With a month to go until the official start of the hurricane season in the Atlantic, and only two weeks until the start in the Pacific, government officials are starting to take notice. In Texas, which suffered from a disasterous evacuation from Hurricane Rita last summer, state officials are running a hurricane drill in preparation for this year.
From the Associated Press:
Still haunted by last year's deadly evacuation during Hurricane Rita, thousands of emergency planners are undertaking a statewide evacuation drill that's being called the biggest in Texas history.In New Orleans, Ray Nagin (Mayor of the Chocolate City) has announced new plans to evacuate New Orleans in case of a hurricane strike. It is worth noting that engineering studies revealed that New Orleans' levees would have failed from a Category 1 hurricane before Katrina, and that they are not ever repaired back to their original strength yet. New Orleans will likely to have to evacuated if threatened with even a tropical storm as the levees overtopped last summer even from Rita which struck along the Texas border.
The three-day exercise that begins today will simulate everything from safely moving elderly residents to quickly preparing highways for contraflow — emergency procedures that Rita made a mockery of in September.
About 130 people died as about 3 million people tried fleeing the Houston area, according to a report presented to emergency leaders from along the Gulf Coast last month.
This week's drill won't be entirely realistic. Traffic won't be disrupted and shelters won't be crammed with people acting as evacuees.
But the simulation should still expose what scenarios need improvement before the hurricane season begins June 1, said John Simsen, Galveston County's emergency management coordinator.
From the Associated Press:
But what will this year hold in store? Take a look at the chart of William Gray's official forecast compared to last year's forecast.Mayor Ray Nagin unveiled a new evacuation strategy for New Orleans on Tuesday that relies more on buses and trains and eliminates the Superdome and Convention Center as shelters.
"There will be no shelter of last resort," Nagin declared.
The mayor, facing a runoff election May 20, has been widely criticized for failing to get the city's most vulnerable residents out of town as Hurricane Katrina approached.
The Superdome and Morial Convention Center became a scene of misery for days after the Aug. 29 hurricane as thousands of evacuees, many of them ill or elderly, languished with shortages of food and water.
In the future, Nagin said, the Convention Center will be a staging point for evacuations, not a shelter.
I hope all of you fear mongers enjoyed that graphic. It is worth noting that William Gray's forecasts taken since he has been giving them are less accurate than the 5 year running average. Chew on that for a while. On the other hand, a group from NASA is forecasting a strong El Nino this year, which would mean a very quiet Atlantic hurricane season. Either way, I hope your insurance is paid up!