Where those residents would be transported is unclear. There is no plan in place to shelter evacuees in Lafayette Parish, but that doesn't mean that Lafayette intends to close its doors to future New Orleans evacuees.
New Orleans' plan calls for a total evacuation of the city within 36 hours of the governor and mayor announcing a mandatory evacuation. In a flowchart provided to the media, the city broadly outlined its "city assisted evacuation plan." One area of the diagram shows the New Orleans Convention Center as a processing center for evacuees and another area of the chart indicates that state and regional shelters "will be opened in anticipation of receiving evacuees."
But Mayor Nagin and New Orleans officials apparently hadn't contacted state and regional representatives before they announced their plans. Baton Rouge Mayor Kip Holden was upset with being left out of the loop and told The Advocate that Baton Rouge would not take in New Orleans evacuees. "The people in Baton Rouge need to be happy as well, and we can peacefully co-exist but not with somebody dictating to us what they want us to do," said Holden. The Advocate later amended its initial report, stating that Holden was talking about the River Center, not the other 51 designated shelters in the city.
Part of Nagin's plan calls for some elderly or infirm New Orleans residents to be evacuated by Amtrak trains. "We are talking to three different agencies ' the city, the state and the federal government ' about how we can be of assistance," says Marc Magliari, an Amtrak spokesman based in Chicago. "But if you're looking for specifics as to how many trains, going which way, carrying how many people, there's no such specificity."
Dr. Jimmy Guidry, state health officer with the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals, says his department has been in contact with the city of New Orleans. He notes that individual hospitals and nursing homes are required to have their own plans for evacuations, but if those plans fall through, the state can step in. "Since the hospitals are pretty much at capacity because we've lost so many in Katrina and Rita, our plan would be to activate the National Disaster Medical System to help fly patients out of state," says Guidry.
Mark Smith, spokesman for the Governor's Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, says each city and parish is responsible for evacuating its residents, but if the need arises the state can provide assistance. "What is involved in [New Orleans'] processing plan is beyond me," he says. "I have no idea. That's something you would need to contact Ray-Ray about." Although the state would be involved with designating shelters by way of a task force, Smith says those final decisions rest with the Red Cross. "Typically," he says, "in the event of a disaster that requires sheltering, the Red Cross does the sheltering, so we work very closely with the Red Cross, but we don't interfere with their procedures." He says his department has been in contact with city and parish officials throughout the state about New Orleans' plans.
Bill Vincent, director of the Lafayette Parish Homeland Security and EmergencyÂ Preparedness, was unavailable for comment before press time. But Mike Mouton, Lafayette Consolidated Government's emergency operations and security coordinator, says Vincent is the man the state would contact in the event of a hurricane. Part of his job is planning evacuations out of Lafayette. Mouton's job is to activate that plan, but he has yet to hear from the state or New Orleans on where residents would be sheltered.
Cajundome Director Greg Davis only learned of New Orleans' plans through media reports the day after Nagin held the press conference. In one newspaper account, Davis read that the state would be responsible for determining where evacuees went from New Orleans. "When I read that I was wondering how facilities such as the Cajundome would be impacted," he says. "I'm expecting to get that word, and if I don't receive a phone call shortly, I certainly will be pursuing that information. I'm not going to go into the hurricane season not knowing that." As of press time, Davis had no further details about New Orleans' or the state's intentions.
Following hurricanes Katrina and Rita, the Cajundome sheltered 18,500 hurricane evacuees. At its maximum capacity, 7,000 residents lived in both the Cajundome and the adjoining convention center. The Cajundome operated as a shelter for two months, and it took another two months to repair and renovate the facilities, at a cost of $6 million. Davis says FEMA has agreed to pay most of the cost ' except $1.2 million, which the Cajundome is appealing.
Due to the scale of Katrina and the amount of displaced New Orleanians, Davis notes it was the first time that stadiums and arenas became shelters for extended periods of time in a role normally reserved for churches and community centers. The new shelters gave way to a new term ' mega-shelters.
Within 24 hours of the Red Cross taking over the Cajundome as a shelter in the wake of Katrina, Davis contacted City-Parish President Joey Durel and informed him that if evacuees were going to be properly cared for, he needed to take control of the facility. "The Red Cross did not have the ability to handle that," Davis says. "They were in over their heads [last year], so we took it back and managed the facility ourselves in partnership with the Red Cross."
As a member of the International Association of Assembly Managers, Davis was subsequently asked by the organization to chair a national task force to draft best practice guidelines for mega-shelters. IAAM's executive board is considering a 100-page draft titled "Mega-Shelter Best Practices for Planning and Activation" this week. If accepted, the organization will seek the endorsement of the Department of Homeland Security and the Red Cross. Another document is in the works for the operation of mega-shelters.
"I have the confidence that our state, parish and city emergency preparedness officials are aggressively working on that," says Davis. "And if I don't get the phone call, then I have the responsibility, as the director of the Cajundome, to get off of my butt and to seek them out, ask the right questions, get the right answers and then prepare this building to be a shelter, if that's what I'm required to do. I'm not going to shy away from the responsibility from doing that simply because no one picks up the phone and calls me. I'm totally confident that I'm going to get the answer, either through their initiative or my own."
Lafayette Police have had a busy day.
Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration will use $130 million in patchwork financing from a tax amnesty program, insurance settlement, uninsured motorist penalties and other excess funds to close most of the state's midyear budget deficit.
Democratic U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu said she disagrees with President Barack Obama's actions on immigration, hoping the latest controversy doesn't worsen her campaign difficulties.
Gay-rights advocates challenging Louisiana's same-sex marriage ban announced Thursday that they have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review their case before it is heard by a federal appeals court.
Thinking himself the “son of God,” the man charged with the 2013 killing of an officer of the Chitimacha Tribal Police will not stand trial following a ruling Thursday on his mental competency.
Either Saints coach Sean Payton doesn't want to tip Baltimore off as to who'll start in New Orleans' secondary on Monday night, or he really doesn't know yet.
Friday's Blogs from the Bog!
Ten departing CEOs rake in $430 million; profile of FSU gunman emerges; Buffalo's weather woes and more national and international news for Friday, November 21, 2014.
The Ethics Board gives the lame duck Youngsville mayor permission to offer a sweet parting gift to the community he’s presided over for three terms.
The money came through a general obligation bond sale Thursday.
A legend in the Acadiana Oil Patch, Comeaux died Monday, Nov. 17.
With a growing number of alleged sexual assault victims coming out against Bill Cosby in recent weeks, upcoming projects have been canned by NBC and Netflix, but that won’t affect the once-loved comedian and actor’s scheduled performance in Lafayette.
The Baltimore Ravens' retooled secondary had no trouble against a rookie quarterback at home. This week, however, their task is far more challenging: stopping Drew Brees on the road in New Orleans.
Add Texas Gov. Rick Perry's name to the list of possible Republican presidential candidates flooding the campaign trail for GOP Senate candidate Bill Cassidy.
Gov. Bobby Jindal is in Florida this week with his fellow Republican governors for another gripe session aimed at their favorite target, the president, this time taking aim at his immigration plans.
Early voting for the runoff is shortened by two days because of the Thanksgiving holiday.
“Coach Don” Gagnard is running for school board. Today he offers his critique of the socioeconomic relationship between government subsidies and obesity.
Former Le Rosier chef who cooked at the James Beard House and was named one of the “Best New Chefs in America” by Food & Wine magazine in 1995 was 48.
Pat Cooper is contesting his termination by the LPSB, filing a petition Tuesday that calls the recent decision “arbitrary and capricious.”
A look at the numbers highlights the challenge facing Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu as she tries to win a fourth term in a Dec. 6 runoff against Republican Rep. Bill Cassidy.
Incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is promising the new Republican majority will quickly resurrect Keystone XL pipeline legislation killed by Democrats, potentially setting up an early 2015 veto confrontation with President Barack Obama.
A national animal rights group has been rebuffed by a Baton Rouge district court judge, although the group might still get its day in court.
The administration says public college campuses won't be on the chopping block.
The legendary musician is performing at a $1,000-per-person fundraiser Dec. 1 in New Orleans.
Old savings and checking accounts, payroll checks, stocks and dividends, insurance proceeds, oil and gas royalty payments and other unclaimed money is sent to the state when a business cannot locate someone.