There are lots of people getting on the road to get out of the path of Hurricane Irma. Here are 10 things you need to know.
1) Delays are continuing on I-75 NB and the Florida Turnpike where the two major roadways converge as people evacuate from both coasts ahead of Hurricane Irma. Congestion continues on I-75 NB as far north as north of I-10. If you plan to evacuate along this route with your family, the best piece of advice we can offer is to leave late at night or early in the morning when fewer people are on the road, so get plenty of rest during the day before you leave.
2) Evacuate tens of miles instead of hundreds of miles. Find a shelter near you here. Consider all of your options like friends, family and shelters.
3) Avoid the busiest roads if you can like I-75 NB north of Hillsborough county, the Florida Turnpike and I-95. Take the roads less traveled, but be sure your tank is full and you have enough fuel to get to your destination. This is where GasBuddy and checking real-time traffic conditions will be crucial. Roads like US-19, US-98 and 41 have seen pockets of slow traffic throughout the day, but not as slow as some portions of the interstate. The Suncoast Parkway is another great option to head north out of the area. Tolls have been suspended due to Irma.
4) Gas. As of 9 p.m., GasBuddy.com estimates 37 percent of gas stations in Tampa/St. Pete are out of gas. Use the GasBuddy fuel tracker app to find gas stations that have fuel. More fuel is coming in. Fuel tankers are getting highway patrol escorts to get through traffic jams to get to stations in need in areas along evacuations routes. Note: We have found that GasBuddy hasn't been 100% reliable.
5) When you do get gas, only get as much as you need. If you are planning to stay, don't fill up your tank all of the way if you don't have to. Be courteous to other drivers who have to drive long distances.
6) The owner of a local Flying J gas station told us they never ran out of fuel because Flying J has its own tankers. People also said they have been able to find gas AFTER they drove several miles away from the interstate.
7) Speaking of gas, don't wait until the last minute to evacuate. You'll avoid major congestion and any issues with getting gas. Gas station employees will stay put as long as possible, but at some point, they'll need to evacuate to a safe place as well too. Many gas station employees working along the evacuation routes will get a police escort home or to a safe place when it's time to leave.
8) Driving a long distance? FHP is also advising evacuees to bring plenty of food and water for each person in your vehicle because delays will be inevitable.
9) Please buckle up and drive safely. Four of the deaths related to Tropical Storm Fay were due to people not wearing their seat belts, according to FHP.
10) Lastly and most importantly, be patient. Others around you are equally as rattled as you are. Gov. Scott reminded Floridians earlier today that evacuations are not meant to be convenient, they are meant to keep you safe.
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