Nagin discusses possible evacuation plans
Alan Sullivan has posted an update on Tropical Storm Gustav, which Sullivan now believes may disintegrate over land, or take a far different course than currently envisioned by the National Hurricane Center. "The possibilities are many," he writes, "but among the least plausible is a violent landfall at New Orleans."A violent landfall at or near New Orleans, however, remains the official NHC forecast, so until that changes, I'm going to keep blogging about the possibility. Apropos of which, New Orleans Mayor (and Democratic superdelegate) Ray Nagin was interviewed on CNN this evening in Denver, shortly after Barack Obama's official nomination. You can view a small portion of the interview on YouTube.Nagin is now headed back to his city to prepare for a possible encounter with Gustav, but he stopped first to chat with Wolf Blitzer & co. about the Big Easy's preparations and evacuation plans. Among the points he made:
- New Orleans is "ready to evacuate. The big question is, what shape are our levees in?" Nagin said he's "cautiously optimistic" they can withstand the currently forecasted scenario -- that is, a direct hit from a low-end Category 3 hurricane.
- Asked what he would tell New Orleans residents who were watching, Nagin said "make sure you have your evacuation plans in order," that you're in contact with your friends & loved ones and coordinate with them, and that you make sure your elderly neighbors have a means of evacuating as well.
- As suggested by the above, the city's focus is now entirely on evacuation. There will be no "shelters of last resort," as in 2005. Instead, the city will -- if necessary -- evacuate those who cannot get themselves out of town, starting 72 hours before any expected landfall.
- Mandatory evacuation will be ordered "if it's higher than a Category 2" -- by which he presumably means, if the 72-hour forecast calls for a landfalling storm above Cat. 2 -- and/or if the storm surge is expected to be "higher than the levees."
- As you can see in the YouTube clip, he said: "We have an evacuation plan that goes out into the neighborhoods and picks people up. We also have been registering people on our website, and calling into our 3-1-1 number, so we know where you are, and we can go out and get you." When Anderson Cooper pointed out that only 7,000 people have registered, while as many as 30,000 may need help, Nagin said, "That's part of the challenge going forward, but even the ones we have not identified, we will still go out into the communities, with the police officers, with their bullhorns, and alert everybody, and try and bring them in." Asked whether there are buses and drivers to handle the evacuation this time around, Nagin said, "There's buses. There's drivers. There's trains. There's planes. There's a whole different strategy for getting people out."