Heavy traffic on highways as people flee Florida ahead of Irma

FORT PIERCE, Fla. - Many people throughout South Florida are heeding warnings by local city and county leaders to get out of the state now, even though mandatory evacuations have not been ordered for Palm Beach County or the Treasure Coast.

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Already, major roadways through the state are experiencing heavy traffic and long lines from drivers needing gas to get out of the potential path of Hurricane Irma.

The Turnpike Plaza in Port St. Lucie had traffic backed up for hours Wednesday evening into the night. State troopers were on hand to help navigate the traffic and try to decrease the number of cars backed up onto the Turnpike.

North of that rest stop exit, drivers were getting gas more quickly on Okeechobee Road in Fort Pierce.

Rick Stowell flew to Fort Lauderdale from Indiana to drive his elderly mother out of the state.

“The toll road has just been ridiculous. I-95 is either at a stop and the Turnpike is going, or vice versa,” Stowell said.

It took him four hours to drive from Fort Lauderdale to Fort Pierce, which is about double the typical travel time. He's now headed to Kentucky.

“It’s going to be a long night. I’ll be there probably at 9 or 10 tomorrow morning,” Stowell said.

Jose Blanco shuttered up his Boynton Beach home Wednesday morning and hit the road with his dogs, wife and daughter.

“I have my 5-year-old daughter. More than anything, I just don’t want her to experience all that,” Blanco said.

They're prepared for a long drive, too.

“We’re heading north toward St. Augustine tonight, but we should be in Washington, D.C. by tomorrow.”

Law enforcement officers will be closely monitoring the traffic conditions throughout our area.

In a news conference Wednesday, State Rep. Gayle Harrell said the state could consider opening the southbound Turnpike lakes for northbound traffic if needed to expedite evacuations. That decision has not been made at this point.

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