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Victory 2002

Sept. 13, 2002                                                                                                                       


Once-Stranded Hurricane Refugees Remember

Hodges’ Biggest Traffic Jam In History


Interstate-26, Near Charleston- Saturday, Sept. 14 marks the three-year anniversary of the day Jim Hodges ordered the evacuation of Charleston. On the eve of that anniversary, 25 Charleston-area residents and legislators gathered at a rest area on I-26’s mile marker 203 as a young mother told of her trepidation when she went into labor as she sat in the gridlock. A widow in her 80s related her stint of more than 22-hours sitting in traffic while four lanes on the opposite side of the interstate remained unused.


Kathryn MacDonald, with her daughter, Leah, who will be three Saturday,  sat in the I-26 bottleneck in 1999. “It was very unnerving. I did not know what to do. I began having contractions,” Katherine said.  “We were stuck in traffic with my children in the backseat.  I’ll never forget the van full of evacuated prisoners moving right on through,” MacDonald said.


Ten-year-old Madeline Fipps, who was seven at the time, spoke about being separated from her mother, in a car with six children, including 13-month-old twin sisters strapped in car seats.  “It was such a long time. I wish there would have been a better way,” she said.


Eleanor Johnson, who is in her 80’s, said it took her three hours to drive from her Mt. Pleasant home to the site of the Friday’s commemoration. “That trip usually takes less than 30 minutes,” Johnson said.


Charleston Rep. Chip Limehouse said he “asked Gov. Hodges to reverse the eastbound lanes of the interstate, but the governor said, ‘it’s not possible.’ He said he had no plan to open the eastbound lanes.”


State Sen. Glenn McConnell, of Charleston, said he heard a multitude of complaints from his constituents after the muffed evacuation and said the whole situation was the result of poor leadership. “While everyone else sat out here in the traffic (Jim Hodges) was in a helicopter. He did not lead when leadership was needed.”


John Graham Altman, another House representative from Charleston called the Hodges-caused fiasco a ‘blockade.’ And Altman said Hodges’ actions during the crisis did not catch him off guard. “It was a failure of leadership, but what did we expect? I was not surprised.”


Shirley Hinson, who represents Berkeley County, said the mess Hodges made of the evacuation raised eyebrows with the people in her district. “If Gov. Hodges was  not in a helicopter, if he was where I was and could see the people I saw, he would have provided leadership. So we must put the responsibility where it belongs, with Jim Hodges” Hinson said.


Annette Young, State House representative from Dorchester County had concerns similar to Hinson’s “I was embarrassed to have to answer to constituents,” she said, referring to the way Hodges handled the evacuation.


In addition to the speakers, children held up a banner that read: And supporters of Jim Hodges were hustled off the side of the road by S.C. State Troopers—in an all too familiar scene the Governor  and his people endangering public safety along I-26.