Verify: How state officials plan to create smooth evacuation

VERIFY: Changes to I-16 in case of storm evacuation

Ahead of Hurricane Matthew making landfall, 13WMAZ wanted to check the facts on how state officials plan to make smooth evacuations if they become mandatory for Georgia coastal counties. After taking a closer look, we were able to verify that there is a plan in place. 

With hurricane Matthew brewing off the coast, Sherry Arnold and her family weren't taking any chances staying at their home on Saint Simons. 

"I've not ever seen it that rough," Arnold said "This is the first time I've seen it this rough." 

She hit the road headed for North Georgia by way of I-16. That’s the main evacuation route from Savannah and coastal Georgia to the rest of the state.

Don Bryant, EMA Director of Laurens County said they updated those plans since they last time they were used for Hurricane Floyd in 1999.  

"The state has come up with a plan of what we call contra flow traffic," Bryant said.  "Which basically means that all lanes of I-16 will be changed for traffic to move away from the coast. That contra flow actually ends in Laurens county." 

To do that, the Georgia State Patrol and the Georgia Department of Transportation would lower these barriers seen at on-ramps along Interstate 16. Once the eastbound lanes are reversed, access on and off will be limited. 

"They'll be places where people can get off for emergencies or to refuel as well as when they get to places they’re supposed to go for shelter," Bryant said. 

He says dropping the gates and implementing those procedures will help keep the evacuation traffic moving.  

If the lanes of I-16 are reversed it will be the first time the state has done it since 1999.


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