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Profile: City of New Orleans
City of New Orleans was a participant or observer in the following events:
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.”
Precautionary Evacuation Notice: 72 hours or less
Special Needs Evacuation Order: 8-12 hours after Precautionary Evacuation Notice issued
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 ; Louisiana, 1/2000 ] Therefore, the timetable contemplated under these plans for implementing evacuation orders remains unclear.
This afternoon, New Orleans officials meet in a closed-door session. Mayor Ray Nagin, Police Superintendent Eddie Compass, the city’s department heads, and several City Council members attend. The atmosphere is “calm, routine,” according to Jasmine Haralson, council member Jay Batt’s chief of staff, who attended the meeting. City officials assume that state and federal resources will assist the city in responding to the storm’s aftermath, according to Batt, who will later recall: “I expected State Police.… I expected the National Guard. I expected the Marines. I expected federal support, bringing in Black Hawk helicopters, basically locking down parts of the city in turmoil.”
[Boston Globe, 9/11/2005]
The Times-Picayune Blog publishes the LSU Hurricane Center’s updated flood prediction graphic, which indicates that Katrina’s storm surge will cause massive flooding throughout the City of New Orleans. [Times-Picayune, 8/28/2005]
At some point this evening, city officials say they might open the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center as a temporary refuge to shelter an estimated 50,000 people made homeless by the storm. [Times-Picayune, 8/30/2005] FEMA officials will later say that they knew nothing of this plan
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