Saturday, August 30, 2008

Hurricane Gustav Evacuation and What is Contraflow?

My elderly father went sort of crazy this morning. He wanted to make sure that I understand contraflow during hurricane evacuation because I'm leaving town after him and my mom. They're heading to Memphis first with my brother and his wife.

"If you're not careful, you'll end up in Baton Rouge," he kept saying.

This is my first hurricane evacuation. I wasn't here for Katrina, and moved back to New Orleans last summer after living away form ore than 20 years. When I was child, we didn't evacuate, not for Betsy nor for Camille. We suffered through the storm, only losing a tree during Camille in the back yard. My parents' house didn't flood ... ever ... at least, not until Katrina.

Contraflow is a plan put into action 30 hours before a hurricane is scheduled to hit land and during Phase 3 of evacuation. Areas that don't have levee protection such as Belle Chasse and coastal towns south of of Houma evacuate during Phase 1. I think we're in that now because St. Bernard Parish has scheduled mandatory evacuation for this evening. On this Google map, you can see that St. Bernard, in which Belle Chasse is located, is about 50 percent water.

Here's video of WWL's Krystal Boothe explaining contraflow. In it she says that during contraflow, interstate lanes that normally send traffic into New Orleans are reversed and all traffic leads away from the city. The "contra" is for contrary.

Lafourche Parish started evac this morning. Its parish seat is Thibodaux, and its neighboring parish is Terrebonne Parish, in which Houma is located. If you saw the movie Skeleton Key, then you'll recall that it was set in Terrebonne Parish.

In New Orleans, part of Phase 3 evacuation, officials are not waiting until the storm is 30 hours away to start evacuating. The city began public assisted evacuation this morning. I suppose Mayor Nagin doesn't want to be accused again of poor planning. He was at a news conference last night with Governor Bobby Jindal. Parts of the city, however, are in the Phase 2 evacuation category. To be clear, the city is not yet under a mandatory evacuation order.

Just learned that Greyhound and Amtrak are solely for evacuation today. No tickets purchased to leave the city to go to areas other than shelters will be honored. RTA buses are operating only to take residents to shelter departure points. This is a big change from Katrina when there was no public transportation out of the city and folks were directed to the Superdome. How they'd get there without a car during Katrina was their problem to solve, and the city had no arrangements to take residents who didn't have cars out of city limits.

Officials in St. Tammany Parish, also part of Phase 3, are taking a "wait and see" approach before setting up shelters ordering a mandatory evacuation, but they're telling residents "if you can leave today, then leave." In particular, the southside of Slidell may be in trouble because it tends to flood during storm surge. Meteorologists project storm surges of 9 feet with Gustav, possibly higher.

UPDATE, 1:24 A.M., CST, 8/31: My family and I have arrived safely in Memphis, TN. If you want to know how bad Gustav may be, then please see this video of New Orleans Mayor Nagin telling residents to "get your butt out of the city." He also called Gustav "the storm of the century."

St. Tammany Parish President Kevin Davis, flanked by the mayors of Covington and Mandeville, ordered a partial mandatory evacuation of St. Tammany Parish of all residents south of Interstate 12. He also said people in mobile homes and FEMA trailers must evacuate. While not calling for mandatory evac in Covington, Mandeville, Abita Springs, and Lacombe, he strongly urged residents near rivers and tributaries to leave.

Please WWL TV for other updates on different parishes. Gov. Jindal says Gustav is "as bad as it gets."

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3 comments: said...

Hey there!

Whoa... this sounds very hectic....

Please keep all of your readers posted.

We are praying.

Peace, blessings and DUNAMIS!

Liz said...

Here's hoping you're out already. I'm thinking of you. Actually, I can't stop thinking of the people who don't have resources to get out. And also the people who evacuate and end up in shelters. I'm thinking how things were in the shelters. It's rough. Thank god they have the national guard in there evacuating hospitals and nursing homes. This time. I hope it's a little better this time but can't help being cynical.

-- badgerbag

Vérité Parlant said...

Thank you, Lisa and Liz, for your prayers and good thoughts.

Liz, I think about people who don't have the resources to evacuate also. Fortunately everything is much better organized this time, but I also know that there are people who just don't listen and won't leave even when someone knocks on the door and begs them to evacuate.

I also wonder how many people are shut ins and out of touch with the world around them. Do they know that the cities have pick-up points and arrangements to move them out of the area.

I thank God that we have family members willing to take us in for a while. I've heard people in shelters tend to be miserable.

I've updated this post to let people know we've arrived safely in Memphis, which is my city of birth.