MONTGOMERY, Ala. -- As the remnants of Hurricane Irma move through Alabama with tropical storm strength, the Alabama Department of Transportation is ramping up efforts with state and local law enforcement to conduct the state’s largest ever movement of evacuee traffic returning to Florida and Georgia.
Up to 500,000 vehicles carrying evacuees are expected to return to Florida and Georgia through some part of Alabama, either from sheltering in north or central Alabama or even further north, or as far west as Mississippi.
State officials are preaching safety and patience as hundreds of thousands of evacuees have begun moving south and east in a process that will take several days because of heavy traffic volumes and because workers are still working to clear some areas for safe re-entry.
ALDOT officials urge travelers to spread traffic loads across all available southbound and eastbound routes rather than overloading major routes such as U.S. 231, Interstate 65 and Interstate 10.
ALDOT is implementing proactive steps to maintain maximum efficiency along major southbound and eastbound roadways. Along U.S. 231 from Troy to Dothan, ALDOT will be working with local officials to adjust traffic signals to give as much priority time as possible to southbound evacuee and relief convoy traffic. In Mobile, officials are prepared to divert eastbound Interstate 10 truck traffic around the Wallace Tunnel in an effort to reduce congestion.
Despite efforts to minimize traffic back-ups, ALDOT officials advise that drivers should expect congestion as state, U.S. and interstate highways into Florida and Georgia will be used by residents returning home and convoys of personnel and resources to aid in hurricane recovery.
Over the next few days, ALDOT personnel will be working to clear debris from state, U.S. and interstate highways and to repair damage to roadway infrastructure.
ALDOT’s priority is to safely deploy crews to assess damage, clear debris and make repairs that may be necessary to roads, bridges, signs and traffic signals. ALDOT is maintaining a presence at the State Emergency Operations Center to coordinate transportation-related response with the Alabama Emergency Management Agency, Federal Emergency Management Agency, and other state and local response agencies.
After responding to roadway and bridge priorities caused by Irma, ALDOT is preparing to mobilize personnel, trucks and resources to assist the Florida Department of Transportation with emergency recovery needs. Those response missions will be coordinated between the two states.
ALDOT is emphasizing the following key messages in the wake of Irma:
• Local traffic should be prepared for delays and congestion on major southbound and eastbound roadways, and should allow extra travel time for their routine commuting;
• Expect congestion and heavy traffic volumes from relief convoys heading to areas affected by Irma and from evacuees returning home;
• Evacuees are urged to wait for weather and roadway conditions to improve before returning home, and should confirm that Florida officials have cleared their local areas for safe re-entry;
• Florida officials are recommending the use of FL511.com and fhmsmv.gov, along with @FLHSMV and @MyFDOT on Twitter, to help evacuees plan their return travel;
• ALDOT crews will work to clear debris from state, U.S. and interstate highways to restore traffic flow for emergency relief-related and routine travel;
• ALDOT crews will work to repair damage to roadways, bridges, signs and traffic signals as quickly as possible; and
• Crews will be working at all hours, so please be patient with recovery efforts and be watchful for first responders, highway repair crews, and utility workers on roadways and rights-of-way.
Motorists can find Alabama traffic and road condition information at www.ALGOtraffic.com or by downloading the ALGO Traffic app.
ALDOT’s mission is to provide a safe, efficient, environmentally sound transportation network across Alabama. For further information, visit www.dot.state.al.us.