Baldwin County Evacuation Routes

BALDWIN COUNTY, Ala. (WPMI) How and when to evacuate is something all of us need to pay close attention to. Local officials have a plan but there are always other factors that come into play, including how to handle traffic in the middle of a busy summer season.

It may not be ready until mid-August but the new Baldwin Beach Expressway will soon be the new gateway to and from Alabama's beaches.

"When the hurricanes are coming, they move slow and if you evacuate too soon it can cost an awful lot of money. So we need that time because if there is an evacuation and nothing actually happens then the next time people don't listen to you," said County Highway Director Cal Markert.

For now State Highway 59, which runs parallel to the new expressway, will continue to be the main evacuation route going north to Interstate 10.

"We have to go north and then at some point we either continue going north or we go east and west on I-10, " said EMA Director Mitchell Sims.

In Baldwin County there are nearly 40 different state and county roads designed as evacuation routes, including the newest route County Road 13 from Fairhope to Daphne.

Another big part of an evacuation is the use of contraflow. That's when all four lanes on Interstate 65 in Baldwin County are turned into northbound lanes. When needed, it will happen here just south of exit 31 at State Road 225.

A paved crossover at that location allows motorists traveling in the normal northbound lanes to crossover to the contraflow lanes. State highway officials routinely have drills to make sure it works.

The goal is the right timing of an evacuation. The concept is to use traffic patterns along with population figures which can fluctuate during tourist season.

"For instance during Hurricane Issac we had the SEC Beach Fest so we had to factor in additional hours because so many people were on the island at the time," said Sims.

Routes and timing are entered into a program called Hur-Vac designed by the Army Corp of Engineers.

"So currently let's say it takes 24 hours to clear the county. If we can take even four hours off of that it will make a huge difference," said Sims.

Timing, planning and logistics play a huge factor. The key however for a safe evacuation is for everyone to listen and not to panic.
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