What if? Questions (and answers) to ponder as we prepare for hurricane season Evacuation plans: Hurricane Floyd to now

Cars jam Interstate 26 on Sept. 14, 1999, after Charleston residents were urged to evacuate for Hurricane Floyd.

ALan Hawes

The Hurricane Floyd evacuation gridlock in 1999 drove an overhaul of how the state handles storm traffic. Here’s a side-by-side look at some of the changes:

FLOYD: Voluntary and then mandatory evacuations were called for, but few heeded the voluntary warning. A mass of vehicles converged in the same few hours and traffic was at a standstill.

NOW: Under the state plan, one evacuation is ordered by the governor; it might be called for in some “zones” and not others depending on storm strength and direction. County emergency managers have the option of “staging” evacuations one area at a time.

FLOYD: It took eight hours after the governor’s order to reverse Interstate 26 lanes so that all traffic moved inland.

NOW: A plan tested year-to-year positions people ahead of time to set up the evacuation. Once the governor issues the order, “it’s almost automatic,” said Derrec Becker, of S.C. Emergency Management Division.

FLOYD: Few facilities were available to people stuck for hours on the interstate making little if any headway.

NOW: Portable bathrooms and other facilities are to be deployed, as well as teams of traffic support, wreckers and emergency medical technicians. Some additional gasoline supplies will be located at service stations. Information signs are in place at intervals.

FLOYD: Traffic management became a nightmare, with motorists switching direction and route, backing up other evacuation traffic.

NOW: Traffic coming from specific locations will be ordered by law enforcement to specific routes.