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How past hurricanes helped improve evacuation routes for today

How past hurricanes helped improve evacuation routes for today
Posted at 8:27 PM, May 05, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-05 20:27:46-04

CAPE CORAL, Fla. — Evacuation plans are an essential part of hurricane preparations, but many people put them off until the last minute.

However, many residents saw how that can easily turn into chaos when Hurricane Irma came barreling toward Southwest Florida in 2017.

Lieutenant Greg Bueno with Florida Highway Patrol said that is a prime example of why people need to get their evacuation plan ready now.

He mentioned troopers will do the same things days before a storm is expected to hit.

"We're out there clearing the interstate basically," said Lt. Greg Bueno. "We're removing any disabled vehicles, obviously any crashes, we're sweeping all lanes including the emergency lane because we may have to open that up for an additional lane of traffic."

The plan Lt. Bueno mentioned is also known as the "emergency shoulder use" plan. Drivers may have noticed it while trying to evacuate before Irma made landfall.

Millions of people tried to evacuate the state then. While many sat in their cars inching toward safety, Fox 4 received many comments asking why contraflow-- or lane reversal-- wasn't implemented.

Lt. Bueno said there is a logistical reason why that wasn't implemented.

"It's important to keep that I-75 southbound traffic open simultaneously because as we remember with Irma how quickly fuel can run out and that became a scarce commodity."

The state learned from Hurricane Irma and has enacted changes to evacuation plans since then including emergency shoulder use expansions, display signs, and fuel distribution procedures.

Lt. Bueno said knowing your evacuation zone is the first step to being more prepared, and Sandra Tapfumaneyi from Lee County Emergency Management couldn't agree more.

"It's really important to understand if you live in an evacuation zone and which evacuation zone it is," said Sandra Tapfumaneyi.

Every county in Southwest Florida county has an evacuation zone plan. For example-- Tapfumaneui explained Lee County has five zones each labeled "A" through "E."

Plus, Lee County has ways to send alerts through your phone so residents are informed even when they're on the go.

"So if you have a cell phone, you can connect your cell phone with your home address and if we send an alert, let's say we are evacuating, you will get that alert regardless of where you physically are at that time," explained Tapfumaneyi.

Please click the links below for more information on your county's evacuation plan:
Charlotte County
Collier County
Desoto County
Glades County
Hendry County
Lee County

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