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Effective Hurricane Evacuation Routes

For many parts of the country, hurricanes and the havoc they cause are a way of life.  The thousands of lives that have been saved over the years are largely due to early warning systems and carefully-executed evacuation plans devised by local governments and other entities.  Evacuation plans take more than conceptual planning; they involve the use of approved traffic control equipment and signs for designated hurricane evacuation routes to help channelize residents out of a region quickly, safely and without incident. 

Existing roads can be used as hurricane evacuation routes; however, modifications must be made in the form of traffic control equipment and proper signage.  In the event of an imminent hurricane, local authorities may issue an evacuation order.  Populations are typically moved in phases so that congestion does not hinder the overall evacuation.  For these procedures to be effective, there must be signage that conveys a message that driver can comprehend.  These include clearly printed and easy-to-read signs with short messages, preferably in more than one language, indicating the correct route, complete with hurricane symbols.

New procedures in some regions call for the use of major interstates to utilize both north- and southbound or east- and westbound lanes of a freeway to evacuate residents.  This means that no entrance into an area would be permitted on freeways that once led into a city center.  For this potentially confusing task, signage and clearly-marked routing of evacuation routes are even more essential to success of an evacuation plan.  This evacuation technique, known as a contra-flow, is intended to be a last resort for the regions that have elected to implement it.  As such, barriers that direct traffic must be erected quickly along with clear, easy-to-read signs.

Hurricanes are an unavoidable natural disaster for many parts of the country.  Structures can be built to withstand the fury of a hurricane on certain parts of the spectrum; however, effective evacuations are an often overlooked factor in saving lives from that same fury.