Public safety agencies practice hurricane evacuation on Hwy 501

Lane reversal exercises

HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - Orange cones lined Highway 501 for Tuesday's annual hurricane evacuation drill. The statewide lane reversal practice give public safety departments, and emergency management agencies a run through of what to expect if the Governor hands down the order.

"Not having a lane reversal adds a lot more time to the evacuation," explained Randall Webster, director for the Horry County Emergency Management Office. So, that being the case, that option is there to help keep the times as manageable as possible.

He says saving time is key because of all the growth in the Grand Strand. New, expanded evacuation zones were released in Horry County last year. The new guidelines impact a lot more homeowners.

During a lane reversal, Horry County public safety authorities would change the direction of the beach-bound traffic on Highways 501 and 544.

"It's hard to do that without practicing ahead of time," added Webster.

South Carolina High Patrol Lance Corporal Sonny Collins says a lane reversal takes significant manpower.

"When you have so many agencies involved, we have to make sure everyone is on the same page, because everyone has a piece to this puzzle, and everyone has to know their job, for all of this to work efficiently," explained Collins.

SCDOT crews and SCHP troopers were out on Highway 501 Tuesday for the test run. Collins says one of the trickiest elements is to make sure all of the side roads are covered. They have to direct traffic so that no one mistakenly turns into oncoming traffic.

"Today is the time to learn, look at things. Do we need to make adjustments, are things going as we thought they would?" added Collins.

Lane reversals are considered a major operation and Collins says Grand Strand drivers should plan for the heavier-than-normal traffic on other roads as well.

"It's going to impact all of the arteries leading into and out of those roads. So really, any roads near 501 or 544 are going to feel the impacts of a lane reversal or evacuation."

According to Randall Webster, the last lane reversal in Horry County was issued in 2004 for Hurricane Charley.

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