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Hurricane Florence + Evacuations = BlueTOAD Insights

TrafficCast's BlueTOAD provides valuable insight into the traffic patterns from Hurricane Florence in North Carolina


During a press conference on Friday, September 7th, 2018, Governor Roy Cooper issues a state of emergency for the coastal counties of North Carolina. A few days later on Tuesday, September 11th, the Board of Commissioners for Onslow County North Carolina, home to the city of Jacksonville, calls for a mandatory evacuation. Citizens had to leave immediately. Florence was on her way and she was not in a good mood.

Due to the local government’s quick response and substantial national news coverage, we are all aware that Hurricane Florence evacuations all but emptied the streets of Jacksonville, North Carolina. But when you break things down and look at the actual data, provided by Jacksonville's numerous BlueTOAD devices, the degree to which the evacuation impacted things is truly evident.

For example, the graph below displays travel speed data for NC-24 westbound, headed away from the coast. The black line is from BlueTOAD data collected when traffic was normal, September 3rd through September 6th, a week before Florence. The blue line represents the same route (headed away from the coast), a week later, September 10 through September 13. This line shows a very sharp drop in speeds around mid-day on September 11th as residents quickly retreated from Florence via NC-24 westbound in response to the mandatory evacuation. The city was able to handle this sudden rush which understandably slowed down traffic and by the evening of the 11th travel speeds were back to normal (because no one was around!)

Total Detections, NC-24 at Piney Green Rd

The graph clearly shows that during the hectic evacuation time period on the 11th, speeds along NC-24 plummeted from 50mph to under 20mph. This lasted for approximately five to six hours, after which speeds climbed back up to normal levels once the citizens had made it to safety.

Another graph produced by BlueTOAD devices further shows how traffic was impacted by Florence and the associated evacuation. This graph (below) shows the number of detections at one of the BlueTOAD install locations along NC-24 (in this case, the intersection with Piney Green Rd).

The graph spans from Saturday, Sept. 8th (exactly one week before Florence made landfall) to Thursday, Sept. 13th (two days after the mandatory evacuation). The BlueTOAD data shows normal, consistent levels of detections on the 8th and 9th as the path of Florence was still somewhat up in the air; people went along with their daily lives.

Smoothed (15 min) graph for NC-24 WB before, during, and after Florence

But then Florence announced her travel plans, and they included heading straight to the coast of North Carolina. In the graph, we see very large spikes in detections along NC-24 as people got away from the coast and headed westward. Some of the detections are up to four or five times the amount seen on a normal day…NC-24 was very busy.

However, maybe the most interesting data is that which was collected the days immediately following the evacuation. As one can see, and expect, the level of activity along NC-24 didnt simply go back to normal on the 12th and 13th, but instead dropped substantially lower than normal. The people had escaped to the west to safety and the roads were clear and obviously now very lightly traveled, with the detections still showing up most likely being city/county/state employees, working to secure the area from the quickly approaching Florence.

These powerful, easy to produce, and easy to read outputs, created by BlueARGUS, will be extremely valuable to city, county and state officials as they study the effectiveness of the evacuation plans used during Florence. They provide great insight into travel patterns, how long the evacuation effort took, etc. and could be used in the development of future such plans.

About TrafficCast
TrafficCast provides travel time forecasting, road speed monitoring and other traffic-related information, with technology, applications and content based on advanced digital traffic data. TrafficCast informs navigation and driver information services for a range of providers serving the interactive, mobile, enterprise markets and the public sector. TrafficCast’s BlueTOAD® travel time system is the market leader in Bluetooth® signal detection technologies, used in performance measures assessments to manage travel times, road speeds and route choice behaviors. The company is based in Madison, Wisconsin, with offices in Philadelphia, Atlanta, Chicago, Washington, California, Florida, Colorado and Shanghai. For more information go to www.trafficcast.com/spectrarsu

For more information, contact: Paul Misticawi, VP Public Sector Sales
Phone: 678-575-0958
Email: pmisticawi@trafficcast.com