JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Gov. Rick Scott has ordered the Florida Department of Transportation to suspend tolls across the state until further notice in anticipation of Hurricane Irma.
The tolls were lifted at 5 p.m. Tuesday as part of an effort to expedite evacuations, help residents and visitors prepare for any potential storm impacts and get access to needed supplies.
In addition, Scott directed transportation officials to waive all weight and driver restrictions for highways so water, food, fuel and emergency provisions can be brought to Florida quickly.
"They will be suspended for the duration of the storm’s impacts to Florida," the governor said. "Ensuring the safety of Florida families and visitors is our top priority and suspending tolls statewide will help people quickly evacuate and make it easier for all Floridians to access important hurricane supplies to ensure they are fully prepared."
The Department of Transportation is staying in touch with the governor's office and partner agencies, such as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, as well as county emergency operations centers, to coordinate any evacuations and traffic impacts.
Paul Huruso, his wife and his dog packed up and headed to Georgia on Tuesday. Huruso, who has lived near the beaches for years, said they didn't want to chance being caught in traffic as most people prepare to leave later this week.
"We cruised right up and the roads were still empty," Huruso said. "But the prediction is it will get really bad toward Friday."
Huruso said he's been through several hurricanes, but Irma seems too dangerous to stay.
"After Matthew cruised by us last year, the house was shaking. It's better safe than sorry and I thought, 'Let's get the heck out of here,'" he said.
The FDOT said maintenance contractors will also patrol the roads for dangerous conditions.
When the storm passes, FDOT said, it plans to have inspections to make sure roads are safe for people to travel.
At last check Tuesday, no airports or seaports were closed in response to Irma.