While working on our series "Semi-Safe," one of our subjects mentioned the concern of Interstate 75 potentially shutting down because of the Santa Fe River flooding.
10Investigates previously focused on the congestion and safety concerns of the interstate, but now we're looking into what’s being done to address the potential threat of the river closing the roadway.
Both I-75 and I-4 are major roadways for those trying to leave the area during an evacuation. We started asking our first questions with the Florida Department of Education after we saw I-4 partially closed because of rain in June. Then, we headed up to the Santa Fe River.
The point is not to cause panic, but to make sure everyone is prepared and informed. There are real threats to roadway closures and it's important that we look back so we can move forward.
“Well, I've been in High Springs for 30 years and I've owned the Canoe Outpost for 29 years”, said Jim Wood, whose business sits on the Sante Fe River.
He showed us where the water from the river raised up to the second floor of his building back in 2017 when Hurricane Irma moved through the state.
"The first day I actually kayaked up to the porch there just to look inside and to see what was going on. It was quite an experience," Wood said. "One I hope I will never have to experience again."
In 2017, the river rose 15 feet in just 36 hours. That's 13 feet above flood stage. It came inches from closing I-75. While most people had evacuated by then, it would have added almost two hours of drive time for Floridians entering back into the state.
We talked to Troy Roberts, a spokesperson with the Florida Department of Transportation.
"You look at the roadways we have and I-75 is the one people immediately go to in an evacuation," he said.
So, what is being done now to make sure the state won't have to close a major evacuation route?
"We've installed new sensors over bridges that monitor water in rivers before and after a storm," Roberts said. "Even when it comes to hurricane preparation beforehand. We try to be pro-active. We're always out here monitoring water levels to see where they are."
But, it’s not just the water near I-75. FDOT is also paying attention to another major evacuation route: Interstate 4. So we headed to Orlando to speak to the FDOT spokesperson in Central Florida.
That's where we met Steve Olson.
"When we have rainstorms coming, we've got equipment positioned along the corridor," said Steve Olson, an FDOT spokesperson in Central Florida. "They have construction yards where they have pumps mounted on trucks in some of the more prone areas to flooding. They have pumps actually stationed there. And you kind of keep your eye out for the same old suspects so to speak. The areas before and you make sure that your crews are out here clearing that out."
FDOT said the I-4 flooding problems are because of the construction on the interstate. If they see water on the road, they work with the contractor to make sure the problem is fixed quickly.
On I-75, the river is the main cause of concern. FDOT told us nature is nature and there's only so much they can do.
What happens if we see that "once in a century" storm in the next five years?
“You know, I think It's something we've always been mindful of and something we've always watched but obviously as times change and you know if we start seeing an increase in hurricanes you know we'll begin paying attention, you know we're paying more attention to them now than we probably ever have than we ever had,” Roberts said.
- 'I want more answers' | Man finds frozen baby in mom's freezer in south St. Louis
- There's even more evidence Florida's wind codes aren't good enough to withstand powerful hurricanes
- Convicted child molester killed in Florida jail, convicted murderer charged in fatal beating
- 9-year-old boy dies after being pulled from Florida creek
- At least 1 dead after massive explosion rocks Kentucky
►Make it easy to keep up-to-date with more stories like this. Download the 10News app now.