89th American Meteorological Society Annual Meeting

Tuesday, 13 January 2009: 2:30 PM
Lessons Learned: Evacuations Management of Hurricane Gustav
Room 121A (Phoenix Convention Center)
Mark A. Shafer, Oklahoma Climatological Survey, Norman, OK; and B. Keim, S. Van Cooten, and G. M. Eosco
Poster PDF (1.9 MB)
Three years after New Orleans was struck by Hurricane Katrina, the city proved they were ready for the next big one. As the National Hurricane Center forecasts started indicating a possible category 3 or stronger hurricane heading towards Louisiana, the city began preparations for evacuation. Two days before landfall, Mayor Nagin urged residents to “get your butts out of New Orleans.” Nearly two million residents along the Gulf Coast followed this advice. Although Hurricane Gustav weakened before landfall, there was still substantial risk of flooding or levee breaches that kept the city on edge.

Some of those evacuees were bussed to Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. The State of Oklahoma opted for a single facility, located at a former manufacturing facility in Oklahoma City, capable of providing food and shelter for 4,000 people. During a devastating ice storm in December 2007, city officials learned that a single shelter provided better services to their citizens than multiple shelters throughout the city. Resources and disaster assistance organizations could be concentrated in a single location and individual needs could be better tracked. FEMA took note of the model, and recommended that it be adopted as a model for hurricane evacuations.

This new model was put to the test as the shelter was assembled in less than 24 hours. On Sunday, August 31, city officials began preparing to receive what they expected to be about 8 busses carrying 400 evacuees. By Monday morning, that figure swelled to 34 busses carrying 1,800 evacuees. Although some supplies ran short, officials were able to procure what they needed within a matter of hours.

It was not just the logistics of the event that were impressive, it was also in the details. During news briefings, management officials referred to the people as “guests” and made every effort to make them feel welcomed. Pets were transported separately to nearby animal shelters and arrangements were made for visitation. City officials provided extra security and assistance to help guests find their way around the city for those desired to find other restaurants or simply walk around.

This presentation will detail the evacuation plans from New Orleans and the state of Louisiana and coordination with Oklahoma officials.

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