In New Orleans, no shelter for those who stay - WDAM-TV 7-News, Weather, Sports-Hattiesburg, MS

New Orleans

In New Orleans, no shelter for those who stay

By BECKY BOHRER

Associated Press Writer

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - Police with bullhorns plan to go street to

street this weekend with a tough message about getting out ahead of

Hurricane Gustav: This time there will be no shelter of last

resort. The doors to the Superdome will be locked. Those who stay

will be on their own.

New forecasts Friday made it increasingly clear that New Orleans

will get some kind of hit - direct or indirect - by early next

week. That raised the likelihood people would have to flee, and the

city suggested a full-scale evacuation call could come as soon as

Sunday.

Those among New Orleans' estimated 310,000 to 340,000 residents

who ignore orders to leave accept "all responsibility for

themselves and their loved ones," the city's emergency

preparedness director, Jerry Sneed, has warned.

As Katrina approached in 2005, as many as 30,000 people who

either could not or would not evacuate jammed the Louisiana

Superdome and the riverfront convention center. They spent days

waiting for rescue in squalid conditions. Some died.

Stung by the images that flashed across the world, including the

photo of an elderly woman dead in her wheelchair, her bodied

covered with a blanket, officials promised to find a better way.

This time, the city has taken steps to ensure no one has an

excuse not to leave. The state has a $7 million contract to provide

700 buses to evacuate the elderly, the sick and anyone around the

region without transportation.

Officials also plan to announce a curfew that will mean the

arrest of anyone still on the streets after a mandatory evacuation

order goes out. Police and National Guardsman will patrol after the

storm's arrival, and Gov. Bobby Jindal has said he requested

additional urban search and rescue teams.

On Saturday police planned to roam neighborhoods, directing

residents-in-need to pick up points. The city also planned to reach

out to churches, hoping to spread the word about where the buses

will pick up evacuees.

But many weren't waiting to be told to leave: Northbound traffic

was heavy Friday on Interstate 55 - a major route out of the city -

and backseats of some cars were stacked with clothes, boxes and

bags. Gas stations around the city hummed with activity. Meanwhile,

hospitals and nursing homes also began moving patients further

inland.

In an effort to keep track of where people go after they leave

the city, officials planned to give evacuees who provided

authorities their information ahead of time bar-coded bracelets

containing their ID.

Still, advocates for the poor worried that the message would not

get to the city's most marginalized residents - and that could

spell disaster.

"It's an enormous concern, an extraordinary concern" for day

laborers, the homeless, renters and public-housing residents, said

Saket Soni, director of the New Orleans Workers' Center for Racial

Justice. "Hundreds if not thousands will fall through the cracks

of an evacuation plan, and they will be left in the city, not out

of choice but out of necessity."

Gustav strengthened into a hurricane Friday and appeared to stay

on track to hit the Cayman Islands, then western Cuba before moving

into the warm waters of the Gulf bound for the U.S. coastline early

next week. At 11 p.m. EDT, Gustav's center was about 55 miles

east-northeast of Grand Cayman Island, and its top sustained winds

were near 80 mph.

FEMA Deputy Administrator Harvey Johnson said Friday he

anticipated a "huge number" of Gulf Coast residents will be told

to leave the region this weekend.

Those in most need of help - the elderly, sick, and those

without transportation - will be moved first. Mayor Ray Nagin said

buses and trains would begin to evacuate those people beginning

early Saturday morning. Those on buses will go to shelters farther

north, Sneed said. Those on trains will go to Memphis, Tenn.

Neighboring states already were making offers to house evacuees,

remembering how many people fled Katrina.

Several parishes announced plans for evacuations beginning

Saturday. By early Sunday, Nagin said officials would look at the

potential for a mandatory evacuation.

In Mississippi, Gov. Haley Barbour had already called for the

evacuation of residents along the Katrina-scarred coast, many of

whom still live in temporary housing. And in Louisiana, residents

of low-lying Grande Isle were under a voluntary evacuation order

beginning Friday. The community is traditionally one of the first

to vacate when tropical weather threatens.

Making the decision about exactly when and where to evacuate was

tough. Gustav confounded emergency preparedness officials as its

forecast track shifted through the day, confronting them with the

possibility of ordering evacuations not only in the New Orleans

area but across more than 200 miles of vulnerable coastline.

Johnson said officials in four states - Alabama, Mississippi,

Louisiana and Texas - planned evacuations.

Authorities also wanted to avoid creating any unnecessary panic.

In New Orleans, the locations of the evacuation buses were not

made public because people who need a ride are supposed to go to

designated pickup points, not to the staging area.

But that approach worried some residents. Elouise Williams, 68,

said she called the city's 311 hot line Thursday until she was

"blue in the face."

She was concerned about getting a ride to the pickup point and

about what would happen to those who left. As of late Friday

afternoon, she planned to remain in the Algiers neighborhood and

look in on any other residents who stayed behind.

"My thing is, my fright is, if we have somebody in these houses

and they're not able to get out, they're going to perish," she

said, "And we had enough of that in Katrina."

Critics said New Orleans was waiting too long. Bob Wheelersburg,

a former Army Reserve major and liaison officer for emergency

preparedness, said National Guard units are suffering from

equipment and manpower shortages.

"If I was the governor of Louisiana, I'd give the evacuation

order as soon as possible," Wheelersburg said. "I think it's

going to be a huge disaster."

But authorities have emphasized that New Orleans can't just up

and leave - there is a phased order to evacuations, and coastal

communities or those outside of levee protections get first crack

and moving residents out.

Some residents weren't waiting for a formal call - they left

Friday, long before the storm was even close to the shoreline.

"I'm getting out of here. I can't take another hurricane,"

said Ramona Summers, 59, whose house flooded during Katrina. She

hurried to help friends gather their belongings. Her car was

already packed for Gonzales, nearly 60 miles away.

---

Associated Press writers Janet McConnaughey, Alan Sayre, Mary

Foster and Stacey Plaisance contributed to this report from New

Orleans. Doug Simpson in Baton Rouge, La., Michael Kunzelman in

Gulfport, Miss., and Jay Root in Austin, Texas, also contributed.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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