The Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) is encouraging motorists to conclude travel before weather conditions worsen because of Hurricane Sandy. With the forecast calling for sustained tropical storm-force winds, and gusts approaching hurricane force, motorists can expect roads blocked by downed limbs and trees.
RIDOT is taking a similar approach to this storm as it does with winter storms by pre-positioning equipment and personnel at various locations around the state to ensure rapid response to incidents. As winds intensify, the likelihood increases for road closures caused by debris such as downed trees and limbs. Watch out for downed power lines, debris in the roadway, toppled road signs or stops signs, and non-functioning traffic signals as a result of power outages.
“We ask that motorists pay close attention to the weather forecast and get home before conditions worsen,” RIDOT Director Michael P. Lewis said. “Just like in a bad snowstorm, don't venture out if you don’t have to.”
As storm conditions worsen, there will be a period of time where RIDOT Highway and Bridge Maintenance crews may be called in for their safety. They will resume work as quickly as possible. For both the safety of motorists and RIDOT staff working to keep the roads clear, the Department urges everyone to refrain from any unnecessary travel until storm conditions abate.
High winds may also require the R.I. State Police to place restrictions or close the Pell (Newport) Bridge, which could also affect other large bay-crossing bridges. Motorists should call 511 or tune to 1630 AM for the latest information.
Although expected rainfall totals are not as high as forecasted for other places on the East Coast, the strong winds are expected to blow a significant amount of the remaining leaf cover off of trees, causing blocked drains that will lead to flooding. Never drive over a flooded roadway. Its depth is not obvious and the roadbed may have washed out beneath the water. It only takes two feet of water to carry away most automobiles.
Colonel Steven G. O’Donnell, Superintendent, of the Rhode Island State Police and Commissioner/Director of Public Safety, is also requesting motorist to stay off the roads until the storm passes.
"At a.m. today, our neighboring State of Connecticut has prohibited all Commercial Truck traffic on limited access highways and at 1 p.m. has prohibited ALL vehicular traffic, including passenger vehicles on limited access highways," said Colonel O'Donnell. "Limited access highways are those that are accessible only by interstate on and off ramps. In Rhode Island we are encouraging all commercial truck traffic stay off the highway, park their trucks and exercise a rest period until the storm passes."
"For the safety of all, we are asking motorist to stay off the roads, until this storm passes," he continued. "Let our Public Safety professionals do their job. Seeking shelter in your home or an emergency shelter is the most prudent thing to do at this time. I want to thank all Rhode Islanders for their continued cooperation. This is a dangerous storm, stay off the roads and seek shelter until the situation is safe."
For more information, visit RIDOT’s Hurricane Sandy website at www.dot.ri.gov/hurricane. General storm preparedness information and other helpful tips for weathering the storm can be found at the Rhode Island Emergency Management Agency website at: www.riema.ri.gov. Motorists can report blocked roads, flooding or other storm-related problems to RIDOT’s Transportation Management Center at 401-222-2378.
RIDOT may also post storm-related information on its website at www.dot.ri.gov or its social media sites on Twitter and Facebook.