New Orleans is still stricken from Katrina three years ago. But are they prepared for Gustav? … yes, as prepared as they can be.
This time, there are no illusions about what will happen if a hurricane strikes New Orleans. Their levees are still being rebuilt, and will not be finished until 2011. When it became confirmed that Gustav would likely hit New Orleans, evacuations of the poor and the infirm began Saturday. State and federal officials aren’t going to leave them stranded like they did with Katrina. Hotels plan to close on Saturday as a way to force all tourists to leave. Likely, word will come to evacuate the entire city early Sunday.
People who have been rebuilding are now boarding up homes and businesses to protect against looters.
People who are still living in the small trailers provided after Katrina are urged to evacuate early, because trailers are unsafe in high wind conditions.
Louisiana has activated 3000 guardsmen and ordered 1500 of them to be in New Orleans by Friday. This is to deter the looting and crime that soared after Katrina.
The ceremonies that were being held to commemorate the third anniversary of Katrina were suspended as officials rushed to prepare for Gustav, which is being seen as the return of the nightmare. Some people are saying that if their new homes are destroyed this time, they probably won’t move back to New Orleans. Other people say that they lost everything in Katrina, and three years later, they might lose it all again … it’s very discouraging.
Hurricane Katrina was a disaster, but the disaster was compounded government failures, like poor response time, poor planning, and poorly engineered flood levees. This time, officials have had three years to prepare for another blow, and they are cautiously optimistic that things will be better this time. Instead of providing shelter within the city, (which turned into the disaster like the Superdome, where thousands of people were stranded for days without food or sanitation facilities), they plan to evacuate everyone, whether by bus, plane, or train.
Officials are also providing shelter for pets, so people can be persuaded to evacuate, rather than stay with Fido and Fluffy and become stranded or killed.
As of this writing (Saturday), Gustav is nearing Cuba and has not yet reached the Gulf. But the projected path anticipates that the storm will move northwest across the Gulf, picking up more energy from the warm, moist air as it goes, and slam into the central Gulf Coast on Monday or Tuesday. Rain and thunderstorms from Gustav’s outer rain bands could begin hitting the Gulf Coast as early as Sunday. Wave height will grow, reaching its worst point Monday night. Gustav will produce heavy rain and flooding all along the south-central US coast. The question is, how hard will it hit New Orleans?
They are as prepared as they can be … we can only hope that they complete the evacuations in time, or that the hurricane changes its track.