LEE COUNTY, Fla. -- During Hurricane Irma, we saw interstates throughout Florida come to a standstill at residents sought safer locations to ride out the storm. So we talked to FDOT about the best ways to get you out town, safe and efficiently.
But during our recent Hurricane Preparedness Facebook Live, many said evacuations could have been handled better if all southbound lanes on the interstate had been reversed.
However, the Florida Department of Transportation say, at this point and for the past several years, they have decided not to reverse the southbound lanes for a number of reasons.
It takes a lot of manpower and labor to close each southbound exit. FDOT says they have more responsibilities that are a higher priority while preparing for a hurricane.
They say during an evacuation, they turn the shoulders into lanes on I-75 instead. That way a few more lanes are open going north, which they say is just as efficient.
"It's pretty...very close to the equivalent of being able to do that and still being able to use the existing exits and ramps and still being able to use the southbound lanes to get in emergency supplies, to pre-stage those first responders, FEMA, fuel, food and water; the things that people are gonna need in the aftermath of a storm,"says Zach Burch, FDOT spokesperson.
We know the interstate is a major road that is everyone’s go-to route when evacuating. However, they are other ways to get up north during an evacuation.
FDOT says U.S. 17 is a great option. It starts in Charlotte County goes to Orlando. They are finishing the last part of what is now a four-lane road. It used to be a small two-lane road, so now it can handle much more traffic.
U.S. 27 and State Road 29 are other routes people in Southwest Florida can utilize during an evacuation.
FDOT says these roads can help get you where you need to be, whether if it’s somewhere else in Florida or out of the state. "They are available and they are public roads. They do leave the state; ultimately they will take you to Georgia, so if you're planning to go all the way or if you're staying with family and friends in Orlando or Jacksonville when you're trying to get away from a storm," says Burch.
FDOT also recommends you utilize your phone before you evacuate. For example, you can use Google Maps to check out be traffic flow. If the interstate is a solid red line, that means backups.