New Orleans will be virtually empty before Gustav strikes:
“I am announcing today mandatory evacuation of New Orleans starting 8am Sunday on the West bank,” Nagin said at a press conference.
“We want everybody… we want 100 per cent evacuation. If you decide to stay, you are on your own.”
“This is the mother of all storms,” Nagin said. “This storm is so powerful and growing more powerful every day that I’m not sure we’ve seen anything like it.”
Nagin estimated that less than half of the city’s population has left despite days of dire warnings.
“This is the real deal,” Nagin said. “Riding this storm out would be one of the biggest mistakes you could make in your life.”
Nagin said police, fire and other emergency personnel are being pulled from the city to safer areas. A “skeleton crew” of fewer than 50 city workers will be left behind, according to officials.
New Orleans is still dangerously vulnerable:
Though the city is more aware of the hurricane danger now than it was then, unfortunately – even scandalously – New Orleans is not as prepared as it ought to be.
A recent yearlong Associated Press investigation found that many New Orleanians have a false sense of how secure their city really is behind rebuilt levees.
Though there have been some improvements, an enormous amount of the necessary levee work remains undone and seriously behind schedule. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, whose faulty levee-building helped cause the Katrina disaster, has over the past three years put in drainage pumps that wouldn’t work and failed reviews by the National Research Council, among other shortcomings. The Corps has high hopes for its efforts, but hope won’t stop a rising storm tide.
It is hard to believe New Orleans remains so vulnerable after Katrina revealed how city, state and federal officials, as well as the people who kept electing them, wasted decades to build defenses against the killer hurricane everyone knew was bound to come.
But here we are, three years after Katrina, with the city still undefended beyond rudimentary repair work. The AP investigation made clear that the city’s crisis today is also the fault of business people, activists and others who don’t seem to grasp the urgency of their situation.
I was in New Orleans in March of this year and couldn’t believe what an absolute mess the city was outside of the French Quarter. If it takes the dirty side of a cat 5 hurricane the damage will be incomprehensible.