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Turnpike Safety
Hurricane Evacuations: Providing a Safe Escape

If your personal hurricane evacuation plan includes a trip on Florida’s Turnpike, the Florida Department of Transportation offers the following tips to ensure your journey is safe:

  • Check on the status of evacuation orders and advisories in your area.  Do this via your local county emergency operations center or by visiting the State of Florida Emergency Response Team website at http://www.floridadisaster.org/index.asp and learn how to prepare.
  • If evacuations for your area are suggested or mandatory, make sure your vehicle is fully fueled and well serviced before you hit the road (air, oil, fuel). Consider fueling up early on while the storm is still being tracked and the final path may still be uncertain. Fuel availability may be limited, especially immediately before and after the storm hits, and available fuel will generate extremely long lines at Turnpike service plazas and local gas stations. Those who choose not to evacuate will probably be filling up containers to fuel their generators, adding to lines and delays at stations.  If you wait until the last minute to fuel up, lines will be long and tempers will be short and they may run out before you move you even make it to the pump. 
  • Carry a supply of food and water for each member of the traveling party; do not depend on obtaining fuel, food, beverages or other supplies at the Turnpike's service plazas as they may be in short supply due to the large volume of motorists on the roadway.
  • Do not wait to evacuate until after the announcement that Turnpike tolls have been suspended. Tolls are often suspended in conjunction with mandatory evacuation orders which may come only after the threat of hurricane landfall is imminent. Consider paying the toll and leaving early when traffic is much lighter.
  • Do not wait until the last minute to evacuate as weather conditions will make travel difficult.  You do not want to be out on open roadway as a storm makes landfall.  Emergency personnel and law enforcement will probably be unable to attempt rescues until imminent danger has passed.  Do not wait too long and put yourself at even greater risk.
  • Service plazas are not intended to serve as hurricane shelters and as the storm approaches, restaurant and fuel stations will be closed and personnel evacuated, so these services will be unavailable well in advance of landfall. 
  • During toll suspensions, remember to have cash available anyway. Even if tolls are suspended on one segment of the Turnpike system, it does not mean they are suspended on every road or bridge. When you approach a plaza at which the tolls are suspended, SLOW DOWN and be conscious of and courteous to other motorists.
  • Have a specific destination in mind and the route planned well in advance of your departure. When you
    travel be sure to carry any appropriate maps along inside your vehicle.
  • When possible, evacuate tens of miles instead of hundreds of miles.
  • Do not expect to travel at normal Turnpike highway speeds.  Expect travel speeds to be much lower during an evacuation, by as much as 20-25 mph depending on traffic volumes.
  • Please pack a lot of patience and be prepared for delays. Significant traffic delays are inevitable in a
    state as densely populated as Florida. If South Florida is under evacuation orders, as many as 1.5 to three million motorists may take to the highways.  It is important to avoid the rush and depart earlier
    rather than later.
  • Do not rely on GPS for up-to-date route information during an evacuation.  Portions or all of some roadways, and Interstate and Turnpike ramps may be closed and this information will not be shown on your GPS device.  FL511, highway advisory radio, overhead message boards and portable highway message signs will give you the most current information on closures and detours. 

Getting back after the storm:

If you have traveled out of your area and it has been impacted by the storm, be sure to stock up on any items that might be in short supply when you return home. Consider getting extra cash at a working ATM. Fuel up before traveling to an area that might have limited availability due to power outages. Follow any emergency instructions that may be displayed on the Turnpike’s overhead dynamic message signs.

Wait for an all-clear before attempting to get back out on the roadway.  While you may be curious to see any damage in your neighborhood, the road may not be passable or contain hidden obstructions--especially at night if street and overhead lighting is knocked out.  Additionally, highway, clean-up, and utility crews will be on the roads as soon as danger has passed trying to restore power and services and clear debris from highways.  Keep the roadway clear for them unless it is an emergency.  Florida's power companies do an excellent job of providing updated information on their websites regarding areas where the power is out.  Check their websites before traveling back to an area with no avilable power or no sanitary services.

If there are major power outages in an area, remember that traffic signals may not be functional.  If a signal is not working, you must approach the intersection and treat it as a four-way stop if law enforcement is not onsite directing traffic.  Traffic signs may be damaged or missing completely, so approach all intersections with care, especially if you are traveling in an unfamiliar area.