Police, SCDOT reopen Ravenel Bridge for all traffic

UPDATE: Mount Pleasant and Charleston police announced at 7:10 a.m. Friday that the Ravenel Bridge was open to all traffic.{}


MT. PLEASANT, S.C. (WCIV) -- As temperatures rise across the Charleston area and any sign of ice faces and thousands of commuters spend their morning on I-526, the question turns to the Ravenel Bridge: when will it reopen?

Mount Pleasant Mayor Linda Page said the bridge would not open Thursday because transportation crews need to be able to access the cables and they can't do that in the dark.{}

That means hopes for a direct link between Charleston and Mount Pleasant are being pinned on Friday now. Crews were supposed to start assessing the cables and towers at daylight.

On Thursday, crews started assessing around 7:30 a.m. and had a statement on the condition of the bridge around 90 minutes later.{}

According to Charleston police, officials from the two police agencies monitoring the bridge and members of the Department of Transportation assessed the bridge early Thursday morning and found that ice had been falling from the cables.{}

Police spokesman Charles Francis described the ice as "large chunks." Ice is also visible on the upper portions of the cables, he said.{}

At noon, Francis said conditions were improving but remained dangerous for any kind of traffic across the bridge linking Charleston and Mount Pleasant. An afternoon assessment yielded the same result: the bridge is not yet safe to open for drivers and pedestrians, according to officials with Charleston and Mount Pleasant police and SCDOT.

Law enforcement officials early Wednesday morning closed the Ravenel Bridge due to ice forming on the cables. The Ravenel shut down right before 4 a.m. and the Stono followed around 5:15 a.m.

The Stono has since reopened.

But there are also other problems on the roadways.

On Interstate 26 at mile marker 183, the Highway Patrol had to shut down the roadway because there are power lines down blocking the lanes. There is no estimate on the lanes being reopened.

In Moncks Corner, a tree fell across Highway 52 and blocked one lane, which slowed traffic for a while, but firefighters were able to clear the tree from the roadway and reopen it completely to traffic.{}

In Charleston County, officials are reported downed tree branches in{}Ravenel, Hollywood, Adams Run, Ladson, and Lincolnville. The Charleston County Sheriff's Office is asking motorists to use extreme caution when traveling on County Line Road, Highways 165, 162, 174, Toogoodoo Road, {}Hyde Park Road, US 17 North and South, SC45, SC78, Lincolnville Road, {}and Von Oshen Road.{}

On Interstate 95, two trees have fallen across the roadway blocking the path to Walterboro and traffic was at a standstill.{}

The South Carolina Department of Transportation said in a 4 p.m. update that maintenance crews continue to place brine on bridges and overpasses along I-26 and I-95 and other priority routes as necessary district wide.

All interstates are reportedly in good condition and passable, according to the SCDOT.

However, numerous trees reported down in Berkeley, Charleston, Colleton, Dorchester, and Jasper counties. Two contract debris removal crews are in Colleton with one crew going to Dorchester and one going to Berkeley.

The Highway Patrol says there is also a tree down on Interstate 26 in the area of Royle Road. Main Road in Summerville has also been shut down.

The Dorchester County sheriff urged people Wednesday to stay off the roads unless in an extreme emergency.

"The driving conditions in Dorchester County are very poor at best, with down trees, power lines and a small accumulation ice on the highway. It is very dangerous to drive at this time," said Sam Richardson in a release.

With the second winter storm in a month, Gov. Nikki Haley has asked for federal disaster aid. She announced the decision to solicit the federal government for assistance in a press conference Wednesday afternoon.{}

Just before 6 a.m. Charleston Police announced the Limehouse Bridge connecting Johns Island to West Ashley was closed as well. It's northbound lanes reopened later in the morning and by 9 a.m. it reopened completely.

Around 7:15 a.m. the McKinley Washington Bridge, connecting Edisto Island to the rest of the state, joined the closures list. It has since reopened.

By 7:45 Summerville Police announced that the Berlin G. Myers overpass was closed. It has since reopened.

Officials said they hope to have the Ravenel Bridge open by 11 a.m. but in their 8 a.m. update it was announced that the bridge would remain closed because of ice falling from the cables. SCDOT officials said crews have been treating the Ravenel with a brine mix since 9:15 p.m. Tuesday and started treating with granular salt Wednesday morning around 3:45 a.m.

Because of the Ravenel Bridge closure, CARTA officials announced some routes would be taking the I-526 detour.

"In order to be as efficient as possible in transporting our passengers around Mount Pleasant and to downtown during the bridge closure, Towne Center will serve as a transfer point," the service announced in a release. "One of the Route 40 (Mount Pleasant) buses and the Route 41 (Coleman Boulevard) bus will circulate only in Mount Pleasant. Those two will meet to transfer passengers to another of the Route 40 buses that will travel the detour into downtown until the bridge has reopened. Expect some delays on these routes until the bridge has reopened and service returns to normal."

Tens of thousands of South Carolinians are now without power as a result of the storm.

The governor's office says the disaster request is a pre-emptive measure that will allow the state to get help from the Federal Emergency Management Agency such as food and generators to help in the storm recovery. The federal government would pay 75 percent of the cost.