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How do you evacuate a major city?

August 28, 2005

Track the hurricane at Steve Gregory’s Weather Underground Blog

They’re trying to evacuate New Orleans.  But how?  I have always wondered about this; you’ve driven through major cities during major commuting times, right?  Gridlock.  I just can’t imagine how you evacuate a major city…

New Orleans readies for evacuation

Winds increase to 175 mph: Hurricane Katrina is comparable to Hurricane Camille, a Category 5 storm that caused extensive damage in the New Orleans area in 1969.

I-10 gridlock; officials urge use of other routes

After Mayor Nagin issued a mandaory evacuation for New Orleans this morning, Governor Blanco stated that the I-10 is gridlocked in the city until the Kenner area.

The Superdome has been opened for people with special needs and as a shelter of last resort.

The city has set up ten pickup areas to take people to emergency shelters. RTA buses will be picking up citizens for free and take them to these shelters. The number to call for pickup areas is 1-800-469-4828.an

Residents are asked to bring food for 3-5 days, pillows, blankets, and any other supplies needed.

LSU scientists took projected tracks of Hurricane Katrina on Saturday evening and produced a frightening scenario: A wall of water surging in from all sides pushing up against the urban levees. Wave action is seen topping levees in Kenner, eastern New Orleans and along the Mississippi River-Gulf Outlet.

Unprotected areas in Plaquemines Parish could flood first Monday.

Hurricane force winds are projected to top levees in eastern New Orleans, pushing water into the 9th Ward, the Michoud area and even into Mid-City.

Large parts of Slidell could be inundated by 10-11 foot storm surges.

Easterly winds in advance of the storm could pump water from Lake Borgne and from Breton and Chandeleur sounds into Lake Pontchartrain, raising the lake’s surface by 12 feet.

Waves equal to half the surge height or more would top the surge water and could overtop levees on the south shore of Lake Pontchartrain and around Chalmette.

As Katrina moves inland and the winds come from the north, the high Lake Pontchartrain waters could stream across St. Charles Parish and turn east along Airline Highway into Kenner.

And let me be the first to say (beating Pat Robertson to the punch!) that the reason New Orleans is about to get clobbered is that God is mad at them.  You know how it pisses Him off when there’s a really great party and He wasn’t invited.

No, wait!  That isn’t it.  The real reason is that New Orleans is in the wrong place (See Cajun’s posts below).  Cities grow from a confluence of economic needs and the answers to those needs.  So it was with New Orleans, but they’re below Sea level, nestled into an area bounded by the Mississippi river, the Gulf of Mexico, and three lakes.  Not the best place to be if “staying dry” is high on your list of priorities. 

The Army Corps of Engineers has heroic measures in place, but they can only do so much in light of this one fact: water flows downhill.

For a somewhat more detailed description of what could happen, see Mostly Cajun: Katrina aiming for New Orleans.  Cajun lives and works about 200 miles from New Orleans.  He has a deep knowledge of the industrial infrastructure so his description is informed rather than sensationalistic.  And here’s his earlier post on the storm: Oh, boy, looks bad.

What’s it like to ride out a hurricane?  A good description at UTI: Katrina Cat IV, could be horrendous.  For a fascinating discussion of advanced hurricane dynamics, see URGENT Storm Warning

If you’re in the greater New Orleans area right now, you might want to hop into your handy roof-copter and whup-whup on out of there.