As many of us watch the tragedy unfolding with Hurricane Harvey and soon to come, Irma, many Chicagoans may be wondering can and how we would evacuate during a catastrophe. State, county, and city officials are in constant revising plans to empty Chicago if we were to face a disaster of some kind – but clearing out the third largest city in the U.S. – estimating 2.7 million people – is no cake walk…

Alicia Tate-Nadeau, executive director of the Office of Emergency Management and Communications weighs in
“There will always be challenges whenever you try to evacuate large scale populations,” and one of Chicago’s biggest obstacles? Traffic. Close to 660,000 people would need to get out immediately but local expressways could only manage 180,000 cars in three hours.

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“We actually experienced that during 9-11, where there was a self-evacuation of people from the central business district,” Tate-Nadeau comments.

During 9-11 and what planners rely on today, using both Metra and the CTA to transport people out from the city. FEMA authorities met in Springfield this past Thursday to study catastrophes and evacuation, while Chicago’s plan was updated.

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Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle says “Evacuating any city of this size is an extremely complicated and difficult process, and we saw that in Houston,”

Chicago’s OEMC boss says while they are in the process of re-evaluating Chicago’s evacuation plan, they are also incorporating new avenues including text alerts. The system is called “Integrated Public Alert System” which would distribute localized information via text during an emergency.

What exactly is Chicago’s plan to evacuate? (Photo by Getty Images/Scott Olson)