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Hurricane evacuation becomes easier with a plan

Traffic tie-ups can occur before and after an evacuation, as residents of southwest Florida discovered post-Hurricane Charley.

Getty Images (2004)

Traffic tie-ups can occur before and after an evacuation, as residents of southwest Florida discovered post-Hurricane Charley.

For the Tampa Bay area, the year 2013 brought another quiet hurricane season.

Andrea, the only tropical storm to affect Florida, produced rainfall and gusty winds along Florida's west coast, including Hernando County, but no widespread damage.

While most of us welcome slow hurricane seasons, they pose a dilemma for emergency management officials.

Will the lack of any large-scale evacuations since 2004 make the public less aware, or less ready, if an evacuation is ordered?

Just because an evacuation hasn't occurred in years "doesn't mean it's not going to happen today," said Pasco emergency management director Annette Doying.

Doying, as well as emergency officials in Pinellas, Hernando and Hillsborough, are urging residents to plan ahead in case of a large-scale evacuation.

The first step: Know your evacuation zone. Residents also should decide where they will go, which might include staying with family or reserving a hotel room, officials said.

Going to a shelter should be a last resort.

"We're talking about sleeping on the floor," said Tom Iovino, Pinellas emergency management spokesman. "There's very little privacy in those areas."

The second step: Listen to evacuation orders.

"Heed what we say," said Hillsborough emergency management director Preston Cook. "Apathy is the biggest problem that we have."

Evacuations also present distinct challenges for each county.

In Hillsborough, it's traffic.

"We have heavy traffic conditions on a good day," Cook said. The likelihood of Pinellas residents driving into Hillsborough is another factor officials must take into account when planning an evacuation order.

In Hernando, the ongoing construction on State Road 50 is emergency management director Cecilia Patella's "main challenge" this year.

Evacuating thousands of residents out of Pinellas, the most densely populated county in the state, also could pose traffic challenges. Hotels along the beach will begin evacuating when a hurricane watch goes into effect, Iovino said.

And in Pasco County, a "significant amount" of residents live within the evacuation zones, Doying said.

To diminish traffic during a large-scale evacuation, Pasco officials are looking at several tactics, including adjusting the timing on traffic signals and making a turn lane along U.S. 19 into another traffic lane.

Laura C. Morel can be reached at lmorel@tampabay.com or (727) 445-4157. Follow @lauracmorel on Twitter.

Traffic choke points

Hernando

1. Roads in Spring Hill due to large population

2. U.S. 19 due to construction

3. State Road 50 due to construction

Pasco

1. U.S. 19 from the county line to State Road 52 due to construction

2. Ridge Road from Broad Street to Moon Lake Road due to construction

3. All Interstate 75 interchanges due to heavy use

4. Suncoast Parkway interchanges due to heavy use

Pinellas

1. Howard Frankland Bridge due to heavy use

2. Gandy Bridge due to heavy use

3. Ulmerton Road from 119th Street to El Centro/Ranchero Boulevard due to construction

4. U.S. 19 from Whitney Road to Countryside Boulevard due to construction

5. Beckett Bridge due to drawbridge delays

6. Dunedin Causeway due to drawbridge delays

7. Indian Rocks Causeway due to drawbridge delays

8. Park Boulevard Bridge due to drawbridge delays

9. Madeira Beach Causeway due to drawbridge delays

10. John's Pass Bridge due to drawbridge delays

11. Treasure Island Causeway due to drawbridge delays

12. Corey Causeway due to drawbridge delays

13. Tierra Verde Bridge due to drawbridge delays

Hillsborough

1. Interstate 275 due to heavy use

2. Interstate 4 due to heavy use

3. Interstate 75 due to heavy use

4. State Road 60 due to heavy use

5. Courtney Campbell Causeway due to heavy use

Hurricane evacuation becomes easier with a plan 05/12/14 [Last modified: Monday, May 12, 2014 8:45pm]

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