GEORGIA, SOUTH CAROLINA (WTOC) - When the call is made for a mandatory evacuation, thousands of people hit the roads at the same time to head to safety.
Leaders in South Carolina and Georgia are getting the roads ready with an interesting concept called contraflow. It just means they open the interstates on both sides, allowing all traffic to go west. The year-round preparation makes sure crews can implement the plan almost immediately.
This is probably not something you're used to seeing - traffic heading west on both sides of I-16, but the idea started a long time ago. The state of Georgia first implemented it in 1999 for Hurricane Floyd. They didn't do it again until Matthew and Irma.
"We're opening up more lanes for more traffic to move inland to a safer area," said Jill Nagel, Spokeswoman, Georgia Department of Transportation.
In Georgia, all four lanes of I-16 go westbound from Savannah to Dublin. In South Carolina, crews reverse traffic on I-26 from Charleston to I-77 near Columbia.
"If something came up quick, we are ready as a state to help all of our citizens get to safety," Nagel said.
Given the recent active hurricane seasons, both states practice reversing traffic throughout the year. DOT leaders from Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina also meet to make sure their plans align in a mass evacuation. In Georgia, they also take preparation to the next level.
"We also have stations along 16 that already have all the supplies we need - barrels and everything like that - to make sure, if contraflow is in place, we're ready," Nagel said.
The reversal of the interstates normally lasts through the evacuation period. Local and state law enforcers prevent drivers from getting on the interstate at most exits. If you don't see them, take this advice.
"Do not try to go around or through the barricades. That will just cause a safety issue, and we want to keep everyone as safe as we can," Nagel said.
The Georgia DOT says the evacuation plan is also reviewed and tweaked if need be.
On the topic of re-entry, Nagel wants folks to realize that decision is up to the individual cities and counties, not the DOT. The key to and re-entry is to be patient.