With Irma having weakened into inland rainstorms, Floridians are beginning a mass migration back to a battered, waterlogged state where millions remains without power.
But traffic maps, social media reports, gasoline trackers and the ever-reliable eye test all say it isn’t an easy trip yesterday and won’t be in the days ahead.
“As soon as we hit the state line, it was traffic jams and accidents,” said Elizabeth Priore of Fort Lauderdale, as she continued her return drive from Alpharetta, Georgia, late on Tuesday afternoon.
Priore said she had managed to find gas and open restaurants along the way, and she said Interstate 95 south of Jacksonville was “moving well.”
But traffic cameras elsewhere in the state, particularly along Interstate 75 where it meets the Florida Turnpike 60 miles north of Orlando, showed gridlock.
“We were expecting a nightmare,” Priore said, explaining that she decided it was better to brave it than to wait. Other Floridians are opting to wait it out, fearing the congestion, lane closures, fender benders, shuttered restaurants and gas stations without fuel.
“We’re not leaving until Thursday because of the gas situation,” said Nick Westbrook, a Coral Gables resident who has settled in Knoxville, Tennessee with his wife and children.
“We have friends on the road, and they’re letting us know it’s just what I feared it would be.”
Adam Bolanos, a high school teacher from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, says he’s talking to neighbours and friends on the road, particularly about fuel access. “The shortage is very real,” he said.