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GDOT breaks down how contraflow works on I-16 when a hurricane threatens Georgia's coast

The Georgia Department of Transportation turns all lanes westbound when mandatory evacuations are in place.

DUBLIN, Ga. — I-16 is typically busy, with traffic flowing both east and west. But when a hurricane threatens Georgia's coast, it's different.

Instead, we see contraflow, a system to evacuate the coast. The last time that was used here was in 2019 during Hurricane Dorian.

Before that, contraflow was in effect during Hurricane Irma in 2017 and Hurricane Matthew in 2016, when the state issued mandatory evacuations for some coastal Georgia counties.

"The main goal is to get as many people inland as quickly as possible," said Gil Pound with the Georgia Department of Transportation. He says the operation starts in Savannah just east of I-95, where there are two paved median crossovers. 

He says the contraflow allows traffic to cross into eastbound lanes, so all four lanes will send traffic westbound from Savannah to Dublin. 

Contraflow ends near exit 39 at State Route 29 in Laurens County. 

"It doubles the capacity for westbound evacuation," Pound says. 

Pound says along the route, drivers can see Georgia Emergency Management Agency (GEMA), Georgia State Patrol, and other authorities help move traffic along.  

Also, you’ll see gates blocking off exits.

"This is one of the barricades put in place to keep people from going in the wrong direction if contraflow is activated," Pound says. That’s because only seven exits are available between Savannah and Dublin if evacuees are moving west in the normal eastbound lane.  

For those who live in Central Georgia, the thing you should know when contraflow is in effect-- avoid the interstate if you can. Pound says the farthest you can travel on I-16 eastbound is exit 39.

Pound says if you're evacuating, you should remember to pack food, water, and phone chargers. He says there could be a lot of traffic. If you're traveling with kids, he says to remember a tablet charger because there may be long wait times on the interstate. 

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