This hurricane season, don’t count on the city’s hotels for “vertical evacuation” when a major storm makes a beeline for New Orleans.
The hotels, often used as a hurricane haven in the past, will be banning guests and employees from riding out the largest storms, said Bill Langkopp, executive vice president of The Greater New Orleans Hotel & Lodging Association.
“Bringing people into a hotel for safe harbor was OK pre-Katrina. It is no longer acceptable post-Katrina,” said Langkopp, whose group surveyed its members on their storm plans.
When Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans on Aug. 29 and swamped the city, thousands of hotel guests ended up stranded for days in miserable and dangerous conditions.
“I don’t know of any hotel that intends to do vertical evacuation this year,” Langkopp said. “Our thrust will be to get the visitors out.”
The hotels have been working with emergency officials to develop and evacuation plan for guests, and hotel managers said they don’t expect to have difficulty persuading people to leave after last summer’s devastation.
“I have a sneaking suspicion that no one’s going to need to tell them that they need to leave,” said Al Groos, general manager of the Royal Sonesta New Orleans Hotel. “I don’t think there’s any appetite for vertical evacuation anymore.”
Earlier this week, Mayor Ray Nagin announced a hurricane plan for New Orleans that focuses on getting everyone out of the city ahead of hurricanes stronger than Category 2, or those with sustained winds of 111 mph or higher. Katrina is believed to have been Category 3 or 4 when it hit. The new city plans relies on trains and buses to remove residents who do not have their own transportation.