New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin cut short his trip to the Democratic National Convention to help his city prepare for Gustav’s possible landfall early next week as a powerful hurricane. He says they’ve changed their approach to evacuations.
“Prior to Katrina and during Katrina, we had a shelter of last resort, the Superdome and the convention center. We no longer have that. So, anything above a category-2 storm, we’re evacuating everybody out of the city. We have buses, trains and planes lined up to accomplish that, and we’re ready to implement it.”
Three years ago following Hurricane Katrina, 25-thousand evacuees from New Orleans left the Superdome for the Astrodome. Houston mayor Bill White says it was a dire emergency then.
“The real problem you had during Katrina was not so much the impact of the evacuation from the hurricane, but the fact that the levees broke. And when the levees broke, then there were orders that people could not go back home. And everybody that was still there had to get out.”
Harris County Judge Ed Emmett says while we were lauded for the humanitarian effort:
“All the policy makers said wait a minute, because Rita came here, or looked like it was coming here. Then everybody said oh, this doesn’t make any sense to evacuate from one hurricane zone to another hurricane zone. So, common sense just said, everybody needs to develop plans so that evacuations take people out of harm’s way.”
Judge Emmett says this time Louisiana and Texas have a plan. If Gustav decides to hit New Orleans, evacuees will head north.
“Those with special needs, those that will be evacuated by the city of New Orleans, the state of Louisiana are going to be taken inland, not brought to another hurricane, or potential hurricane zone.”
Mayor White says lessons were learned from the Katrina experience.
“I hope that within our community and other parts of the United States of America, people will treat evacuees if an entire city is wiped out, which I think is unlikely. But if that ever occurred, we would want to treat people the way we’d want to be treated.”
Meanwhile, Texas Governor Rick Perry has issued a disaster declaration as the Lone Star prepares for a possible brush with Gustav.
Pat Hernandez, KUHF…Houston Public Radio News.