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Real-Time GIS Assists South Carolina in Managing Hurricane Floyd Evacuation

Article provided by Intergraph Corporation

Hurricane Floyd Courtesy of NASA/GSFC

Government officials are calling it the largest peacetime evacuation in U.S. history. With Hurricane Floyd bearing down on the southeastern coastline, officials prepared for the worst. In South Carolina alone, more than 700,000 people along the state's coast from Beaufort to Myrtle Beach heeded the Governor's call for evacuation and headed inland for higher ground.

Despite the inconveniences, the bottom line in South Carolina's evacuation was that nearly everyone who had to leave the coastal area got out in time. Calling to mind the havoc wrought by Hugo, officials attempted to remind residents in the days after Floyd that traffic snarls would seem like a small price to pay for their safety if Floyd had hit the state with its full fury.

Hugo weighed heavily on the minds of South Carolina Department of Transportation (SCDOT) officials in June of last year when they met with representatives from Intergraph Corporation of Huntsville, Ala., to begin development of a Hurricane Evacuation Decision Support Solution.

The system is a Web-based presentation of smart maps that incorporate live information from SCDOT's Geographic Information Systems (GIS), remote traffic counters, evacuation route and detour maps, and real-time weather data. It was designed to put rapidly changing traffic and weather information at the fingertips of state officials who are tasked with managing evacuations.

SCDOT and Intergraph were able to test drive the new South Carolina evacuation system during Hurricane Dennis, which threatened but then passed the state, about three weeks prior to Floyd. By the time Floyd was churning the mid-Atlantic in early September, SCDOT was able to tap the system and offer emergency personnel the details they needed to evacuate the entire 150-mile South Carolina coast. Perhaps more importantly, data stored in the Hurricane Evacuation Decision Support Solution during the actual Hurricane Floyd evacuation is now being reviewed by state officials to plan for a smoother and quicker movement of residents out of harm's way in future hurricanes -- which are sure to come.

Inland flooding - Hurricane Floyd Courtesy of U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, J. Jordan

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