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'Not a welcome mat': Lane-reversal on I-16 ends, but evacuees not allowed to return until Dorian passes

Gov. Brian Kemp confirmed contraflow was being reversed on Wednesday.

SAVANNAH, Ga. — Lane-reversal on I-16 is ending as of Wednesday afternoon, but state officials stress that this move is "not a welcome mat" to residents who have already evacuated.

Gov. Brian Kemp stressed that with Dorian moving parallel to the East Coast of Florida and expected to pass Georgia off its coast sometime overnight, there is still time for those in the evacuation zone east of I-95 to leave.

Kemp said the end of the lane reversal - known as contraflow - is not to facilitate the return of residents yet.

RELATED: Hurricane Dorian right now | Latest updates on the deadly storm

"This reversal will allow emergency management officials to prepare for transport of critical life-sustaining resources," he said. "To be clear, six coastal counties east of I-95 remain under mandatory evacuation orders. If you have not gotten out, if you have time you should do so now."

The governor added that residents who have evacuated "will not be allowed to return home until the storm has passed and local officials have authorized their return."

Georgia Department of Transportation Commissioner Russell McMurry said the reopening of lanes for eastbound travel would start in Savannah, with crews removing barrels and barricades along I-16 to Dublin.

He said it was "not a welcome mat to say 'head back to the coast.'"

"We want to be able to get people moving, especially first responders, supplies and equipment in, so we can have just as fast a response to the post-storm, as you've seen to the pre-storm," Kemp added.

Elsewhere around Savannah, U.S. 80 leading out of Tybee Island could experience closures, Chatham County officials said Wednesday, if high tides coupled with Dorian's effects bring water running over the motorway.

RELATED: Hurricane Dorian beginning to impact motorways around Savannah, coastal Georgia

State of Georgia Resources

  • View up-to-date emergency declarations from Governor Kemp here.
  • View updates from Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency here.
  • Visit Ready Georgia for weather alerts and emergency preparedness tips.
  • Follow Georgia 511 for real-time traffic information.
  • Learn what to do before, during, and after a flood here.
  • Report power outages by contacting your power provider. The two main providers in Georgia are:  
    • Georgia Power (contact here or at 888-891-0938)
    • Georgia electric membership cooperatives (EMCs) (find your local branch here)
  • Call your local non-emergency police line to report a downed tree on a main road.

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