JACKSON COUNTY, Fla. - At least 1.3 Million South Floridians are under mandatory evacuation ahead of Hurricane Irma. Many have headed north and are passing through or stopping in the Panhandle.
Traffic through Northwest Florida Friday was heavy but flowing.
Evacuees Jim and Bonnie Johnson stopped at a Jackson County Rest Area early Friday for a quick lunch.
"Even when we get in heavy traffic, we're moving five, ten miles an hour, but we're moving," Jim Johnson said.
The Largo couple is taking Interstate 10 west to Alabama.
"We've been able to secure some motel rooms there in the Mobile area so we're going to hang out there until the all clear," Jim said.
More Florida Highway Patrol Troopers are also on the road, able to respond to wrecks and assist as needed. They're asking drivers to be especially careful because wrecks will back traffic up for miles.
"We're asking individuals locally if they can stay off the interstate and utilize the local roadways to travel locally. We would appreciate that. That would alleviate a little congestion than what we have already," Lt. Eddie Elmore said.
Troopers added, at this time, they do not plan to reverse the direction of traffic, a practice known as contraflow, on any Panhandle roads.
"All these cars are heading the same way. They're evacuating so everybody is in the same shoes. Even locals that may not be going anywhere, just please be tolerant of the people who are seeking help somewhere else," Jim said.
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