Hurricane Irma is due to make landfall in Florida around 8 a.m. Sunday morning, which means at this very moment a lot of people are in their cars fleeing. Florida authorities have so far not made interstates one-way roads north, despite (currently) a lot of traffic jams from Orlando to Atlanta. Why? It’s a little complicated.
The simplest explanation is the most obvious: Florida Gov. Rick Scott said Friday that they needed the southbound lanes clear for emergency vehicles and convoys of supplies heading south for those that couldn’t evacuate.
But, beyond that, are the sheer logistics of it, since it would take a huge number of state troopers and other law enforcement to implement. Officials are in part making a bet that some traffic congestion northward now is bearable, compared to the potential alternatives, which is a driver or multiple drivers going the wrong way.
The Florida Department of Transportation noted, too, that it would require substantial manpower from the state Highway Patrol and local law enforcement to guide traffic and ensure no one went the wrong way on exit or entrance ramps. They say those duties would take troopers and officers away from other preparation plans.
State officials are constantly monitoring traffic flows on Florida’s main highways using a bank of video monitors at the state Emergency Operations Center in Tallahassee. Real-time traffic information for the public is available at fl511.com.
DOT Director Mike Dew told the Herald/Times Friday morning that “traffic is continuing to flow,” even with “pockets of congestion.”
“Right now, there’s no need for contraflow because everything has continued to flow,” he said. “We’re focused on making sure traffic continues to flow and we’re working closely with law enforcement to make sure that that happens.”
All of which means that the situation could always change. Officially referred to as contraflow, the reversing of lanes from one direction to the opposite is set to begin on at least one interstate in Georgia. Authorities there have said that beginning Saturday morning Interstate 16 will be westbound-only from Savannah to Dublin, a stretch of about 117 miles.
Be safe out there, everyone.