DOT exercise hopes to avoid evacuation nightmares

If you see the Highway Patrol and other law enforcement around some of the state’s major coastal road arteries tomorrow, don’t be alarmed. The Department of Public Safety, in conjunction with a number of other state agencies will conduct a hurricane evacuation exercise Thursday. The exercise is designed to test lane reversal plans for Interstate 26, US 278, US 21, US 501 and SC 544.
The exercise will simulate reversal operations, but Department of Public Safety Spokesman Sid Gaulden points out that there will be no actual reversing of lanes, just the distribution of personnel and equipment.  “This exercise concept was designed years ago and we do it every year, focusing on various part of the three major coastal evacuation zones.  This year we’ll see the most activity on Interstate 26.” 
Gaulden says the exercises were not only inspired by Hurricane Hugo 20 years ago, but mostly Hurricane Floyd, which caused an evacuation nightmare ten years ago.  “People began evacuating Southern Florida, then middle Florida, and Floyd never made landfall there.  Then it threatened coastal Georgia.  People continued to evacuate on 95.  Then as it was headed toward Charleston, people began evacuating and traffic came to a standstill as it tried to merge on 26.”
The lane reversal exercises were developed following public outcry that led to hearings at the statehouse.

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