Hurricane Irma Causes Traffic Jam from Miami to Tennessee Border
Residents were instructed to evacuate the area "while [they] have a chance."
The state of Florida has been rapidly preparing for Hurricane Irma, a tropical cyclone that has broken records before ever making landfall on the continental U.S. It's expected to slam into Florida sometime this weekend, leading government officials have warned that residents should leave while they can—because calling for help during the storm won't do any good, as there won't be anyone picking up the phones.
As a result, Floridians have begun to evacuate the state en masse, creating a traffic jam that stretched approximately 780 miles from Miami to Chattanooga, Tennessee on Thursday.
These near-standstill conditions haven't been seen since Hurricane Floyd hit the coast in 1999, making a trip that would normally take 5-6 hours run nearly double that, tells CNN. The Florida Department of Transportation released reports detailing the amount of cars on the road during this period with many stretches of interstate seeing quadruple the normal head count. This comes after warnings from various weather experts and state officials with Gov. Rick Scott explaining that Irma could be "wider than our entire state and could cause major and life-threatening impacts from coast to coast."
This screenshot of Google Map traffic reports show the massive stretch of red and orange, indicating heavy congestion:
Speaking of Irma's path on Thursday night, CNN meteorologist Tom Sater said, "It looks like it's shifting, even though it may be just 20 miles, it puts Miami right in the worst possible position."
The storm has already taken 10 lives in the Caribbean Islands on its way to Florida, posing a serious threat to the more than 6 million residents of Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach counties.
Gas shortages are also becoming an issue during this mass evacuation. Fuel carrier vehicles are being escorted by police to ensure delivery, though it couldn't come soon enough for some of those trapped in the gridlock. "There was no gas and it's gridlock. People are stranded on the sides of the highway," a Florida woman told ABC. "It's 92 degrees out and little kids are out on the grass on the side of the road. No one can help them."
President Donald Trump is encouraging Floridians to take every possible precaution in order to prepare for Hurricane Irma. This comes just a week after visiting the Houston, Texas area when it was first affected by Hurricane Harvey, a Category 4 storm.