Everyone in New Orleans must evacuate the low-lying city the next time a hurricane threatens and no shelters will be offered for those who stay, officials said Tuesday.
Hoping to avoid a repeat of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina when thousands struggled to survive after ignoring evacuation orders, they said planes, trains and buses would be used to move people out and the Superdome football stadium would not be open for refuge.
“Today the population stands around 200,000 to 225,000 people in New Orleans,” said Orleans Parish Homeland Security Adviser Terry Ebbert. “Our goal is to ensure that we create an environment where it makes more sense to leave than to stay,”
“We want all 225,000 people to get out of the city,” he said. Before Katrina, New Orleans had nearly half a million residents, but many who fled the storm have not returned.
Ebbert spoke at a news conference after state and local officials met with Federal Emergency Management Agency acting director David Paulison to discuss plans for the next hurricane season, which starts June 1.
Officials plan to have only small shelters available for police and rescue workers and will not open the Superdome, the site of mass misery when stranded Katrina victims crowded into the dank and damaged stadium and waited days for rescue.
Ebbert said evacuations could come early and often this year because the levee system protecting New Orleans was weakened by Katrina and there are thousands of people now living in FEMA-provided travel trailers.
Residents will be ordered out not just for hurricanes, but for tropical storms, too, he said.
Paulison estimated that by June 1, 100,000 families along the U.S. Gulf Coast will be in trailers, which are vulnerable in high winds.
He said FEMA, which has been heavily criticized for its response to Katrina, would do whatever state and local officials cannot do to prepare for hurricanes.
“The locals and state are putting together the process of identifying what they can and cannot do. We’re looking at where we can fit in to help,” he said.