Highways leading inland from the Southeastern coast are jammed as residents evacuate in the path of Hurricane Floyd.
More than 2 million people have already evacuated, and more are to come. The core of the hurricane is expected to be off the central coast of Florida by midnight Tuesday (tonight). It could make landfall on the Georgia or South Carolina coast by early Thursday, with hurricane-force winds expected to reach Georgia by Wednesday evening.
As the huge hurricane churns its way toward Florida's Atlantic coast, trucking companies are battening down the hatches. A call to the public affairs office at Landstar's Jacksonville, FL, headquarters, got only a message that people are out of the office because of the hurricane. Tom Webb, president of the Florida Trucking Assn., says carriers are in the midst of preparing for the hurricane.
Tuesday morning, Floyd turned slightly north, veering away from a direct hit on the Miami area but putting the coasts of Florida, Georgia and South Carolina in imminent danger. The storm is expected to come within 30 miles of Florida's coast, somewhere between Cape Canaveral and Daytona Beach. Even if the eye of the storm does not come ashore, the hurricane - three times larger than the devastating Andrew that hit the southern tip of Florida several years ago - will generate high winds and flooding.
Hurricane-force winds are already being felt in Florida as far inland as I-95. Winds of 74 mph and more were being reported this morning, with tropical-storm-force winds of 29 mph much further inland.
Webb cautions against trying to use routes leading inland in central Florida. "Right now, some of the roads in central Florida west of Cape Canaveral, state road 50 for instance, are pretty jammed up" as people evacuate, he says.
Coastal Georgia residents are jamming roads heading inland, especially Interstate 16. At 11:30 a.m. Tuesday, the state Department of Transportation closed the highway's eastbound lanes for 85 miles, from Exit 36 in Savannah to Exit 21 at U.S. 1, to allow westbound traffic to use both sides of the interstate. Interstate rest areas along I-16 and I-75 will remain open throughout the night to accommodate evacuees. Rest areas on I-95 have been closed in counties where the mandatory evacuation is in effect.
Evacuations have also been recommended or ordered in North Carolina and South Carolina.
For more information:
CNN weather updates: http://www.cnn.com/WEATHER/
Miami Herald: http://www.herald.com/content/today/content.htm
Atlanta Journal-Constitution: http://www.accessatlanta.com/partners/ajc/
Charleston (SC) Daily News: http://thecharlestondailynews.com/
NOAA: http://www.noaa.gov
Florida emergency information line: 1-800-342-3557
South Carolina emergency information line: 1-800-256-8535
Georgia traffic and road closure information: 1-888-424-4929 or *DOT (*368) from a cellular phone.