Before the Storm
NCDOT Storm Preps
When does the N.C. Department of Transportation decide to close bridges?
The N.C. Department of Transportation does not close a bridge because of high winds. Local authorities and local emergency officials make that determination. NCDOT, however, will close a bridge because of structural damage.
When do you determine to close major interstates and roads?
The decision to close a road depends on several factors, such as flooding, debris or damage. It’s impossible to know ahead of time if NCDOT will close a road.
What are you doing to prepare for roads that are prone to flooding?
It’s impossible to know exactly which roads will be affected by the storm. NCDOT maintenance crews, however, stage barricades and signs in areas that, over the years, they have learned are susceptible to flooding. Crews also clear storm drains of debris before a storm.
When does NCDOT decide to evacuate an area?
NCDOT doesn’t determine when evacuations occur or where. Those decisions are generally made by county emergency management officials. The governor also has the authority to order a state evacuation.
Why does NCDOT not reverse traffic on highways, especially I-40, out of coastal areas?
Although reversing lanes seems like a good idea, doing so could create traffic problems and delay evacuations in North Carolina.
For example, drivers in Wilmington’s road network can’t easily get onto reversed lanes on I-40. Reversing lanes could potentially increase evacuation time.
In other cases, such as on U.S. 70 and similar highways, reversing lanes would involve deactivating traffic signals at intersections so that traffic could move freely. That would require more signage, personnel, etc. to make the route safe. It would also cause access issues for residents and emergency services, because they would not be able to efficiently cross from one side of the road to the other.
Keep in mind that every state’s transportation network is different, and what might seem to work well in one state doesn’t necessarily mean it would in another.
North Carolina is fortunate to have multiple roadways to handle evacuation traffic, and residents have several options to help them leave the coast efficiently and safely. In comparison, Charleston, S.C., for example, has one major interstate that runs deep into the city.
It is critical for people to evacuate early. Hurricanes generally provide enough advance notice, and people should heed warnings from local and state officials and not wait to leave.
NCDOT monitors evacuation traffic closely, and incident management assistance trucks patrol evacuation routes. They assist stranded motorists, and remove abandoned cars and debris from the roadways to ensure that the roadways remain clear so people can evacuate quickly and safely.
What is the best route to use to evacuate the North Carolina coast?
It depends on your location, but there are many interstates and major highways that can handle heavy traffic volumes during evacuations.
Why should I take designated evacuation routes and not the back roads I'm more familiar with?
These roadways can handle heavier traffic volumes so motorists can leave threatened areas more quickly and efficiently than if they were to use local or back roads. NCDOT also monitors traffic along these routes and uses the NCDOT State Farm® Safety Patrol on certain routes to help motorists and help keep lanes clear and traffic moving. This is not the case on back roads.
What if I run out of gas while on the road?
If you run out of gas or experience trouble with your vehicle while on an evacuation route, move it safely to the shoulder of the road to reduce unnecessary congestion. NCDOT State Farm® Safety Patrols are patrolling evacuation routes to help keep lanes clear and traffic moving.
Do not leave your vehicle. Call *HP or your auto club (if you belong to one), for assistance. North Carolina’s Quick Clearance Law gives NCDOT and the N.C. State Highway Patrol authority to have unattended vehicles on evacuation routes towed immediately.
Will you really have my vehicle towed if I have to leave it on the side of the road?
North Carolina’s Quick Clearance Law gives NCDOT and the N.C. State Highway Patrol authority to have unattended vehicles on evacuation routes towed immediately. This helps keep shoulders as clear as possible so first-responders can quickly get to a crash site or other incident without having to contend with traffic in the travel lanes. It also is necessary in cases in which a crash might send vehicles into a shoulder and possibly a parked vehicle.
Drivers whose vehicles are towed within city limits can call their local police department. For cases outside city limits, drivers can find the location where their vehicle was towed using the N.C. State Highway Patrol’s Towed and Stored Vehicle Search tool.
Why am I seeing construction work going on in areas that are being evacuated?
During evacuations, all lane closures and work affecting travel is suspended in the evacuation areas. What you might be seeing are crews securing the project sites to get them ready for the storm or maintenance crews clearing debris from bridges, ditches and drains.
After the Storm
NCDOT Storm Response
How does NCDOT prioritize the clearing of roads after a hurricane or tropical storm?
North Carolina’s interstates and other four-lane, divided highways have the top priority for being cleared first and reopened following a storm.
The next priority are primary routes, such as state highways and secondary roads that are considered essential to recovery and commerce. More rural or unpaved roads will be cleared later.
NCDOT maintains over 15,000 miles of primary routes and 64,500 miles of secondary routes, for a total of almost 80,000 miles.
NCDOT maintenance crews follow a “cut and shove” policy, which means they remove fallen trees and other debris off the roadway, so the road can be reopened quickly. They come back later to remove the piles of debris.
Please keep in mind that NCDOT crews cannot handle live power lines that are down, but must wait for the utility company to arrive first.
Will NCDOT come pick up my yard debris after the hurricane?
Once roads are clear and it is safe for NCDOT crews to do the cleanup work, they will collect vegetation debris off roadways and right of ways on state-maintained roads. You can check on whether a road is state-maintained in NCDOT's Secondary Roads Database
For municipally maintained roads, residents will need to check with their town or city manager’s office for the cleanup plan for their area.
Regarding vegetation and other debris in yards, residents are urged to check their homeowners' insurance policy because debris cleanup often is covered by insurance.
How can I see which roads are closed?
Visit DriveNC.gov to see the latest road conditions. Immediately after a storm, NCDOT crews must inspect all roads and assess the damage. Keep in mind that if there is flooding, conditions could change days or even weeks after the storm as water from rivers and streams rises.
Will you close I-95 (or another major road)?
The decision to close a road depends on a number of factors, such as flooding, debris or damage. We can't know ahead of time if a road will be closed.
How do I know when a specific road will reopen?
It depends on several factors, including the amount of standing water, storm debris and other safety hazards. Crews cannot clear roads where live power lines are down until utility crews arrive. Visit DriveNC.gov to get the latest status of roads around the state.
How do I get road conditions if I lose power?
If you have a smart phone, you can log on to DriveNC.gov, or use real-time travel apps, such as Waze, Google Maps and Apple Maps. You can also call 511. We do not recommend driving, but if you must, be sure to use extreme caution and obey all posted warning signs.
Do not use GPS systems in your vehicle, since they generally are not real-time.
How do I know if it is safe to drive on a road?
If you are unsure a road is safe, don't drive on it.
Even roads that appear dry, could have damage underneath, causing it to buckle under the weight of a vehicle.
Even a small amount of moving water is powerful enough to push a car off the road and strand its passengers within minutes. The results could be fatal.
Water on the road can conceal what is lying beneath it. The road may have been washed away, there could be a large sinkhole or piece of debris. It's not worth risking your life.
If you must drive following a major storm:
Avoid driving through pools of standing water – even if they seem shallow. Water could be covering road hazards, such as holes, fallen power lines or debris.
Avoid flooded areas. A foot of water, for example, can cause vehicles to float, while 2 feet of rushing water can carry away vehicles, including SUVs and pick-up trucks.
Never drive around a barricade. Even if the barricaded road appears safe, it is dangerous for travel as the earth underneath the pavement has likely been washed away and could cave in.