HOUSTON — Hurricane season starts June 1. And if you lived in Houston for more than a year, not only do you dread it but you have one question when it comes to hurricanes.
Should I evacuate?
When a hurricane is on the horizon, everyone turns to the news and city leaders to see if there will be any mandatory evacuations.
It happened last year with Hurricane Laura and there's a chance it could happen again this year, so it's important you know where your home falls on Houston's evacuation plan.
There is a color-coded man set up to help you know when to go and whether you're a part of the first group that needs to get out.
Emily Black with TxDOT said it comes down to where you live.
"The people that are going to be impacted by storm surge, need the ability to safely evacuate first," said Black. "We ask for the people who are in the more northern areas, if they are trying to evacuate because they are afraid of power outages or things like that, then wait until after the storm."
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In the event authorities do order an evacuation for the Houston area, TxDOT has a number of tools to help speed the process.
One way is with contraflow.
That's when all inbound lanes of a freeway are revered to flow outbound.
"Contraflow is used to help move citizens safely and efficiently out of harm's way during a large-scale evacuation," said Black.
Click here to see the evacuation route map for the Houston area.
State and local leaders along with emergency operation personnel make the call. They can send traffic flowing in reverse on I-10, I-45, Highway 290 and the Eastex Freeway -- basically pushing people to San Antonio, Auston, Dallas and East Texas.
The one and only time TxDOT instituted contraflow was in 2005 for Hurricane Rita.
"Since Hurricane Rita, we've actually invested in a whole lot of new technology that actually helps us see the evacuation as it's happening. And we're able to clock how fast the vehicles are moving, so we can track how successful the evacuation is being."
Evacuation planning tips:
- Print out a map of your evacuation route just in case the GPS on your phone goes out.
- Pack non-perishable foods, water and blankets.
- Buy a phone charger that doesn't require electricity.
- Make sure you have jumper cables
- Have a full tank of gas when a hurricane is on the horizon
- There are several essential documents you’ll want to have with you when you evacuate -- identification, insurance information, medical information, etc.
For more hurricane preparedness tips, you can visit the Houston-Galveston Area Council's website.