HATTIESBURG, MS. (WDAM-TV) - In Mississippi, contra flow is a request plan called for by the Governor of Louisiana as a last resort measure in case of a major hurricane.
The plan is put in place with the permission of Mississippi's Governor to make a clear path north on interstates 59 and 55 for about a half a million residents evacuating both Louisiana and the Mississippi Coast. Kelly Castleberry is M-DOT's District six engineer.
"There is no active contra flow expressive for the state of Mississippi because we do have a lot of north south routes. The geography of Louisiana is a little more complicated with Lake Ponchartrain and some areas of the very south parishes in that aspect," said Castleberry.
Castleberry urges potential storm evacuees, who live in low lying areas, to get out quickly in advance of a storm before contra flow is put in place.
He said, "You get a choice of where you want to go, but once we contra flow it's a lot harder to get around because our action is to make sure we get the citizens off the immediate coast as fast as we can."
During contra flow, motorists will be able to stop at service interchanges to fill up their vehicles if gas is available.
"Now if the intersection or interchange become too congested, we will close that intersection and allow the motorists to continue in a northbound direction," said Castleberry.
Contra flow ends just to the south of Hattiesburg on 59, and by mile marker 31 on Interstate 55. Contra flow orders are typically given a day before a mandatory evacuation is called, which is why it's important for residents to prepare accordingly. Mike Womack is the Executive Director of MEMA.
Womack said, "You know the Mississippi Gulf Coast has people that move into the area all the time that are not accustomed to hurricane preparedness. So for people like that, I hope their friends and neighbors go over and knock on the door and sit down and say lets have a cup of coffee and talk about hurricane evacuation and planning and that sort of thing."
Womack said since Katrina, state agencies are now better prepared for a hurricane due to an improved communications system, additional generators and command vehicles.