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Context of '6:00 am August 26, 2005: The ‘72-Hour Evacuation Window’ Closes'

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Hurricane Katrina will make landfall in Louisiana in only 72 hours, and critics will later charge that, by failing to call for an evacuation at this hour, local and state officials fail to execute their own emergency plans properly. Other critics will question why the federal government does focus efforts towards Louisiana and, particularly, the New Orleans area today. However, at this hour, Katrina has just reconstituted as a Category 1 hurricane, and it appears more likely to head towards the Florida Panhandle (Northeastern Gulf Coast than towards Louisiana. Indeed, the first National Hurricane Center Advisory to indicate that Katrina threatens New Orleans is still several hours away (see 10:00 am August 26, 2005), and, according to its own reports, FEMA has not yet activated the Region 6 Response Coordination Center, which serves Louisiana.
Note 1 - The particular plan(s) implemented by local, state, and national officials during this crisis remains unclear. While various government websites contain several “plans,” it is not clear that the posted plans are the operative documents at this time, and some reports indicate that officials are operating under another plan (or plans). [Chicago Tribune, 9/11/2005]
Note 2 - Contrary to many published reports, the New Orleans Emergency Plan for Hurricane Evacuations (NOLA Plan), or the version of this Plan available online, does not require evacuation 72 hours in advance of all hurricanes, and does not address the concept of “mandatory” evacuations at all. Rather, the Plan contemplates a maximum time of 72 hours to prepare for a hurricane. The NOLA Plan contemplates that, “Slow developing weather conditions (primarily hurricane) will create increased readiness culminating in an evacuation order 24 hours (12 daylight hours) prior to predicted landfall.” [City of New Orleans, n.d.] In another place, the NOLA Plan states as follows: “Using information developed as part of the Southeast Louisiana Hurricane Task Force and other research, the City of New Orleans has established a maximum acceptable hurricane evacuation time standard for a Category 3 storm event of 72 hours. This is based on clearance time or is the time required to clear all vehicles evacuating in response to a hurricane situation from area roadways. Clearance time begins when the first evacuating vehicle enters the road network and ends when the last evacuating vehicle reaches its destination.” The NOLA Plan continues: “Evacuation notices or orders will be issued during three stages prior to gale force winds making landfall.”
bullet Precautionary Evacuation Notice: 72 hours or less
bullet Special Needs Evacuation Order: 8-12 hours after Precautionary Evacuation Notice issued
bullet General Evacuation Notice: 48 hours or less [City of New Orleans, n.d.]
Note 3 - The two Southeast Louisiana Hurricane Evacuation and Sheltering Plans posted on the Louisiana State website each reference a table which “give[s] information on the times at which action to evacuate people must be taken if the total number of people in the risk area is to be evacuated in Category 3 (Slow), 4 and 5 hurricanes” for parishes in Southeastern Louisiana. However, the referenced table is missing from the plans. [Louisiana, 1/2000 pdf file; Louisiana, 1/2000 pdf file] Therefore, the timetable contemplated under these plans for implementing evacuation orders remains unclear.

Entity Tags: Hurricane Katrina, City of New Orleans, Southeast Louisiana Hurricane Task Force

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

Katrina gains strength as it moves westward away from Florida, according to the latest advisory from the National Hurricane Center (NHC). The NHC expects Katrina to strengthen into a Category 2 hurricane by Saturday. Most of the models indicate that Katrina’s path will flatten out in more westward direction over next 12 hours. Two models indicate “large jump” west over Louisiana, while most other models indicate Katrina will move inland over the Northeast Gulf Coast. The NHC expects Katrina to strengthen into a major hurricane. Other aspects of the NHC Advisory include:
bullet Location: 25.1 N, 82.2 W
bullet Direction and Speed: West at near 7 mph
bullet Maximum Sustained Winds: 80 mph with higher gusts
bullet Estimated Central Pressure: 981 mb
bullet Probability that in the next 69 hours, Katrina’s eye will pass within 75 miles of:
bullet Panama City, FL: 18 percent
bullet Gulfport, MS: 12 percent
bullet New Orleans, LA: 10 percent [National Hurricane Center, 8/26/2005; National Hurricane Center, 8/26/2005; National Hurricane Center, 8/26/2005]

Entity Tags: National Hurricane Center, Hurricane Katrina

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

The National Hurricane Center (NHC) issues its first hurricane watch for the southeastern coast of Louisiana, from east of Morgan City to the mouth of the Pearl River, including New Orleans. A hurricane watch likely will be required for other portions of northern gulf coast later today. Models also indicate Katrina will strengthen and could become a Category 5 hurricane, and the hurricane will likely move west-northwest during the next 24 hours. Katrina’s eye has begun a concentric eyewall cycle. Models now agree that Katrina is likely to make landfall in the next 72 hours over the northern Gulf Coast, however, the models disagree about where Katrina will make landfall: Two models indicate landfall will be near Morgan City or Intracoastal City, Louisiana. The other guidance ranges from Grand Isle, Louisiana to Pensacola, Florida. The official NHC forecast calls for landfall in Southeastern Louisiana—in 48-60 hours. (In fact, Katrina will make landfall in only 38 hours .) Other aspects of the NHC Advisory include:
bullet Location: 405 miles southeast of the mouth of the Mississippi River.
bullet Direction and Speed: West at 7 mph.
bullet Maximum Sustained Winds: 115 mph, with higher gusts.
bullet Estimated Central Pressure: 940 mb.
bullet Size: Hurricane force winds extend outward from center up to 65 miles; tropical storm force winds extend outward up to 150 miles.
bullet Probability that in the next 69 hours, Katrina’s eye will pass within 75 miles of:
bullet Panama City, FL: 12 percent
bullet Gulfport, MS: 18 percent
bullet New Orleans, LA: 19 percent [National Hurricane Center, 8/27/2005; National Hurricane Center, 8/27/2005; National Hurricane Center, 8/27/2005]

Entity Tags: Hurricane Katrina, National Hurricane Center

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

The National Hurricane Center (NHC) expands the hurricane watch westward to Intracoastal City, Louisiana and eastward to the Florida-Alabama border, and states that a hurricane warning likely will be required for portions of the Northern Gulf Coast later tonight or Sunday. Landfall in southeast Louisiana is likely in “a little under” 48 hours. (In fact, Katrina will make landfall in 32 hours .) According to the NHC, Katrina will likely strengthen, and may become a Category 5 hurricane before landfall. Katrina likely will move west-northwest during the next 24 hours. Models continue to diverge, with some indicating Katrina will turn northward, while others indicate Katrina will shift westward. Other aspects of the NHC Advisory include:
bullet Location: 380 miles southeast of the mouth of the Mississippi River
bullet Direction and Speed: West at 7 mph
bullet Maximum Sustained Winds: 115 mph, with higher gusts
bullet Estimated Central Pressure: 945 mb
bullet Size: Hurricane force winds extend outward from center up to 45 miles; tropical storm force winds extend outward up to 160 miles
bullet Probability that in the next 69 hours, Katrina’s eye will pass within 75 miles of:
bullet Panama City, FL: 12 percent
bullet Gulfport, MS: 20 percent
bullet New Orleans, LA: 21 percent [National Hurricane Center, 8/27/2005; National Hurricane Center, 8/27/2005; National Hurricane Center, 8/27/2005]

Entity Tags: National Hurricane Center, Hurricane Katrina

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

The National Hurricane Center (NHC) warns that Katrina, still a Category 4 hurricane, continues to intensify and grow larger. The NHC reiterates the hurricane warning for Louisiana to Florida, and expands the area covered by a tropical storm warning. It warns further that, “While the details of the landfall intensity cannot be known at this time… Katrina will be a very dangerous hurricane at landfall…. It must be emphasized that the exact landfall point cannot be specified and that Katrina is a large hurricane that will affect a large area,” warns the NHC. “NHC now expects Katrina’s path to move north later today.” Other aspects of the NHC Advisory include:
bullet Location: 275 miles south-southeast of the mouth of the Mississippi River
bullet Direction and Speed: West-northwest at 10 mph
bullet Maximum Sustained Winds: Near 145 mph, with higher gusts
bullet Estimated Central Pressure: 935 mb
bullet Size: Hurricane force winds extend outward from center up to 85 miles; tropical storm force winds extend outward up to 185 miles
bullet Probability that in the next 69 hours, Katrina’s eye will pass within 75 miles of:
bullet Panama City, FL: 11 percent
bullet Gulfport, MS: 26 percent;
bullet New Orleans, LA: 29 percent [National Hurricane Center, 8/28/2005; National Hurricane Center, 8/28/2005; National Hurricane Center, 8/28/2005]

Entity Tags: National Hurricane Center, Hurricane Katrina

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

Hurricane Katrina will make landfall in Louisiana in only 48 hours . At Governor Blanco’s request (see Early Morning August 27, 2005), President Bush has declared a state of emergency in Louisiana (see (Midday) August 27, 2005). Low-lying parishes have issued mandatory or recommended evacuations, and New Orleans has issued something between a voluntary and a recommended evacuation (see Morning, August 27, 2005; Evening August 27, 2005). FEMA apparently has sent 10-20 staff members to Louisiana by this time (see 11:00 am August 27, 2005). FEMA publishes a graphic projecting the path of Hurricane Katrina this hour, based on the National Hurricane Center Advisory 21 (see 4:00 am August 28, 2005). FEMA’s graphic indicates that Katrina will pass through New Orleans approximately 32 hours from now, at 2:00 pm tomorrow. [Agency, 8/28/2005 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Hurricane Katrina

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

Hurricane Katrina makes its second landfall in Southeastern Louisiana at approximately 6:10 am this morning. [National Public Radio, 9/9/2005]

Entity Tags: Hurricane Katrina

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

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