Hurricane evacuation: A beginner's guide

More than 1,000 people move to Florida...

Posted: Oct 10, 2018 10:07 AM
Updated: Oct 10, 2018 10:07 AM

More than 1,000 people move to Florida every day. That means there are a lot of new Floridians who haven't experienced a hurricane evacuation yet.

As a relatively new Floridian myself, I have a story for my new neighbors living in the Panhandle, getting ready to experience the wrath of Hurricane Michael.

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Last year, when Hurricane Irma hit Tampa Bay, I was a hurricane dummy. Well, maybe not a dummy, but definitely a rookie. I hadn't yet experienced my first tropical storm evacuation. All that changed when Irma churned its way up the Gulf Coast of Florida in September, and the eye of the storm passed right over my adopted city of Tampa.

From my first evacuation experience, which involved driving 600 miles in 14 hours, I've learned the following lessons, which I gladly share with my fellow Floridians and others who live in coastal areas.

Tip #1: Fill your tank early -- and often

My fellow Floridians drilled this mantra into my head from my very first few days in the Sunshine State, and I'm glad I took their advice. I had a full tank of gas well in advance of leaving town. If I had waited until the last minute, I might have been out of luck. As the storm was approaching, lots of gas stations had those telltale plastic bags over the pump. Remember: If a gas station has gas, pull over and get some immediately.

Tip #2: Have food and water for your road trip

Again, this was advice I'm glad I took. I had plenty of granola bars, chips, bottles of water and other assorted snacks for my journey. It's a good thing, too, because I was on the road literally all night long, from 5 p.m. until 7 a.m. the next day.

Tip #3: Leave town super early

Although I left town days before Irma hit the Tampa Bay area, it wasn't early enough. I thought I could make up for lost time by taking a less-traveled state road instead of the congested interstate. It didn't matter. I still ran into traffic jams. Likewise, I thought I could find a hotel vacancy by driving northwest into Alabama instead of due north into Georgia (where most people were headed). That didn't matter, either. Nothing beats leaving earlier than everybody else.

Which leads me to my next point...

Tip #4: Book a hotel while you still can

As I drove through rural north Florida, my thoughtful sister and brother-in-law called me from safe-and-dry Cincinnati with some news: "We found a hotel vacancy for you in Alabama!" I should have heeded their advice to book a place. But I wasn't completely sure I could make it to Alabama. What if traffic came to a complete standstill for hours at a time? What if I ran out of gas before I got to Alabama?

I should have stopped "what iffing" myself. It turned out that hotel rooms were in even shorter supply than gas. Which is why I drove for 14 straight hours before I found a vacancy. Six hundred miles later -- in Birmingham. So, book that hotel room -- or that "vacancy" at the home of your long-lost friend from high school or college. Or, if you're not sure how far you can get, book multiple places. One of the most dramatic things I saw on my long journey was the sight of hundreds of people sleeping in their cars at rest areas. With their kids. And their pets.

As it happened, Tampa was luckily spared yet again from the kind of damage other Florida cities have had to endure. But it could have played out differently. Millions lost power and faced flooding. If you're physically capable, and your local authorities have recommended it, you should evacuate. This is something the residents of the Carolinas, where Florence's death toll has climbed to 51, know all too well.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 15229

Reported Deaths: 723
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds99925
Lauderdale73561
Madison72023
Scott65012
Neshoba63038
Jones59825
Forrest55338
DeSoto5337
Rankin4217
Leake42112
Holmes39728
Copiah3104
Jackson30513
Attala29216
Yazoo2734
Newton2714
Leflore25831
Harrison2577
Lincoln25628
Monroe25525
Lamar2355
Oktibbeha23512
Lowndes2119
Pearl River20931
Pike20211
Adams19615
Noxubee1856
Wayne1771
Warren1719
Washington1687
Covington1652
Bolivar16011
Jasper1574
Smith15011
Lee1496
Kemper14411
Clarke14318
Chickasaw13312
Lafayette1314
Coahoma1214
Carroll11711
Marion1159
Clay1124
Winston1121
Claiborne1112
Lawrence1021
Simpson1010
Yalobusha905
Hancock9011
Tate891
Grenada893
Wilkinson889
Itawamba877
Union835
Marshall833
Montgomery831
Sunflower813
Jefferson Davis772
Tippah7311
Panola703
Webster691
Calhoun644
Humphreys607
Amite601
Walthall550
Tunica543
Prentiss523
Perry503
Choctaw432
Jefferson421
Tishomingo320
Pontotoc323
Stone300
Franklin282
Tallahatchie271
Quitman260
George251
Alcorn171
Benton150
Greene121
Sharkey70
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 17359

Reported Deaths: 618
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Mobile2191115
Jefferson1780102
Montgomery163238
Tuscaloosa73814
Marshall6879
Franklin5457
Lee54033
Shelby50319
Tallapoosa42364
Butler40217
Chambers35325
Walker3442
Elmore3398
Madison3274
Baldwin2839
Dallas2603
Morgan2511
Etowah24811
DeKalb2433
Lowndes23812
Coffee2291
Sumter2206
Autauga2164
Houston2094
Bullock2034
Pike1980
Colbert1782
Russell1670
Marengo1636
Lauderdale1612
Hale1598
Calhoun1543
Choctaw1518
Barbour1501
Wilcox1447
Clarke1422
Cullman1260
Randolph1257
Marion12111
St. Clair1181
Pickens1114
Dale1100
Talladega1093
Chilton1001
Limestone940
Greene944
Winston880
Covington771
Jackson772
Crenshaw763
Macon754
Henry742
Bibb721
Washington686
Blount611
Escambia573
Lawrence480
Geneva400
Conecuh391
Coosa381
Monroe372
Perry370
Cherokee373
Clay272
Lamar230
Fayette150
Cleburne141
Unassigned00
Tupelo
Clear
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Hi: 83° Lo: 59°
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Columbus
Clear
81° wxIcon
Hi: 84° Lo: 59°
Feels Like: 82°
Oxford
Clear
77° wxIcon
Hi: 81° Lo: 57°
Feels Like: 78°
Starkville
Clear
79° wxIcon
Hi: 82° Lo: 55°
Feels Like: 79°
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