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Do bridges close because of winter weather? It’s complicated.

Published: Jan. 21, 2022 at 4:29 PM EST|Updated: Jan. 21, 2022 at 4:48 PM EST

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - The forecast of even a light accumulation of ice over the Lowcountry led many to ask about the possibility that bridges might close.

There is no one-size-fits-all answer.

The South Carolina Department of Transportation says it does not plan to close bridges...unless they become impassable.

“It’s an individual decision on each bridge,” SCDOT spokesman James Law said.

Without land underneath them, bridges usually ice before roads, which means drivers could encounter unexpected ice on bridges when the roads leading to and away from them don’t have icy conditions.

One of the main bridges of concern is the Arthur Ravenel Bridge, which connects downtown Charleston with downtown Mount Pleasant.

“The Ravenel’s a little higher altitude so you have to take all that into consideration, but we don’t make a plan to close any bridges. It’s a minute-by-minute, hour-by-hour decision between us and local law enforcement,” Law said.

Winter weather in January 2014 left a layer of ice on the cables of the Ravenel Bridge which began to melt two days later when temperatures reached into the 50s, leading to chunks of ice falling onto the roadway and cars below causing damage and at least one injury.

Ice falling from cables on the Ravenel Bridge in Jan. 2014 shattered this car windshield....
Ice falling from cables on the Ravenel Bridge in Jan. 2014 shattered this car windshield. (Source: Live 5)

That forced the closure of the bridge until authorities determined it was safe to reopen the lanes.

Since then, the SCDOT installed high-definition cameras to allow them to monitor the bridge’s cables to get a clear picture of any ice.

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