Saturday, August 20, 3:30 PM EDT (Reuters): [New Orleans] City Mayor Ray Nagin said if Gustav -- now a dangerous Category 4 storm with 145 mph (230 kph) winds -- holds to its current course, a mandatory city evacuation could start early on Sunday.Yes. Exactly. And because the evacuations have to be phased, the mandatory order to evacuate New Orleans should have been issued on Friday afternoon at latest.
August 30,(AP via ABC News: [...] By early Sunday, Nagin said officials would look at the potential for a mandatory evacuation. ... Critics said New Orleans was waiting too long.
Bob Wheelersburg, a former Army Reserve major and liaison officer for emergency preparedness, said National Guard units are suffering from equipment and manpower shortages.
"If I was the governor of Louisiana, I'd give the evacuation order as soon as possible," Wheelersburg said. "I think it's going to be a huge disaster."
But authorities have emphasized that New Orleans can't just up and leave — there is a phased order to evacuations, and coastal communities or those outside of levee protections get first crack and moving residents out.[...]
Just for the record, I'll start by reviewing two obvious points:
1. Anyone who can read a weather map, and who knows the temperature of the waters that Gustav is passing over, knows that there is nothing to prevent Gustav from morphing into a Category 5 hurricane.
2. New Orleans is a bowl set below sea level. That means if it's hit by a worst-case version of a Cat 5, everyone remaining in that bowl dies. No such thing as high ground in that situation. And forget the levees.
Mr Nagin, you've had three years to consider the worst case scenario. So issue that evacuation order now. No one with a conscience will curse you if turns out you were wrong.
I don't want to hear about Governor Jindal; clearly he has fallen down. So call him and say, "Mandatory evacuation now on in Nola," then hang up.
"Strongly urging" Nola residents to evacuate, as you've been doing, doesn't cut it. Here's what else doesn't cut it:
Those among New Orleans' estimated 310,000 to 340,000 residents who ignore orders to leave accept "all responsibility for themselves and their loved ones," the city's emergency preparedness director, Jerry Sneed, has warned.If you start the mandatory evacuation now, and if your path is littered with miracles, there is a chance that you can get everyone out of Nola by the time of Gustav's landfall on the U.S. coast.
There must be ways to expedite the evacuation. There should not be any tourists left in the hotels. So maybe one strategy is for the National Guard to evacuate residents from their homes and transport them to the hotels, which can act as a staging area for the evacuation buses.
Whatever you do, don't stand around shifting blame and complaining that many people won't leave. I understand that you're basically a businessman, not a triage expert. But you should have thought of that before you signed on to be a mayor of below-sea level city in hurricane alley.
This said, if you take your advice from seasoned military commanders, not politicians, you'll do okay this time.
If you don't follow that route, and if the worst happens, the only upside is that you won't have to face the music. You'll be drowned.
More from the ABC/AP report:
Police with bullhorns plan to go street to street this weekend with a tough message about getting out ahead of Hurricane Gustav: This time there will be no shelter of last resort. The doors to the Superdome will be locked. Those who stay will be on their own. ...*****************************
In New Orleans, the locations of the evacuation buses were not made public because people who need a ride are supposed to go to designated pickup points, not to the staging area.
But that approach worried some residents. Elouise Williams, 68, said she called the city's 311 hot line Thursday until she was "blue in the face."
She was concerned about getting a ride to the pickup point and about what would happen to those who left. As of late Friday afternoon, she planned to remain in the Algiers neighborhood and look in on any other residents who stayed behind.
6:30 PM ET Update
From ABC website, 4:08 PM ET:
ABC News' Karen Travers reports: In an interview with Fox News' Chris Wallace that will air Sunday morning, Sen. John McCain indicated that the GOP convention could be suspended because of Hurricane Gustav.
"It wouldn't be appropriate to have a festive occasion while a near tragedy or a terrible challenge is presented in the form of a natural disaster," McCain told Wallace.
McCain said that he has been in touch with the governors of the Gulf Coast states—where Gustav is expected to make landfall—and that his campaign would continue to monitor the now-Category 4 storm.
"I'm afraid, Chris, that we may have to look at that situation and we'll try and monitor it. I've been talking to Governors Jindal [La.], Barbour [Miss.], Riley [Ala.], Crist [Fla.], I've been talking to all of them," McCain told Wallace. "So we're monitoring it from day to day and I'm saying a few prayers too."
A Republican convention official tells ABC News, however, that at this point, there are no plans to cancel the convention but there are several contingency plans that are being looked at in terms of delegation travel and the program of speakers. Both Crist and Jindal are scheduled to speak at the convention this week, but no decisions have been made yet on their plans to come to Minneapolis-Saint Paul.
This official says the Republican National Convention Committee is "still moving forward with opening the convention on Monday" as planned and notes that there is official business that has to happen at the convention, like the actual nomination of John McCain and the platform ratification.
The RNCC has issued the following statement from 2008 Republican National Convention President and CEO Maria Cino:
"Like all Americans, our prayers are with those who will be affected by Hurricane Gustav. We continue to closely monitor the movement of the storm and are considering necessary contingencies. We are in communication with the Gulf state governors to make sure the convention is taking all the appropriate steps as the hurricane progresses. The safety of our affected delegations is our first priority and preparing for Gustav comes before anything else."