Thinking about leaving ahead of Hurricane Irma? Read this first

If a major storm threatens South Florida, it could take up to 99 hours to get everyone out, according to studies on evacuation procedures.

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That’s more than four days for perhaps millions of evacuees from Miami-Dade and Broward counties as they try to head north through Palm Beach County. But authorities typically don’t know a storm’s power or direction that far in advance.

Four days before Hurricane Andrew made landfall in 1992, it was a loosely-defined, weak storm far out at sea. Emergency managers don’t want motorists stalled in bumper-to-bumper traffic as a hurricane comes ashore.

You should not stay at home if you live in an evacuation area.

IF YOU STAY HOME

Make sure your home is as reinforced as possible.

Consider the house’s condition and whether your family is healthy enough.

IF YOU STAY WITH FRIENDS, RELATIVES

Make arrangements far in advance. Check again as the storm approaches to make sure your hosts aren’t on vacation or renovating.

>> Related: Hurricane Irma: Live updates

Take the same things that you’d take to an emergency shelter.

IF YOU USE A SHELTER

Shelters should be used only if you’re ordered to evacuate and have nowhere else to go.

Some will fill up quickly, and some won’t open at all.

If you need transportation or special help, make arrangements now.

IF YOU LEAVE THE REGION

No place in Florida is safe from a storm. It could envelop much of the state or march up the coast and turn toward your destination. In 1995, Erin threatened Miami, and thousands fled to Orlando, where Erin struck.

Rush-hour commuters mixed with voluntary evacuees creating heavy traffic on the northbound I-75 in Sarasota, Florida, in 2005 after state officials issued voluntary evacuation orders for counties in southern Florida ahead of Hurricane Wilma.
Photo: STAN HONDA/AFP/Getty Images

>> Related: Hurricane Irma: Here is a list of items for a last-minute preparation kit

Decide your destination and get a hotel room before you go. Rooms fill up quickly.

Flying may not be an option. Airports will close well in advance of the storm.

Trains will fill up quickly and will stop running once conditions deteriorate.

Check your car. Fill up the gas tank, check the tires, fluids and brakes. Get a current map of backup routes.

Leave early.

If roads are already jammed, go back home or to a shelter. If the storm is 24 hours from landfall or closer, it’s too late to try to leave town.

Tell someone where you are going. Leave a phone number.

IMPORTANT CONTACT INFORMATION

Evacuation route information: Monitor http://www.floridasturnpike.com for the latest details.

More evacuation route information: Call (850) 414-4100 or (toll free) (866) 374-FDOT (3368).

>> Related: Hurricane Irma: State of emergency declared as storm tracks toward Florida

Call 511: The Florida Department of Transportation offers a free 511 service for travel information and roadway conditions, including road and bridge closures, toll suspensions and major evacuation routes. For more information, go to http://www.FL511.com.

Worst Hurricanes in Fla History

Video: Ivy Brown/News | WSBTV

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