Evacuation Information


Once an evacuation order is issued all major roadway networks within Chatham County will be considered evacuation routes for local travel. Evacuation routes from the County to inland areas have also been designated. They include GA 204, GA 21, US 80, and I-16.

Evacuees are encouraged to use the evacuation routes instead of other side roads. I-95, US 17A and US 17 (Southbound) are not designated evacuation routes outside the County. Evacuees intending to use them should only do so before a mandatory evacuation order is issued and well in advance of any approaching storm.

Evacuees leaving the County will be encouraged to make arrangements to go safely inland and stay with friends or relatives, or at hotels or motels. Those who wait until a mandatory evacuation order is issued will probably have difficulty finding hotel/motel vacancies east of I-75 and south of Macon.

I-16 One-Way Operation Directions:

In order to provide more roadway capacity during hurricane evacuations from the coast, portions of I-16 will operate entirely in the West-bound direction, meaning both East-bound lanes of I-16 will be converted into West-bound lanes. These are called contraflow lanes. 

Two median crossovers have been constructed to allow motorists traveling in the normal West-bound lanes to transition to the contraflow lanes for evacuation. One crossover is located just east of Chatham Parkway (mile post 162) and the second one is located just west of SR 307/Dean Forest Road (mile post 158). Care should be taken when using the crossovers.

There is normal access to all surface roads from the regular West-bound lanes. Additionally, for your convenience, the following exits will be available to motorists choosing to travel in the contraflow lanes (normal East-bound lanes converted to West-bound lanes).

• Exit 143 - SR 30 in Bryan County
• Exit 116 - US 301 in Bullock County
• Exit 104 - SR 23/121 in Candler County
• Exit 90 - US 1 in Emmanuel County
• Exit 71 - SR 15 in Treutlen County
• Exit 67 - SR 29 in Laurens County
• Exit 51 - US 441 in Laurens County

The Interstate can be re-entered only by using the regular Westbound entrance ramps. However, in Savannah, there are several points where the Eastbound exit ramps will be converted into Westbound entrance ramps. These ramps will provide extra access into the contraflow lanes. The ramps are:

• Chatham Parkway
• SR 307 between Savannah and I-95

The one-way operation of I-16 will end west of Dublin. To end the one-way operation, traffic west of US 441 will be merged into a single lane in both the normal West-bound lanes and the contra-flow lanes. A median crossover has been constructed to take the traffic from the contra-flow lane back to the normal West-bound lanes.  From the crossover point Westward, I-16 will function as normal into Macon.

Chatham County Evacuation Maps

What you can Expect

With the improvements to the I-16 one-way plan, your trip will be smoother than during the Hurricane Floyd evacuation in 1999. However:
1. You must have a full tank of gas.
2. Be prepared by having all personal needs, medications, water, snacks, etc.
3. You can exit at many exits prior to the end of the one-way section of I-16.
4. Evacuation speeds will still be slow.
5. The travel time from Savannah/the coast will be longer than normal.
6. Alternative routes, SR 21, US 80 and SR 204, should be considered.

Traffic Control

The time necessary to evacuate large numbers of vehicles depends upon a variety of variables such as: 
 Number of travel lanes available.
 Maintained vehicle speed.
 Time of day or night traveled.
 Number of points of entry and exit from evacuation arteries.
 Control of traffic and clarity of directional signs.
 Frequency of transportation breakdowns.
 Location of roadway accidents.
 Percentage of trucks and buses.
 Weather conditions.

Evacuees caught out on the roads in traffic jams when a hurricane overtakes them are in extreme peril. Therefore, effective traffic control measures are essential to expedite the unimpeded flow of traffic.

Outside of Chatham County evacuation route traffic control will be the responsibility of the State and local jurisdictions through which the routes travel. However, within County boundaries, approximately 100 traffic control points at critical intersections, bridges and potential choke points will be staffed by local law enforcement officials. Towing service vehicles at strategic locations will be on a standby status at the direction of the law enforcement agencies with whom they have contracts.

The specific traffic control assignments and locations, as well as the agencies responsible for each, which will be staffed during a full-scale hurricane evacuation. These traffic control points will all be activated after a Mandatory-Full evacuation order is issued (i.e., County-wide). A lesser number may be activated after an Early/Recommended or Mandatory-Partial evacuation order is issued, depending on the volume of traffic experienced and the discretion of the respective law enforcement officials within each jurisdiction. They will remain activated until traffic flow no longer requires; however, once the gale force winds arrive the officers will be released from duty to seek shelter themselves.

County Evacuation Coordination

Before any anticipated or actual evacuation orders are issued, CEMA will communicate and coordinate with its counterparts in adjacent coastal and inland risk counties, including those in South Carolina. They will be informed of the level and type of evacuation, the time it will begin, anticipated volume of traffic and the status of I-16. Particular attention will be given to coordinate the timing of evacuation orders with Beaufort County, South Carolina. Periodic status reports on evacuation progress will also be issued to these jurisdictions. In all cases the Georgia Emergency Management Agency will be kept informed and included in any and all coordinating activities.

Last Updated: October 6, 2016 9:52 AM

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The Chatham County Siren System

The Chatham Emergency Management Agency conducts monthly tests of our emergency warning sirens on the first Wednesday of each month at 12 noon. If you hear a siren at any other time, it means take cover! Read more about our warning siren program.