COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCBD) – Local and state agencies will hold a full-scale hurricane evacuation exercise on Thursday to test the state’s ability to enact lane reversals for all three of the state’s major coastal regions.
No traffic lanes will be reversed during the annual drill; however, law enforcement and transportation personnel and equipment will be present along interstates and highways during the exercise.
The South Carolina Department of Public Safety, and the South Carolina Department of Transportation will work with state emergency management officials to test lane reversal plans for I-26, US 21, US 278, US 501, and SC 544 in the event a coastal evacuation order is issued at any point during hurricane season.
“These annual exercises are critically important as it helps our agency coordinate a hurricane evacuation response with our state and local partners,” said SC Department of Public Safety Director Robert G. Woods, IV. “During the exercise, our course of action and communication are tested in such a way that allows us to assess our response and make critical adjustments. A successful exercise should provide confidence to the public that we are prepared to safely and quickly move residents and visitors in the event of an evacuation order.”
In the Charleston area, 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.
“Preparing for a hurricane evacuation is not just an exercise; it is a crucial commitment to safeguarding lives and communities,” said SC Emergency Management Division Director Kim Stenson. “By practicing and refining our agencies’ response plans, we ensure when a storm arrives, we are as ready as possible to implement those plans swiftly and effectively as one team.”
Department of Public Safety officials stress the exercise will not interfere with traffic and intersections will not be blocked. But drivers are reminded that law enforcement officers and state personnel will be located on the shoulder of the highway and at exits.
The drill comes just days after Governor Henry McMaster participated in a hurricane fly-over exercise where he visited emergency management leaders along the South Carolina coast to discuss local and state preparations for hurricane season, which began June 1st.
The exercise is expected to begin at 8:00 a.m. and will last until 3:00 p.m.