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Cape Coral hurricane evacuation survey looks at past evacuation behavior to help determine improvement

Hurricane Irma
John Bazemore/AP
Traffic backs in the north-bound lanes of Interstate 75 near the Georgia-Florida state line as people flee Hurricane Irma Friday, Sept. 8, 2017, in Jennings, Fla.. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

The City of Cape Coral approved a hurricane evacuation study this month to better identify the evacuation needs of residents.

When it comes to evacuating during a hurricane, time is of the essence. If routes are jam-packed with vehicles, it diminishes opportunities for residents to shelter safely.

For example, a Category 3 hurricane would require a large portion of Cape Coral’s estimated 205,000 residents to evacuate. According to Lee County Emergency Management, in a 100% evacuation scenario, it takes up to 41-hours to evacuate Lee County, and can take up to 89-hours to evacuate out of Southwest Florida due to the infrastructure.

Cape Coral City Council members voted to approve a Hurricane Evacuation Survey of the City this month. The goal is to determine if roadway improvements can be made to either maintain or reduce the out of city, county and regional evacuation times. It will cost $300,000, but the City only has to pay half. The remaining cost is being covered by federal planning funds.

The survey will analyze hazards, like storm surge, along with land use, current transportation networks, shelter inventory, and behavioral patterns of residents.

Executive Director of Lee County Metropolitan Planning Organization Don Scott, said experiences during past storms, like Hurricane Irma in 2017, can dictate how residents plan evacuate in the future.

“Some people went to Tampa and had trouble getting gas and stuff and came back, further up, in let’s say, Ocala where the turnpike turns into the interstate, and how much the backups were in those locations, that frustrated some people," said Scott.

"So, that can also impact who might evacuate in the future and who might not. Or who might look in the area to say 'Alright, I’m going to stay at a friend’s house or even one of the local shelters.'”

The Hurricane Evacuation Survey is estimated to be completed before the 2023 hurricane season. Knowing your evacuation zone before a storm is crucial to ensure your safety. Find your zone now.

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