S.C. tests evac system

South Carolina Department of Transportation

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South Carolina's Web-based enhanced management system for hurricane evacuations passed its first test during the last few weeks, and officials are now bracing for the next storm.

The South Carolina Hurricane Evacuation Decision Support Solution provides near real-time information on weather and traffic volume to state leaders, the Emergency Preparedness Office and transportation agency executives. This newest version of the system from Intergraph Corp.'s Mapping and Geospatial Solutions includes the company's Web interface and uses Scalable Vector Graphics, the new World Wide Web Consortium standard for graphics in geospatial information systems.

The state's Department of Transportation manages the system, which has been in place since 1999 when it was first used to help manage evacuations during Hurricane Floyd. When Hurricane Charley hit in mid-August, and again for Tropical Storm Gaston last week, officials were able to monitor and address traffic situations across the state.

"Previously, when monitoring traffic for a hurricane, we pulled reports hourly and only in one set format," said Donald McElveen, manager of GIS and mapping for the state Transportation Department, in a statement. "With the new system, we can pull our standard reports instantly and then also provide additional data or generate reports based on customized requests, thus allowing us to look at things differently and be more responsive during the emergency situation."

The system incorporates GIS information maintained by the department — such as live traffic volume and speed information — as well as information from automated traffic recorders, evacuation route and detour maps, cameras and real-time weather data. This allows officials to look for slow-downs and decide whether to reroute evacuations for open additional routes.

Enhancements to the system also include additional automated reports and analysis, such as speed capacity reports. Previously, it took up to five minutes to download that information from the emergency centers, and now the system can generate the report within seconds, according to Intergraph officials.

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