With Hurricane Irma barreling down on the southeastern U.S., drivers attempting to escape the potentially deadly storm are causing monster traffic jams and doubling or even tripling travel times.
— Brian Entin (@BrianEntin) September 8, 2017
— WPTV Traffic (@wptvtraffic) September 7, 2017
Mass Hurricane Evacuation Turning Highways Into Parking Lots
With Irma expected to hit Florida on Friday, as many as six million people are expected to evacuate to avoid the Category 4 Hurricane from that state alone. Mandatory and voluntary evacuations for Irma could be the largest mass exodus in U.S. history, according to CNN.
During a Thursday press conference, Florida Governor Rick Scott warned residents to leave now — or by Friday morning at the latest. Mandatory evacuations were ordered for numerous Florida counties, including heavily populated parts of Miami-Dade County, Broward County, and Palm Beach County.
This morning thousands of cars have taken to the road and long lines are forming at gas stations. The Florida Department of Transportation has reported extremely heavy traffic on I-75 northbound in Collier County and Collier County. Many drivers have reported three lanes of bumper to bumper traffic and say that they are only moving at about 20 m.p.h. I-95 and the Florida Turnpike are also experiencing extreme traffic jams. Get real time Florida traffic updates here.
— Jim Cantore (@JimCantore) September 7, 2017
Many have questioned why transportation officials haven’t reversed the flow of traffic on the southbound lanes. Governor Scott defended the decision: “We still need southbound lanes to get needed gas and supplies down to shelters and families that need it the southern parts of the state. Contraflow also inhibits our ability to get emergency vehicles to people that need them.” The Florida DOT also notes that reversing the flow of traffic would take too much manpower and would divert law enforcement from other emergency tasks.
In South Carolina, extreme heavy traffic has also been reported on I-77, I-95, and I-26. Truck driver Robert DeSoto told The State that a run that normally takes him seven hours is likely to take him 24 hours to complete. Desoto called this the worst traffic he had ever seen in 22 years of trucking.
The mass exodus had created a serious fuel scarcity. Governor Scott says that fuel trucks will be escorted to gas stations along the evacuation routes by state police.
Florida Highway Patrol is providing escorts to fuel trucks across FL to ensure supplies are quickly refilled. pic.twitter.com/X4J2aS0PgU
— Rick Scott (@FLGovScott) September 7, 2017
Scott has also suspended tolls for the duration of the hurricane.
Georgia has announced that contraflow will start on I-16 at 8 a.m. tomorrow.
— Georgia DPS (@ga_dps) September 7, 2017