June 11, 2009

Guard joins state agencies in hurricane evacuation demonstration

By Sgt. 1st Class A.J. Coyne
Virginia Guard Public Affairs

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — Virginia National Guard Soldiers from the Portsmouth-based 2nd Squadron, 183rd Cavalry Regiment joined a number of state agencies for a hurricane evacuation demonstration June 9 at two exits along Interstate 64. 

  Lane Reversal Demonstration

Sgt. Donald Ooten, a team chief with Troop A, 2nd Squadron, 183rd Cavalry Regiment, communicates with the Virginia Department of Transportation, the Virginia State Police and the Virginia Department of Emergency Management during a lane reversal demonstration June 9 in Virginia Beach. (Sgt. 1st Class A.J. Coyne, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

“It was a good opportunity to practice our response capability and work with the Virginia State Police and Virginia Department of Emergency Management to ensure we’re prepared for future situations,” said Lt. Col. Bill Korsen, commander of the 2nd Battalion 183rd Cavalry Squadron.

The Soldiers joined the Virginia Department of Transportation, the Virginia State Police, and the Virginia Department of Emergency Management for the demonstration, which simulated the closing of two interstate exits in the event the governor orders a lane reversal in the Hampton Roads area.

“It’s a great exercise that demonstrates the interagency synchronization when it comes to natural disasters, especially hurricanes,” said Col. Paul Griffin, director of joint training and exercises for the Virginia National Guard.

  Lane Reversal Demonstration

Soldiers from 2nd Squadron, 183rd Cavalry Regiment position their humvee at the I-64/Indian River Road exit in Virginia Beach during a lane reversal demonstration June 9. (Sgt. 1st Class A.J. Coyne, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

If a hurricane or other disaster were to hit the Hampton Roads area, the governor could order an evacuation of the region. Then gates would be lowered at exit and entrance ramps on eastbound Interstate 64 so that all lanes of traffic would be westbound, along an evacuation route. Virginia Guard Soldiers from the 2-183rd would then be positioned at these exits to support the VSP in closing the exits and turning traffic in the right direction.

During the demonstration on June 9 only two exits were used, the I-64/I-295 interchange near Richmond and the I-64/Indian River exit in Virginia Beach and the gates were lowered for less than 30 minutes. But it was still an opportunity for Guard Soldiers to work alongside the other state agencies and see first-hand just what their responsibilities will be in the event of a real-world event.

“It’s nice to synch up with the Virginia State Police, VDOT and others since we would work with them in the event of a disaster,” said Sgt. 1st Class Rob  Purkerson, a platoon sergeant with Troop A, 2-183rd Cav. “We’re here to support civilian authorities and it’s nice to see them face to face.”

“We can’t take hurricane stuff lightly when we live in this area,” the Virginia Beach resident added. “We’ve seen Katrina and we’ve seen what can happen when a hurricane hits.”

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