PART I: GENERAL
The Southeast Louisiana Hurricane Evacuation and Sheltering Plan is intended to provide
a framework within which the parishes can coordinate their actions with State government in order to deal with a catastrophic
A catastrophic hurricane is defined as a hurricane in Category 3 Slow (5 mph or less forward
speed), and categories 4 or 5 on the Saffir-Simpson Scale of hurricane strength (See Annex A). Hurricanes in Category 1, 2
and 3 Fast, are considered less destructive and can be met through the use of normal emergency preparedness procedures on
the part of the Parish and State governments.
The overall strategy for dealing with a catastrophic hurricane is to evacuate as much of
the at risk population as possible from the path of the storm and relocate them to a place of relative safety outside the
projected high water mark of the storm surge flooding and hurricane force winds.
The Southeastern Region is generally defined as those parishes which have all or a large
part of their population east of the Atchafalaya River Basin and south of a line drawn along Interstates 10 and 12 from Baton
Rouge, through Hammond to Slidell. The Region includes the parishes of Ascension, Assumption, Jefferson, Lafourche, Orleans,
Plaquemines, St. Bernard, St. Charles, St. James, St. John the Baptist, St. Tammany, Tangipahoa, and Terrebonne (A map is
included as Annex B).
The plan prescribes an orderly procedure for the parishes to follow in response to a catastrophic
hurricane. It does not replace or supersede any local plans, which are incorporated by reference, nor does it usurp the authority
of any local governing body.
The plan defines the problems inherent in evacuating the Southeast Louisiana area and points
out the limits that effect evacuation and sheltering measures. It prescribes the actions to be taken at each stage of a catastrophic
It is the intent of this plan to establish guidelines for the direction, control and coordination
of evacuation of the Southeast Louisiana Region in order to protect life and property. The plan also prescribes procedures
and responsibilities for sheltering operations.
C. CONCEPT OF OPERATIONS
1. When a hurricane enters or takes form in the Gulf of Mexico, it is perceived as a potential
catastrophic threat to the Southeast Louisiana Region. As the danger from the hurricane requires the initiation of emergency
actions, the State Office of Emergency Preparedness and each parish will activate Emergency Operating Centers (EOCs) and declare
a state of emergency. The State and parishes will commence planned emergency operations and coordinate their actions including
activating and maintaining all means of communications.
So when did a “hurricane enter or take form in the Gulf of Mexico?”
When was this plan supposed to kick in? As I read it, the emergency plan
should have kicked in Wednesday, FOUR DAYS! before the storm hit.
The National Hurricane Center in Miami on Wednesday morning, August 24, renamed Tropical Depression TWELVE as Tropical
Storm KATRINA in Advisory #4, while it was still in the Bahamas. In that advisory,
the 72-hour forecast said the storm might become a minimal hurricane near the Central Gulf Coast, but much depended on other
weather phenomena yet to happen. In fact, 72 hours later the storm had grown
to Category Three, progressed to a point 405 miles southeast of the mouth of the Mississippi River, moving directly for it
at about 7 mph, with winds of 115 mph, and it was forecast to strengthen. Katrina
had become a hurricane Thursday evening, per Advisory #9, still on the east coast of southern Florida.
The plan goes on to say, in part:
The State, risk area and host area parishes will cooperate to evacuate and shelter as many
people as possible in accordance with the Dept. of Social Services (DSS) / American Red Cross (ARC) Shelter Plan.
2. Evacuation will be carried out in three phases, as follows:
This is the final, most serious phase of evacuation. Authorities will put maximum emphasis
on encouraging evacuation and limiting ingress. Designated State evacuation routes maybe augmented by turning additional lanes
into one-way outbound traffic and the State Police with Local law enforcement assistance will assume responsibility for traffic
control on those routes. As the storm gets close to the Southeast Region, evacuation routes will be closed and the people
remaining will be directed to last resort refuges.
D. Organization and Assignment of Responsibilities
The organization and assignment of primary and secondary responsibilities
are detailed in the State Emergency Operations Plan (EOP). Listed below are
the key participants and their roles in the event of a catastrophic hurricane:
a. Proclaim a State of Emergency.
b. Issue supplementary declarations and orders, as the situation requires.
c. Authorize and direct the use of State government personnel and other resources
to deal with the emergency.
d. Authorize and direct the authorities of non-risk parishes to coordinate the opening
and operation of shelters with DSS in conjunction with ARC, and to lend all possible assistance to the evacuation and shelter
e. Request Federal government assistance as needed.
E. DIRECTION AND CONTROL
Direction and control is specified in the State Emergency Operations Plan.
F. PLAN DEVELOPMENT AND MAINTENANCE
The Director of the Louisiana Office of Emergency Preparedness is responsible
for maintaining this plan. The parishes affected by the plan are responsible
for reviewing and updating their hurricane procedures annually.
Several National Guard officers and soldiers have been interviewed on TV since the storm. One of them was LCOL Mouton, a Civil Engineer commander, who said he had his troops in place on the coast,
but out of the projected disaster area for their own protection, very early on. He
prepared for this on his own, after hearing the President declare the whole state a disaster area, and that funds would be
provided if requested. He had read the Plan, and he knew that the governor had
the sole rights to activate him and his people, and to request Federal assistance. Like
most of us, he knows that Amendment 10 to the Constitution says any rights not spelled out as belonging to the government
belong to the states. The President cannot tell the states how to do their own
business. In this case, neither did state nor parish nor city officials tell
one another how to do their own business, even though they had a plan which said they must.
What took so long for relief? The National Guard engineers in the nearby
area first had to clear and declare safe the few roads now available into and around the area, and to assess the actual needs. Convoys of troops and supplies then had to be loaded up, assembled, and directed to
the required spots, not an easy assignment since they had to negotiate the battered roads in some places in order to get to
the scene. Meanwhile, their helicopters could not fly to assist them until winds
subsided, which you may recall didn’t happen for most helicopters until the storm was in northern Mississippi on Monday
evening. Some choppers could operate in the higher gusts, but all were in peril.
Let us now revisit “the Plan.”
PART II: SITUATIONS AND ASSUMPTIONS
1. The Greater New Orleans Metropolitan Area represents a difficult evacuation problem due
to the large population and it’s unique layout.
2. This area is located in a floodplain much of which lies below sea level and is surrounded
by an extensive marine estuarine system of lakes, canals, bayous, the Gulf of Mexico and the Mississippi River. Some parish
storm drainage systems discharge into area waterways. High water levels would impede adequate pumping and prevent relief against
flooding from heavy rainfall.
3. Tidal surge, associated with the "worst case" Category 3, 4 or 5 Hurricane Scenario for
the Greater New Orleans Metropolitan Area, as determined by the National Weather Service (NWS) Sea, Lake and Overland Surge
from Hurricanes (SLOSH) Model, could cause a maximum inundation of 20 feet above sea level in some of the parishes in the
Region, not including tidal effects, wind waves and storm rainfall.
4. The Area is protected by an extensive levee system, but above-normal water levels and
hurricane surge could cause levee overtopping or failures.
5. It will take a long time to evacuate large numbers of people from the Region.
6. The road systems used for evacuations are limited, and many of the roadways are near
bodies of water and susceptible to flooding.
7. The combined population of the Region is approximately 1,694,805 (1990 Census, as amended
July 1, 1999), of whom the majority are at risk from a hurricane (Annex C).
8. Many of the Region's emergency shelter facilities may be inundated by floodwaters when
threatened by a slow moving Category 3 or above hurricane. Sheltering of evacuees outside of the Region becomes necessary.
9. In most emergencies the number of persons needing public shelter will be limited. In
the event of a catastrophic hurricane, however, the evacuation of over a million people from the Southeast Region could overwhelm
normally available shelter resources.
now, after they had five full years to ponder these noble words, a question becomes: What were the people with the responsibilities
doing instead of their jobs, including thinking seriously about the facts described above?
Who was responsible for what? The Plan goes into some detail, and speaks
in some generalities, in the case of each of several scenarios. For instance:
3. Mandatory Evacuation:
a. Risk Area Parishes:
1. Coordinate evacuation orders with State and other risk parishes.
2. Instruct persons living in designated evacuation zones to leave.
3. Impose traffic control to funnel persons to designated evacuation routes.
4. Designate staging areas and other facilities as last resort refuges. People at these
locations who cannot be evacuated in time to avoid the storm will remain and take
refuge in the designated buildings.
5. Assist persons with mobility limitations to find last resort refuge. Mobilize all transportation
resources and request assistance from the state as needed.