COLUMBIA — The South Carolina Department of Public Safety and the South Carolina Department of Transportation, in conjunction with the South Carolina Emergency Management Division and other state and local agencies, will conduct a full-scale hurricane evacuation exercise on Thursday, June 9, to test lane reversal plans for all three major coastal areas of the state. Hurricane season began June 1 and ends November 30. Please note that no traffic lanes will actually be reversed during this exercise.
This hurricane evacuation exercise is designed to test lane reversal plans for Interstate 26, U.S. 21, U.S. 278, U.S. 501 and S.C. 544 in the event of a coastal evacuation order. Personnel and equipment from the South Carolina Department of Public Safety and the South Carolina Department of Transportation as well as partners with the South Carolina State Law Enforcement Division, the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, the South Carolina Department of Probation, Parole and Pardon Services, the South Carolina Forestry Commission, the Civil Air Patrol and the South Carolina Army National Guard will participate in the exercise, which will last from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.
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“This lane reversal exercise is a critically important tool along with planning, communication, and cooperation from our state and local partners,” said SC Department of Public Safety Director Robert G. Woods, IV. “Through this exercise and extensive planning, citizens and visitors to our state can be assured that we are prepared to safely and quickly move residents and visitors inland from the coast in the event an evacuation is ordered.”
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The exercise will simulate reversal operations on U.S. 278 and U.S. 21. The deployment of equipment and personnel will be made on these roads leading out of Hilton Head and Beaufort. SCDOT equipment will be stationed on U.S. 278 from Almeda to Hampton in Hampton County. Law enforcement personnel and traffic control devices will be deployed along Interstate 26 from the intersection of the 197 mm (Nexton Parkway) and I-26 in Charleston to I-77 and I-26 in Columbia. Traffic control equipment and personnel will be stationed on U.S. 501 beginning at S.C. 544 and ending at U.S. 378 as well as between S.C. 22 and the Marion By-Pass. Aerial units from SLED, the Civil Air Patrol, the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources and the South Carolina Forestry Commission will be flying assigned aerial surveillance routes.
“The South Carolina Emergency Response Team updates the state’s hurricane plan every year. Through training and exercises, we make sure our plans work in preparation for a real incident, like a hurricane evacuation,” said SC Emergency Management Division Director Kim Stenson. “We encourage all residents to do what we’re doing with the Department of Public Safety and the rest of our team: have a personal emergency plan that includes your entire family and then practice that plan to make sure everyone knows what to do.”
Secretary of Transportation Christy Hall points to the importance of evacuation planning:
“Lane reversals are potential life-saving aspects of hurricane evacuations in South Carolina. Our state is one of the fastest-growing states in the nation. Our beautiful coastal areas are attracting not only visitors but also many new residents, resulting in population numbers that are increasing at a rapid rate. The upcoming exercise will pay dividends should the need to implement the reversals arise during this season and in the future.”
The exercise will not interfere with the flow of traffic. Intersections will not be blocked, and motorists will be allowed to move freely. However, the Highway Patrol cautions motorists traveling I-26, U.S. 501, and S.C. 544 as well as U.S. 278 and U.S. 21 to exercise due caution and be aware that law enforcement officers and state personnel will be located on the shoulder of the highway and at exits.
For more information view the South Carolina Emergency Management Division’s 2022 Hurricane Guide.