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 8, to test lane reversal plans for all three major coastal areas of the state. Hurricane season began June 1 and ends Nov. 30. Please note that no traffic lanes will actually be reversed during this exercise.
This hurricane evacuation exercise, which will last from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., 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 will be deployed. Additional support is provided by 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.
“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.”
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 the S.C. National Guard, the Civil Air Patrol, the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources and the South Carolina Forestry Commission will be flying assigned aerial surveillance routes.
“Preparing for a hurricane evacuation is not just an exercise; it is a crucial commitment to safeguarding lives and communities,” said S.C. 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.”
Secretary of Transportation Christy Hall points to the importance of evacuation planning:
“Hurricane evacuations are a critical part of our emergency plans if our state is faced with a natural disaster. We appreciate the continued coordination with our partner agencies. Our SCDOT staff train year-round and we stand ready to assist the people of South Carolina.”
As a reminder, 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 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 about the upcoming hurricane season, visit the SC Emergency Management Division’s website: Hurricane.SC and download the SCEMD Emergency Manager app to stay up-to-date during hurricane season. View and download the South Carolina Emergency Management Division’s 2023 Hurricane Guide.
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