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Getting ready in New Orleans

NOLA.com is hosting a live chat with New Orleans Times-Picayune hurricane reporter Mark Schleifstein. Lots of residents are asking nuts-and-bolts questions about preparing for a possible hit from Gustav. Schleifstein keeps emphasizing, quite rightly, that it's way too early to know whether Gustav will hit New Orleans at all. That said, here are some of his key points:

  • "Now is the time to begin planning for a potential evacuation."
     
  • "For those in New Orleans proper without transportation, please call the city's 311 service now to arrange for transportation in the event of an evacuation."
     
  • "[The city's levee systems] actually are in better shape in many areas than even before Katrina. The West Bank now has more protection in some areas. To the east, levees have been raised in St. Bernard and are made out of better material. In western New Orleans, Lakeview and parts of Gentilly, the gates will stop surge from entering. But there's still a potential for overtopping along the Industrial Canal and Gulf Intracoastal Waterway. We'll have a story outlining the status in Thursday's paper, with map."
     
  • [In answer to a question about how far west Gustav would have to go, in order to completely keep New Orleans out of danger:] "Well, that really depends on how big this storm gets when it enters the Gulf of Mexico. Latest forecast has Gustav about 240 miles wide in three days. So, a guess, west of Houston."
     
  • [In answer to a question about what the "worst-case scenario" would be:] "The never-ending guessing game. The worst case scenario would be just about any large, Category 5 hurricane hitting on either side of the river. The surge accompanying it would likely be enough to overwhelm any levees and gates that are now in place, or likely to be built in at least the near future. A smaller storm? Don't really have an answer to the worst location."