(Updated 9/15/99, 2 p.m., Eastern Time.) Freight is coming to a standstill in areas of Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas as coastal evacuees jam the highways as they flee from Floyd, a Category 4 hurricane the size of Texas.
Traffic was bumper to bumper for hours yesterday in Florida and Georgia. Insterstate 10, the major westbound route out of Jacksonville, FL, was stalled for nearly 200 miles. Officials in Georgia and South Carolina turned stretches of major east-west highways into one-way westbound thoroughfares to expedite the evacuation. Never before have coastal residents heeded an evacuation order so completely.
Floyd is forecast to come ashore tonight somewhere near Charleston, SC. But because of the size of the hurricane and the strength of the winds, even still offshore Floyd is having wind and flood effects on land.
The Georgia Department of Transportation has re-opened the eastbound lanes of I-16 from Macon to Savannah. Yesterday, all lanes of the interstate for nearly 90 miles were being used for hurricane evacuation westward. Although all other state routes and interstates in Georgia are open, Anita Mashburn of the Georgia DOT warns truckers that there is unusually heavy traffic, especially I-75 south of Atlanta.
In Florida, residents are expecting the worst this afternoon. We caught up with Donna Cooper, spokeswoman for Jacksonville, FL-based Landstar, during a break from boarding up windows.
"Landstar has an emergency plan where we can transfer all of our calls and our information access to our sister companies, Landstar Ligon in Kentucky and Landstar Inway in Illinois. Starting Monday, we transferred all our business that way. And our agents, who are independent businesses, can still work with their PCs and book freight. It's seamless. The customer doesn't even notice."
Cooper says the problems may arise after the hurricane has passed and evacuees, freight and emergency supplies all try to get to the coastal areas at once. "When Hurricane Andrew happened, Landstar set up a logistics system with FEMA down in Miami. Part of the problem was the people trying to get back in and the traffic jams. It was hard to get equipment back in, hard to get building supplies in, that sort of thing."