As Hurricane Florence’s time of arrival can be measured in hours rather than days, state Departments of Transportation are prepping for life-threatening flooding and a mass exodus of coastal residents.
Courtesy Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration added Kentucky and Tennessee to the regional emergency declaration on Wednesday, Sept. 12, in anticipation of Hurricane Florence. States previously issued a regional emergency declaration: Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia.
Kentucky and Tennessee have been added to the list of states with trucking regulated exemptions, while Georgia may apply lane reversals if needed.
State DOT actions
On Wednesday, Sept. 12, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration added Kentucky and Tennessee to the regional emergency declaration in anticipation of Hurricane Florence. Motor carriers and drivers providing direct assistance to the emergency in the affected states and jurisdictions in direct support of relief efforts related to Hurricane Florence are granted emergency relief from Parts 390 through 399 of Title 49 Code of Federal Regulations
FMCSA previously issued a regional emergency declaration for the Southern and Eastern centers, which includes Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia.
Georgia is preparing for both South Carolina evacuees and potential direct impact. Five-day forecasts put Georgia within the probable storm center cone. Several locations, including the Atlanta Motor Speedway, have opened up their campgrounds to evacuees. Depending on the strength and trajectory of the storm, the Georgia Department of Transportation may convert Interstate 16 to westbound-only traffic as it has done in the past.
Residents in all hurricane evacuation zones in South Carolina have been ordered to evacuate beginning no later than noon on Tuesday, Sept. 11. Lane reversals for evacuation routes are in effect in the following areas:
- Charleston to Columbia: Full four-lane reversal on I-26 in Charleston will begin at the interchange of I-26 and I-526. The full reversal continues west until the I-26 crossover to I-77 just outside Columbia in Lexington County.
- Horry County: Two four-lane reversals along U.S. 501: SC 544 to U.S. 378; and US 501: Between SC 22 (Conway Bypass) to SC 576 near Marion County.
- Beaufort and Hilton Head area: Possible reversal of U.S. 278 and U.S. 21 if traffic conditions warrant.
For South Carolina evacuation routes, click here.
In North Carolina, six counties ordered evacuations as of 6 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 10. On Tuesday, Gov. Roy Cooper issued a mandatory evacuation order for all North Carolina islands.
Unlike South Carolina, North Carolina does not reverse lanes on evacuation routes. North Carolina Transportation Secretary Jim Trogdon explained that Charleston has only one major route and a much denser population. Meanwhile, North Carolina has multiple alternative routes. For North Carolina evacuation routes, click here.
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam ordered a mandatory evacuation for coastal Virginia residents in Zone A effective Tuesday at 8 a.m. In preparation for evacuations, the Virginia Department of Transportation is working to lift temporary lane closures on major routes. Interstate 64 express lane tolls have been suspended. Virginia evacuation zones can be found here.
On Wednesday, Hurricane Florence maintained Category 4 status with sustained winds of 130 mph. Weather systems coming from the central and southern Plains are expected to reach affected areas, causing Florence to slow down. This effect could potentially keep the storm in the area, causing more rainfall and flooding.
The National Hurricane Center predicts a life-threatening storm surge and damaging hurricane-force winds along portions of the coastlines of the Carolinas and Virginia. A storm surge and hurricane warning is in effect for South Santee River, S.C., to Duck, N.C., and Albemarle and Pamlico Sounds.
Florence is expected to strengthen through Wednesday night. While some weakening is expected on Thursday, Florence is expected to be an extremely dangerous major hurricane through landfall, according to the National Hurricane Center.
As of 2 p.m. Eastern, Florence was approximately 500 miles southeast of the South Carolina-North Carolina coastline border, moving approximately 13 mph northwest.
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