Editor’s note: The following press release was issued jointly by Louisiana State Police, the state Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, the state Department of Transportation and Development, and the American Red Cross.
BATON ROUGE – As hurricane season begins, a coalition of state agencies and the American Red Cross is encouraging South Louisiana residents to start now to prepare for emergency evacuation.
“If there’s one thing we learned from Hurricane Ivan, it’s that everyone has to think ahead,” said Col. Henry Whitehorn, Louisiana State Police superintendent.
The coalition – comprised of State Police, the state Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness (OHSEP), the state Department of Transportation and Development (DOTD), and the American Red Cross – recommends that residents take the following steps:
1. Come up with your own personal evacuation plan BEFORE the need for an evacuation arises. . “I cannot stress enough how important it is for South Louisiana residents to start thinking about emergency travel plans now,” Col. Whitehorn said. “You should know where you are going and how to get there.”
2. Expect traffic delays. It is impossible for Louisiana’s road structure to handle a full-scale evacuation without motorists’ experiencing delays. “Even with a new evacuation plan with an expanded contraflow component, there are only 11 lanes out of the metro New Orleans area,” Col. Whitehorn said. “Those 11 lanes can handle no more than 18,000 cars an hour.”
3. If a storm is approaching, leave as early as you can. The sooner you leave, the safer you will be.
A new evacuation plan, developed by a State Police-DOTD task force, is the culmination of eight months of intensive, collaborative effort that features staged evacuations, better traffic management, more and better highway signage, a revised contraflow plan, a 24-hour Traffic Control Center and a comprehensive map that details traffic routes.
Whitehorn said the task force revising the evacuation plan was “diligent and open-minded in looking at every possible option.” including extending contraflow all the way to Baton Rouge. However, computer models and traffic engineering studies show that option would not improve the traffic flow out of the New Orleans area.
The colonel encouraged as many residents as possible to “think north” instead of west when making their evacuation travel plans.
Meanwhile, State Police has installed the new state emergency evacuation map on its site. Residents can view the map at www.lsp.org.
The map also will soon be available on the Web sites of other agencies in the coalition: OHSEP, at www.ohsep.louisiana.gov; DOTD at www.dotd.state.la.us; and the American Red Cross, www.preparelouisiana.redcross.org.
And 1 million printed copies of the map will be available mid-month, the coalition said.
Once printed versions of the map are available for distribution, an education effort will begin to explain the plan and address any questions, Whitehorn said.
“The specifics of the plans can’t be explained in a 10-second soundbite,” he said. “That’s why we plan to beat the bushes to find opportunities to explain this plan – in great detail and in many venues – before a disaster strikes.”