CHARLESTON COUNTY, S.C. (WCBD) – State and local agencies will conduct a full-scale hurricane evacuation lane reversal drill on Thursday.

While no lanes of traffic will actually be reversed during the drill, the goal is to help law enforcement and the South Carolina Emergency Preparedness Division test lane reversal plans for I-26 and other coastal roadways should an evacuation order be issued at any point during the hurricane season.

Law enforcement personnel and traffic control devices will be deployed along I-26 from the intersection of the 197 mm (Nexton Parkway) and I-26 in Charleston to I-77 and I-26 in Columbia.

The South Carolina Department of Transportation announced in 2020 an updated plan for reversing lanes on I-26, which includes beginning the reversal at a median crossover near the Nexton Parkway, exit 197, rather than I-526 like in past years. 

While SCDOT understands this shortens the length of the reversal by 15 miles, they say it is designed to reduce traffic impacts for the Charleston area and be easier for motorists to access the reversed side of I-26.

The drill will begin at approximately 8:00 a.m. through 3:00 p.m.

“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.”

“With the ever-increasing popularity of South Carolina’s beautiful coastal region, the number of residents and visitors continues to grow,” Secretary of Transportation Christy A. Hall said. “This makes it critical that we rehearse implementing lane reversals should they be needed during hurricane evacuations. Please watch for our employees and our partners as we conduct this drill.”

State leaders say the preparedness exercise will not interfere with the flow of traffic, intersections will not be blocked, and motorists will be allowed to move freely; however, you are encouraged to drive safely as law enforcement and state personnel will be staged along busy roads.

Those living in coastal communities should use this time to understand their hurricane evacuation zone and the route they would take should an order to leave be given during the season.

Lane reversal simulations will be held on U.S. 21, U.S. 278, U.S. 501 and S.C. 544 in addition to I-26.