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Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Vertical Evacuation

In New Orleans, Mayor Ray Nagin declared a state of emergency and strongly recommended residents evacuate immediately.

Public and private schools in many of Louisiana's coastal parishes already have closed and some businesses and public offices were closing their doors.

Nagin said that as of Tuesday morning there was a 22 percent chance that New Orleans would take a direct hit.

"The city basically sits like a bowl and most of the city is under sea level ... so if we get a storm like Ivan to hit us directly" there could be 12 to 18 feet of water in the city, Nagin said.

If people can't get out of New Orleans, the mayor said, they should do a "vertical evacuation."

"Basically, go to hotels and high-rise buildings in the city," Nagin explained.
Hmmm...I think I'd be heading out of the Big Easy right now. I don't know how many high-rise buildings there are in New Orleans, how many of them will have their doors open to all comers and for how long, and whether there would be room and facilities for the new arrivals. The storm will cut off electricity, stopping elevators. The highrises probably depend on electric pumps to bring water to the upper floors. Once in the building, there may be no getting out for days. What's for dinner? (The kitchens would be flooded.) And people will be starting fires for light and cooking. If a fire gets out of control, will the sprinklers work without electricity? The fire department won't be able to get there through 12 to 18 feet of water. If I were the mayor of New Orleans, I think I'd be doing everything possible to encourage an orderly and safe evacuation--use buses, mandatory carpooling (no car allowed on the highway that isn't filled to its capacity with people), free Amtrak (get out of the City of New Orleans on the City of New Orleans), river boats and barges heading for Natchez or Memphis, whatever. Because "vertical evacuation" sounds like a real death trap.

Read my post from yesterday to see why a direct hit by Ivan on Nawlins could be catastrophic.