Evacuation exercise set for I-65 Thursday

Published 6:28 pm Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Later this week, the Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) will conduct its annual rehearsal of the plan that helped safely evacuate the Gulf Coast during Hurricane Ivan in 2004 and Hurricane Dennis in 2005, according to a press release from ALDOT.

On Thursday, May 22, around 200 ALDOT workers and a contingency of state troopers and Alabama National Guard personnel will be positioned along I-65 between Baldwin County and Montgomery to simulate the activity associated with reversing I-65 traffic during an emergency.

Since 2000, ALDOT annually conducts rehearsals of its plan to reverse southbound traffic on Interstate 65 to allow four northward flowing lanes to evacuate the Gulf Coast. The term “contraflow” describes the condition when an interstate highway’s lanes carry traffic in the opposite direction for an evacuation (for instance, when I-65’s southbound lanes carry northbound traffic).

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Traffic will not be reversed or detoured anywhere along I-65 during the reverse lane training exercise, but every portion of the plan will be simulated.

Alabama in 1999 developed a hurricane evacuation plan to reverse traffic on I-65’s southbound lanes after Hurricane Floyd hit the East Coast. Planning and annual rehearsals since spring 2000 made Alabama’s lane reversals during Hurricanes Ivan and Dennis a success, helping to evacuate the Gulf Coast without any hurricane-related loss of life.

The plan for reversing I-65 traffic requires 200 Department of Transportation employees, about 100 state troopers, and additional personnel from state and local emergency management and local law enforcement agencies.

The rehearsal simulates lane reversal activities that may occur during a real hurricane evacuation and provides an opportunity to practice the dozens of steps required, and to fine tune the process. Personnel will pre-position themselves and their equipment at 24 assigned checkpoints, including 21 interchanges, along I-65 between the initial crossover point south of State Road 225 in Mobile County and the north terminus points in Montgomery.