Tuesday, June 07, 2005

New Hurricane Evacuation Plan To Be Unveiled

Source: WESH-TV 2

Florida's Turnpike Enterprise will soon roll out a new hurricane evacuation plan. If a major storm approaches, the new plan would more quickly bring people seeking refuge from South Florida to Central Florida, WESH 2 News reported.

Since Hurricane Floyd caused traffic jams in 1999, the state has been practicing "contra flow," which means having all traffic move in one direction. The plan is now ready.

"We can actually bring more people through that area, obviously, on the other two lanes," said Ingrid Birenbaum, a spokeswoman for Turnpike Enterprise.

Beginning in Fort Pierce, traffic that normally moves in both directions would be changed so that all hurricane traffic would flow north. There would be no way to exit the Turnpike until you reach state Road 429 in Orange County.

Gov. Jeb Bush would have to order the plan and only in the case of a category 4 or 5 hurricane.

Turnpike officials said the plan could be put into effect in less than 10 hours. The Florida Highway Patrol would lay cones down blocking all southbound interchanges and have all traffic flow north.

But some motorists said they have their reservations.

"I would want to be prepared and have access out of here as quick as I could," said driver Kathy Kersey.

But FHP and the Road Rangers said they would keep traffic moving.

"We'll be prepared to do it, and do everything we can to help our customers do it safely and with as much information as possible," Birenbaum said.

To provide that information to drivers, Turnpike workers would place dozens of signs along the route.

The Turnpike Enterprise will officially unveil its new hurricane evacuation plan next Tuesday. The plan was not implemented during last year's hurricanes because storm winds were not as severe in Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties as they were in other parts of the state.

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