When a hurricane is spinning around in the Gulf, one of the biggest decisions is when to order an evacuation. It's an order that's not given lightly, and it's one that requires a lot of preparation. Two weeks ago, the state of Alabama had a dry run. Tony Harris, a spokesman for the Alabama Department of Transportation, says the state holds the rehearsal every year, where they practice making Interstate 65 a one-way highway going north.
Harris says that the rehearsal requires the cooperation of a number of state agencies, including the DOT, the Alabama Department of Public Safety, the Alabama national Guard and the Emergency Management Agency as well as local authorities. The rehearsals have been run since 2000, and the highway has been reversed for evacuations twice during that time. Harris says they believe the drills have saved many lives over those two evacuations. The order to evacuate comes directly from the governor.
In Florida, where there is much more coastline, the situation is more complex. Ian Satter, a spokesman with the Florida Department of Transportation says the state Emergency Operations Center will monitor a storm and work closely with all agencies before ordering an evacuation in any part of the state. Florida's DOT also runs annual drills to practice getting the state ready to evacuate during a storm.