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      Plan evacuation route early

      If a hurricane is aiming toward the Rio Grande Valley, the safest thing to do may be to leave the Valley.

      With major construction along both US 281 and Highway 77, emergency response officials are warning if you are going to leave, leave early.

      "If you know you are going to have to evacuate, the earlier you do it, the better it is for all of us," Willacy County Emergency Management Coordinator Frank Torres said.

      While evacuating the upper valley is not likely, director of maintenance at TXDOT, Pedro Alvarez says every family in the valley needs to decide now, what they will do if local officials order an evacuation.

      "Every family should have a plan in place. It goes back to planning, people taking note of the warnings and if they elect to evacuate, evacuate early and don't leave at the last minute, Alvarez said.

      "It is going to take a little bit longer to evacuate this time so we are asking people to plan a route and be prepared for a long ride, Torres said.

      Before you hit the road you'll want to pack plenty of food and water for your journey.

      "Always keep your vehicles filled up, at least half a tank to get you out of the area. Alvarez said.

      Alvarez says evacuations are usually ordered 48 to 72 hours ahead of the storm.

      If the storm is bad enough US 281 southbound lanes can be turned northbound in what is called contra flow.

      "We would actually shut down 281 with TXDOT and turn all lanes northbound for a hurricane escape route," Pharr Assistant Emergency Management Coordinator Jason Arms said.

      You may choose to stay in an evacuation zone but officials warn while you may be fine during the storm, it may not feel like home when the sun comes out from behind the clouds.

      "Your house may be able to handle it, but you're talking about no sewage, no running water," Hidalgo County Emergency Management Coordinator Oscar Montoya said.

      In the unlikely event that Corpus Christi and the lower RGV are both ordered to evacuate, traffic on US 77 would be diverted to 186 in Raymondville to utilize US 281.