Florida Governor Ron DeSantis recently highlighted state efforts of clearing debris from roads to expedite hurricane recovery. Since landfall, frontline workers at the Florida Department of Transportation utilized rapid response to support relief efforts for communities impacted by Hurricane Idalia, including evacuation protocols and prestaging of cut-and-toss crews and generators.
To date, FDOT crews have picked up over 100,000 cubic yards of debris within two weeks of Hurricane Idalia making landfall.
“It’s important to remove debris as quickly as possible to make sure businesses can reopen and communities can rebuild,” said Governor Ron DeSantis. “The Florida Department of Transportation has done a great job once again to support hurricane recovery.”
“Under Governor DeSantis’ leadership, FDOT was empowered to help the communities we serve beyond what is normally expected of us,” said Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) Secretary Jared W. Perdue, P.E. “The resiliency of our state infrastructure proved essential in allowing us to quickly inspect all bridges and assess damages on interstates and state roads. Once critical infrastructure was inspected, the Department quickly turned our attention to offering our assistance to our Big Bend communities whose resources were being stretched. I’m proud of our One FDOT team members for filling a need no matter what it takes.”
Prior to Landfall
Even before Idalia made landfall, FDOT took action to ensure the safety of Gulf Coast communities. At the direction of Governor DeSantis, FDOT suspended tolls to aid evacuation efforts and began pre-staging supplies, equipment, and nearly 700 team members to be ready to jump into action as soon as Idalia passed through. FDOT quickly set up a base camp in Gainesville to house 150 FDOT crews, and 100 Florida Highway Patrol Troopers deployed to respond to Idalia.
Over 100 Bridge Inspectors were deployed throughout the state, quickly clearing over 1,000 bridges through the main impacted areas. Less than 18 hours after the storm hit Florida, all state-owned bridge assessments had been completed.
Anticipating power outages, nearly 1,100 generators were strategically staged around the area of landfall to timely restore traffic signals following the storm. Within 24 hours, all state-owned traffic signals were operational with traditional power or had been restored temporarily under generator power. Less than one week after the impact, all state-owned traffic signals were fully repaired and operating under traditional power.
In the immediate aftermath of Idalia, FDOT teams inspected and conducted cut-and-toss operations on 25,000 miles of state-owned roads within one day after the storm made landfall, allowing FDOT to offer immediate assistance to fiscally constrained counties that requested support. FDOT has responded to requests for assistance in clearing local roads in Dixie, Hamilton, Lafayette, Levy, Madison, Taylor, and Suwannee counties.
As part of road clearing efforts, over 10,000 downed trees made a 15-mile stretch on I-10 in both directions impassable in Madison County. Twenty-seven four-person FDOT crews quickly responded, clearing all travel lanes and reopening I-10 in less than 12 hours after the storm made impact.
To support rural communities, FDOT has cleared all bus routes in Hamilton, Madison, Suwanee, and Taylor counties, and, as a result, all schools in all 67 counties were reopened less than one week after landfall. Also, in Horseshoe Beach, one of the areas most heavily impacted by Idalia, the community roll-off waste receiving areas quickly became overwhelmed. FDOT provided equipment and personnel to sort and process debris quicker to ensure the community could continue rebuilding.
The Road Ahead
FDOT has completed the first pass of debris pickup on all state roads in every county within the impacted parts of the state. FDOT continues to support the seven fiscally constrained counties who requested assistance, including with debris pickup. Communities can find additional information related to local emergency response efforts at the county links available online.