Hurricane Gustav Evacuation:  Contraflow Operations on Interstate 59

By the morning of Sunday, August 31, 2008, several Louisiana parishes in and around the city of New Orleans had ordered mandatory evacuations due to the impending landfall of Hurricane Gustav, a strong Category 3 hurricane (also as of mid-morning on 8/31).  Because of these evacuations, and per an agreement between the states of Mississippi and Louisiana, Interstate 59 from Slidell north to milepost 21 near Millard, MS was converted to "contraflow" operation, where all 4 Interstate lanes are used for northbound traffic.

These photos were taken of the contraflow operations in and around Picayune, MS.  All photos were taken by the webmaster around 0900 CDT, 31 August 2008.

The background image is a darkened version of a visual satellite shot of the Gulf of Mexico, highlighting Hurricane Gustav, as of 1733Z (1233CDT) on 31 August 2008.

I wish everyone a safe evacuation and Godspeed in your travels.  For those who are remaining behind on the Coast, I wish you good luck.

Click on a photo for a larger image.  Use your browser's "Back" button to return.

Looking down the northbound off-ramp at Exit 1 at Nicholson.  Notice the heavy traffic on what is normally the southbound lanes.

These three views are from the US 11/MS 607 overpass over I-59 at Nicholson, looking south towards the Pearl River and Louisiana.  Notice the heavy traffic on what is normally the southbound lanes, and much lighter traffic in the regular northbound lanes.  This is due to the traffic switch at the I-10/I-12/I-59 interchange in Slidell:  all traffic on eastbound I-10 is directed onto the "contraflow" side of I-59.
Looking northbound from the US 11/MS 607 overpass at Nicholson.
Looking down what is normally the southbound off-ramp at Exit 1 at Nicholson.  Note how the normal "Wrong Way" and "Do Not Enter" signs are covered up.
Looking down what is normally the southbound on-ramp at Exit 1, with traffic going the "opposite way" while exiting the contraflow lanes.

These seven photos show northbound I-59 on the "regular side", starting with the on-ramp from Exit 1 and continuing to a crossover just north of the Mississippi Welcome Center near milepost 3.  The "contraflow" side here had very heavy traffic that was also moving very slowly, while the regular northbound side had lighter traffic that was moving about 50 MPH (the posted speed limit is 70).
Northbound I-59 about 1/2 mile short of Exit 4 (MS 43 South/Picayune).  By this point, the "contraflow" side had opened up, while the regular northbound side began seeing stop-and-go traffic.

Signage examples on the "contraflow" side.  These signs are usually posted on the back side of regular southbound signage such as the regular milepost signs, speed limit signs, and reassurance shields.  They are normally closed (folded down in half), but are opened up like this for when contraflow operations are in effect.

Right at Exit 4.  This guy apparently didn't feel like waiting in the regular northbound lanes, so he made an illegal median crossing and then put himself and others at risk of an accident when he spun his tires trying to get onto the "contraflow" side.

While traffic on the "contraflow" lanes was moving fairly steadily, traffic in the regular northbound lanes was stop-and-go north of Exit 4, finally opening back up at Exit 6 (MS 43 North/North Picayune).  As a side note, on the far left side of the first photo, you can see a yield sign.  This is for traffic entering the contraflow lanes at Exit 4, and is posted on the back of the "ramp speed" sign for what is normally the southbound off-ramp.
Northbound MS 43, crossing over I-59 at Exit 6 in North Picayune.  MDOT personnel were manning up every off-ramp/on-ramp on the contraflow side, directing traffic as needed and ensuring that nobody went the "wrong way".

Go to some photos of Gustav from around Picayune
Go to some videos of Gustav from around Picayune
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Page last modified 02 September, 2008

(C) 2008, Adam Froehlig