Lengthy sections of Interstate 95 remained closed Wednesday – along with dozens of other major highways in Eastern North Carolina – and transportation officials aren’t sure when traffic can resume.
Record flooding has prompted law enforcement to block numerous roads, and additional closures are possible this week as river levels continue to rise. Once the roads are clear of water, the N.C. Department of Transportation will need to make sure pavement and bridges aren’t damaged.
Many roads have washed out, which could result in a lengthy construction process. “That’s usually not something you can do in a week or two,” DOT spokesman Steve Abbott said Monday. “Some of these closures could be in place for quite some time.”
Flooded roads are making travel difficult along and east of I-95, and some don’t even have detours in place because alternate routes are also flooded.
I-95 reopened in Harnett County on Tuesday afternoon but remained closed in sections around Fayetteville and Lumberton.
Rather than trying to detour on secondary roads in the flood zone, long-distance travelers on the key East Coast freeway are encouraged to go well out of their way – through Charlotte and Columbia on interstates 85, 77 and 26. Another option is to take U.S. 64 from Rocky Mount to Raleigh, U.S. 1 from Raleigh to Southern Pines and U.S. 501 from Southern Pines to the South Carolina line.
Most of I-40 has reopened, but one westbound stretch of the highway remained closed Wednesday west of Newton Grove, between Exit 341 (N.C. 55) and Exit 334 (N.C. 96).
U.S. 264 had reopened by Tuesday afternoon between Wilson and Greenville.
Abbott said the list of road closures is shifting as some reopen and others become flooded.
“Some of the rivers aren’t going to even crest until Thursday or Friday,” he said. “It’s a constantly changing situation.”
Several drivers have died after driving around barricades and attempting to use flooded or washed-out roads, Abbott said.
“We had two people die who went around a barrier, and there was no road there,” he said.
Once DOT determines which roads will need repairs once floodwaters recede, the agency will prioritize roads based on how much traffic they carry – meaning rural secondary roads could be waiting awhile for a fix. DOT anticipates an unusually high number of damaged roads and bridges after Hurricane Matthew.
On the coast, N.C. 12 is closed in Kitty Hawk – where parts of the road washed out – as well as a section between the Bonner Bridge and Hatteras.
The state’s ferry system was largely back to normal on Wednesday, with limited schedules on the Cherry Branch-Minnesott Beach and Hatteras-Ocracoke routes. Visitors were still not allowed to access Ocracoke Island on Wednesday.
Here’s a list of other major highways shut down as of midday Wednesday (the list of secondary roads is too long to include here):
▪ U.S. 301 between Four Oaks and Benson, at Church Street in Rocky Mount, and near Hope Mills
▪ U.S. 70 Business west of Goldsboro
▪ U.S. 74 in Boardman
▪ U.S. 76 in Fair Bluff
▪ U.S. 258 in Princeville, Snow Hill and Farmville
▪ U.S. 701 in Sampson, Bladen and Columbus County
▪ U.S. 117 in Goldsboro, Mount Olive and Pikeville
▪ U.S. 13 between Goldsboro and Fayetteville and in Greene County
▪ N.C. 24 in Sampson County