CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – State and local agencies will participate in an annual hurricane lane reversal drill on Thursday.
Crews with the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division and SC Department of Public Safety will test the state’s lane reversal plan for all three major coastal areas.
No lanes will be closed during the drill; however, crews will be rehearsing the placement of traffic control devices along I-26 between Charleston and Columbia; US 21 and US 278 in Beaufort County; and US 501 in Horry County.
The director of the South Carolina Department of Public Safety, Robert Woods, said the agency – along with SCDOT – began preparation efforts for hurricane season back in January.
“We physically checked every evacuation route in the state ensuring the proper signage is in place, and also confirming that we had adequate traffic control point staffing,” said Woods during a news conference on June 4th.
Woods said one of their driving points over the years has been for citizens to understand their evacuation route ahead of time, and then taking that route if an order is issued.
During Thursday’s exercise, SCDOT crews will travel to pre-designated locations along the evacuation routes to deploy barrels and cones on roadsides and shoulders so that they do not impact traffic. However, during an actual hurricane lane reversal, these barrels and cones would be used to safely manage evacuation traffic.
Other SCDOT staff members are involved in monitoring the flow of traffic from the Traffic Management Centers and deploying traffic control devices such as message boards along the routes that would be reversed.
“Lane reversals are an important element to hurricane evacuations in South Carolina, especially with the tremendous growth along our beautiful coast,” said Secretary of Transportation Christy Hall. “Exercises like this will pay dividends should we need to implement the reversals in the future. Additionally, I encourage the public to visit www.scdot.org and view a short video we have produced to demonstrate the new and improved I-26 reversal plan.”
The South Carolina Department of Transportation announced last year a revised lane reversal plan for a portion of I-26 in the Lowcountry.
That plan moved the reversal point up from the I-26/I-526 merge to a median crossover near the Nexton Parkway.
SCDOT says while this will shorten the length of the reversal by 15 miles, they expect it to reduce traffic impacts for the Charleston area and be simpler for motorists to access the reversed side of I-26.
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 during the drill.
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The drill is expected to begin at 8:00 a.m. and lasts until 2:00 p.m.
Motorists are asked to use caution as crews will be placed along the side of these busy interstates.