HATTIESBURG, MISS.—Two months into the 2016 Hurricane Season, the Mississippi Department of Transportation (MDOT) would like to urge residents to get prepared now, instead of waiting until a storm is on the way. When it comes to a hurricane, do not take any chances.
To help Mississippians prepare, MDOT offers free resources including the 2016 Hurricane Evacuation Guide featuring information on evacuation routes, contraflow, radio coverage areas through Mississippi Public Broadcasting and contacting the Mississippi Highway Patrol, American Red Cross, Mississippi Emergency Management Agency and bordering state DOTs and highway patrols. Individuals and families will find vital information on shelters, pet care, 211 MS, lodging and travel resources. To order the guide, visit GoMDOT.com/maps or call 601-359-7045.
Regardless of the projected path of the storm, always travel northbound. Do not evacuate parallel to the coast. Consider taking an alternate evacuation route to avoid traffic congestion on Highway 49. These alternate routes are featured in the Hurricane Evacuation Guide along with an updated evacuation map, including primary evacuation routes, alternate evacuation routes and other state highways that can be utilized during an evacuation.
“In an effort to assist the state of Louisiana, MDOT will implement contraflow (lane reversal) for both I-59 and I-55 when requested by Louisiana and approved by the Governor of Mississippi,” said Kelly Castleberry, District 6 engineer. “Category III, IV or V hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico are situations that may cause a mandatory evacuation of the greater New Orleans area.”
Contraflow operations cannot be considered on Highway 49. The decision to implement contraflow is not automatic and will only be used when absolutely necessary. Citizens should not delay their evacuation plans in anticipation of contraflow.
The I-59 contraflow operations would begin in Louisiana, extend into Mississippi and end just south of Hattiesburg. The I-55 contraflow operations would begin in Louisiana, extend into Mississippi, and end just south of Brookhaven. All exits within the contraflowed sections of the interstate highways will remain open as traffic conditions allow. MDOT Enforcement will be present to assist with traffic control. The shoulders of both Interstates 59 and 55 should be kept clear for emergency vehicles. Motorists needing to stop should use the next available exit. Hancock County residents traveling West into Louisiana on I-10 will be routed North onto I-59 at the I-10/I-12 split.
MDOT recently held a contraflow drill on I-59 in South Mississippi to test hurricane preparedness plans along the interstate and the Coastal Evacuation Plan around Hattiesburg. The drill did not involve actual lane closures or reversals, but workers were given assignments and instructed on where to take equipment that will be used during contraflow operations. After the drill, participants met to conduct a de-briefing exercise to further evaluate the operation.
“This exercise helps fine tune the readiness of MDOT’s emergence response plans,” said MDOT Executive Director Melinda McGrath. “We are doing our part to get prepared for hurricane season, and we’d like to ask the public to begin planning their evacuation routes now.”
In addition to obtaining a copy of the free 2016 Hurricane Evacuation Guide, MDOT recommends residents make plans, take action and gather the materials needed to secure homes for hurricane season. Be sure to have a survival kit ready and stored in a safe place until needed. If a hurricane is on the way, always remember to shut off utilities and propane tanks, turn all refrigerators and freezers to the coldest setting and leave the doors closed, fill a tub with water and unplug all appliances and electronics.
MDOT offers home readiness checklists along with tips and instructional videos on how to get prepared at GoMDOT.com/hurricanes. Stay updated during the storm by following @MississippiDOT on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat and Google+ along with #HurricaneStrong and #ItOnlyTakesOne.
For current travel information, visit MDOTtraffic.com, dial 511 or download the free MS Traffic app from the App Store or Google Play.