More than 874,000 cars fled Florida ahead of Hurricane Irma

A car drives on an empty highway in downtown Miami.
A car drives on an empty highway in downtown Miami.
Image: Reuters/Carlos Barria
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Floridians and tourists made a massive exodus in an attempt to outrun Hurricane Irma, leaving the state in historic numbers.

More than 142,806 outbound vehicles had crossed the state line by by midnight ET on Sept. 10, according to data from eight Florida Department of Transportation traffic sensors. That surge brings the total net vehicle outflow to at least 491,000 vehicles since Sept 5.

Historically, this five-day time period has seen a net inflow of about 15,000 vehicles on these roads. In total, at least 874,262 vehicles have left since Sept. 5th, mostly on I-95 into Georgia.

As the storm approached, driving patterns have changed. Ahead of the storm, there were as many cars driving on these roads in the middle of the night as there typically at peak times on a normal day. As the storm bore down on the state in the evening of Sept. 9 traffic levels headed towards more typical (but still elevated) levels.

Obviously, there are more than eight ways to drive out of Florida. These points are the only near-border sites where the Florida government publishes the data in real time. So these figures undercount the number of people fleeing the state.

The sites are I-75, I-95, US-319, US-27 and SR-77 near Georgia, and I-10, US-231, US-331, and US-29 near Alabama.

Speeds on the roads have fluctuated drastically. While cars on the lesser driven US highways and state routes were traveling around or above the speed limit, those on I-75 and I-95—Florida’s two main north-south interstates—were experiencing major intermittent congestion.