The Georgia Department of Transportation will reverse all I-16 eastbound lanes from Savannah to Macon beginning Saturday morning to allow for Hurricane Irma evacuations.

The measures, called contraflow, begins at 8 am.

"This is to accommodate the amount of traffic we need to get out of those hurricane-affected areas, so that residents can be safe, " said Georgia DOT spokesperson Natalie Dale on Thursday. "We want residents to take this evacuation order very seriously.

"You can always replace a home, but you can't replace a life."

Gov. Nathan Deal extended the state of emergency that exists as the hurricane approaches to 30 counties on Thursday, and issued a mandatory evacuation order for all areas east of I-95 and all of Chatham County, where Savannah is located.

Click here to see if you're under a mandatory evacuation order.

Dale said that Atlanta will be receiving a great deal of Irma-related traffic congestion in the coming days.

"We’re seeing a 600 percent increase of traffic congestion in Valdosta, and a 300 percent increase in Macon, even though we’re still a few days out," Dale said. "And that traffic is headed our way."

Here is the contraflow process:

1. Barricade is in place on I-16 EB at SR 25 in Laurens to allow evacuation traffic to use all four lanes in a WB direction.

2. A median crossover on I-16 east of I-95 crosses traffic over onto I-16 EB lanes to travel WB. A cross-over on I-16 at SR 26 (MP 38) in Laurens County directs traffic back to regular WB lanes prior to arrival in Macon.

3. All EB access at interchanges are blocked from Dublin to Savannah.

4. Travelers may exit contraflow lanes (traveling WB on usual EB lanes) at designated interchanges at:

  • Exit 143 @SR 30/US 280/J.O. Bacon Hwy.
  • Exit 116 @ SR 73/US 301/US 25
  • Exit 104 @ SR 23/SR-121
  • Exit 90 @ SR4/US 1
  • Exit 71 @ SR 15/SR 78
  • Exit 67 @ SR 29/Hugh M. Gillis Sr.Hwy.
  • Exit 51 @ SR 31/US 319/US 441

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