It’s been five years since Southwest Florida found itself under evacuation orders, under Hurricane Irma.
Since then, nearly 100,000 people have moved to Lee County.
Meaning any evacuation routes, if they are necessary for an upcoming storm, would likely be busier than in years past.
“You can imagine with more people needing to be evacuated from an area, potentially, that will put more people on the roads. That’s why we encourage people to have that solid plan in place,” said Sandra Tapfumaneyi, the Director of Public Safety and Emergency Management with Lee County.
Friday morning, Southwest Florida found itself in the middle of the forecast cone for the tropical system in the Caribbean.
The National Weather Service hasn’t issued a name yet for the system.
Whether you’re new to the area or you’ve lived here for a while, the message from emergency management officials is the same: Plan ahead now.
“We don’t want people to make decisions on evacuation based on past experience with other storms they’ve experienced,” Tapfumaneyi said.
“Or stories that they’ve heard from family members or neighbors. Because every storm is different. And they bring different hazards.”
Finding out your evacuation zone is easy.
The Florida Division of Emergency Management has a helpful tool to pinpoint your address.
Those closest to the coast will be the first to be evacuated.
Florida Highway Patrol says they’re watching the forecasts, like everyone else, and planning for the possible influx of people hitting the roads.
“Our main evacuation route is I-75,” Lt. Greg Bueno with FHP.
“There will be a large presence of the Florida Highway Patrol troopers and your local and county agencies ensuring that we keep those roadways, such as I-75 and U.S. 41, free-flowing.”
The good news is you still have time to prepare.
The system, if it does reach Florida, isn’t expected until next week.
Officials urge residents and visitors to use this weekend to prepare.