around 12:30 p.m.

During the first phase of the process, SCDOT officials closed I-26 eastbound on-ramps heading from Columbia toward Charleston one-by-one to clear the interstate of all traffic in the eastbound lanes, SCDOT spokesman Robert Kudelka said.

No eastbound traffic will be allowed in the westbound lanes on the Charleston side of the I-26, I-526 merge.

It is not clear how long the lane reversal will continue. SCDOT spokesperson Kimberly Corley said "until further notice" is the best answer the agency has as of Wednesday afternoon but says the agency will provide updates as the situation develops.

SCDOT: Gas up before heading out, Don't drive around barricades

The South Carolina Department of Public Safety warned motorists not to drive around any barricades along evacuation routes from the coast.

"Obey all traffic control devices to ensure safety," their advisory read.

Driving around a barricade could put a motorist at risk of facing on-coming traffic in a reversed lane.

SCDOT officials also want people to know no gasoline will be available for motorists until they reach Columbia. For everyone's safety, exits leading to gas stations must be blocked off, Kudelka said.

Some didn't wait for Wednesday's reversal

Heavy congestion on I-26 westbound lanes began Tuesday afternoon after Haley called for evacuations. Motorists reported bumper to bumper traffic and periods of complete standstill from as far back as I-526 all the way into the Columbia metropolitan area.

Haley said Horry and Georgetown County will be evacuated Thursday morning. Haley said the decision to move people in phases after the storm's track shifted slightly should help lessen the number of people on the road at once.

"We're very comfortable with the phasing in that we're doing," Haley said. "What we're doing is we're actually because the storm changed we're changing with the storm and I think it's very important that we just do it in phases as we see that change. Beaufort and Charleston definitely need to plan on evacuating at three but because we saw that the storm slowed down, we can move that evacuation for Georgetown and Horry County to tomorrow morning."

Haley said her goal in evacuating people on the coast is to save lives.

But she warned Midlands hotels are likely full and suggested residents look online for any remaining rooms.

Copyright 2016 WCSC. All rights reserved.