RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - And even though it's now possible that Hurricane Irene could have a minimal weather impact here in Richmond, we could still see a traffic impact if Virginia Beach is evacuated.
The state's Hurricane Evacuation Plan includes an option for a lane reversal on Interstate 64 between Norfolk and Richmond.
A lane reversal is exactly what it sounds like; if Virginia Beach were to be evacuated, you could see cars traveling the other way on Interstate 64.
In the event of a large scale evacuation in Hampton Roads, all lanes of I-64 could be used to get people out of the area.
Bob Spieldenner with the Virginia Department of Emergency Management says, "It's really trying to get the most people out of Hampton Roads as possible within a time frame that makes sure they are safe."
State leaders have never had to utilize the lane reversal plan and hope they never will, but they want people to be aware it's an option.
"There definitely would be impacts in the Metro Richmond areas on roadways, and you wouldn't be able to go some directions; we've never had to do a full scale evacuation in Virginia; there's been some localized evacuations during Isabel and other events, but nothing full scale," said Spieldenner.
The Governor will decide whether an evacuation is needed. If he says act, drivers in the Virginia Beach area will get on all lanes of I-64 at exit 273 in Norfolk and travel out of the area all the way to the I-295 interchange at exit 200 in Richmond.
This plan has been in place for a number of years, and state agencies have practiced the drill. Hurricane gates will help control the flow of traffic. VDOT, State Police and the National Guard would be stationed on the interstates help.
"The DOT and State Police have a plan on traffic control; they will be limiting some on ramps onto I-64; state leaders will not use lane reversal unless it's absolutely necessary. It's going to cause significant problems; it's not going to be easy for the drivers going on the wrong side of the interstate, so it's something we are only going to do if we have too," Spieldenner added.
State leaders assure me that if they have to put the lane reversal in place, you won't be confused. It will be very obvious where you are and aren't allowed to drive.