In the US, hurricanes are an annual threat to the eastern and gulf coastal states. The 30 costliest and deadliest hurricanes that occurred between 1900 and 2000 resulted in $132 billion in damage and a cumulative number of deaths of almost 15,000. The average expected cost of a hurricane today is about $14 billion.
One method to reduce deaths and costs caused by hurricanes is to evacuate those areas that might be impacted. The importance of this approach has grown with recent advances in the ability of forecasters to more accurately predict the track of a hurricane, thus reducing the number of unnecessary evacuations. However, hurricane evacuations remain difficult transportation activities to manage.
By the time Hurricane Floyd reached landfall in North Carolina in 1999, roughly 3 million people evacuated from a 4-state area. This large-scale evacuation resulted in traffic jams across the regions as motorists flooded the highways. For example, travel time between Charleston and Columbia, South Carolina, normally only 2-1/2 hours, increased to almost 18 hours during the peak period.
In May 2002, FHWA funded grants to nine southeastern states (Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia) to improve transportation operations as part of their emergency management program for hurricane evacuations.
Subsequently, a lessons learned document was prepared based on the activities pursued using the federal grants.
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