No "contra-flow" type evacuation contemplated for New Orleans if emergency exit is needed

Because tropical systems march to their own orders city and state emergency planners have ramped up their readiness efforts ahead of what Harvey might have in mind for parts of the state.

"Right now there's no need to panic, we're encouraging the public to do all that they can to prepare as we do in every other whether event,” said Aaron Miller, Director of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness for the City of New Orleans.

"It's unpredictable, so be prepared, okay, have a game plan,” said James Waskom, Director of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness for the state.

Earlier Wednesday, the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness activated its “Crisis Action Team.”

"This team is responsible for kind of being here around the clock, so that any of the parishes get to the point where they need additional resources to help them get through any particular weather even like we're dealing with now,” said Mike Steele, Director of Communications for GOHSEP.

He said last Friday there were discussions with the city about options for possible quick evacuations in New Orleans as the city faces deficiencies in its drainage and pumping system.

But Steele said evacuations are not a certainty and if they occur they might involve residents merely relocating to a nearby parish or even sheltering in place depending on rainfall conditions.

"It's hard to say at this point you know what exactly those moves will be because we don't know exactly how much rainfall is going to fall and we don't which areas are going to be the hardest hit areas at this point,” said Steele.

And Steele stressed that discussions did not center around a “contra-flow” type of evacuation, but more like getting people out of certain areas of the city where the rainfall would be too much for the current drainage system.

"Contra-flow is a major exercise and it's usually done almost as a last resort. You actually see evacuation orders ahead of the contra-flow being activated and the goal is to get everyone out who has the capability to get out well ahead of storm. So with contra flow you pull that trigger or activate that plan when it's the last attempt to get everyone out of south Louisiana, you start with the coastal areas first, the extreme coastal areas,” said Steele.

For its part, city hall said it has not changed anything concerning the city’s evacuation plan. Mayor Mitch Landrieu commented on that Tuesday during a press conference at the governor’s mansion.

"We don't have a new plan to evacuate the city in a rain storm. What we had was a hurricane roundtable to talk about what all of the issues were and what the trigger would be,” said the mayor.

FEMA’s new chief who traveled to Louisiana this week urges everyone to heed local alerts.

"As we come into the heart of hurricane season, I want to reiterate that it's very important for everyone in the State of Louisiana, as well as importantly as well the City of New Orleans to fully understand the hazards that you face when it comes to not just hurricanes, but also the torrential rains that cause flooding that we've seen in the past as well,” said FEMA Administrator Brock Long.

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