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New Orleans, Louisiana Officials Issue Evacuations, Other Hurricane Ida Safety Plans

City of New Orleans

As Hurricane Ida moves closer to the Gulf of Mexico, officials in the New Orleans metro area urged residents to prepare for what could be a strong Category 3 hurricane.

Mayor LaToya Cantrell called for a voluntary evacuation for all those inside the New Orleans Levee System Friday. For those outside of it, evacuation is mandatory.

The sections outside of the levee system can expect to see storm surge up to 11 feet, said Collin Arnold, Director of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness.

“Being on the east side of this storm is not ideal,” said Arnold, who said that New Orleans will be on the wetter side of the storm.

Rain and winds from the storm could arrive as fast as Saturday night, and officials said residents should prepare for gusting winds that last until Monday morning. The high velocity of winds could create a significant amount of power outages.

By Saturday afternoon, officials say the city should be ready for the storm to hit. Neutral ground parking will be allowed starting at noon Saturday, and Cantrell said if your trash can is not picked up by Saturday afternoon, it needs to be secured.

The Sewage and Water Board said three major pumps are down out of their 99 drainage pumps, but they say the nearby pumps are strong enough to keep up with overflow of the downed ones.

“Our mission is obviously to stay ahead of the storms. The goal is to keep the city dry,” said Ghassan Korban, the executive director of the SWBNO. “But at one point, once our system is overrun, our mission shifts from keeping the city dry to just pumping the city as fast as we can.”

Dr. Jennifer Avegno said that no local hospitals are planning to evacuate patients to facilities further away from the storm, as most hospitals near New Orleans are at or near capacity due to COVID-19.

Outside of Orleans Parish, Terrebonne officials declared a mandatory evacuation for parts of the parish as of Friday morning, with the rest of the parish under a voluntary evacuation.

Jefferson Parish officials urged everyone who can evacuate to leave as soon as possible, and those who stay should expect at least a few days without power. The parish has 194 of 195 pumps available, and officials said they have deployed equipment to clear debris quickly after the storm passes.

Transit will continue to operate while weather permits. There will be garbage pickup on Saturday.

Vaccination and COVID-19 testing locations in the parish are closed. Parish offices will be closed Monday.

“We are completely in storm mode,” said Jefferson Parish President Cynthia Lee Sheng.

“Do not focus on the center track. It could flip at the last minute. We could be very vulnerable with just small degrees of change. So this is a major storm coming our way,” she said.

The first effects of the storm are expected Saturday night, she said.

Grand Isle in Jefferson Parish issued a voluntary evacuation late Thursday. There’s also a voluntary evacuation order for Jean Lafitte, Lower Lafitte, Crown Point and Barataria.

“Generally where you are on Saturday night is where you have to hunker down and stay,” Sheng said. “So there is not a lot of time to do this.”

Officials warned people to stay inside the day after the storm to minimize accidents that could overwhelm a health care system already stretched thin with COVID-19 patients.

“I've been to hospitals after a storm, and it's flooded with people that fell off of ladders, have a tree branch in their eye, all of these kinds of other injuries that come after a storm,” Sheng said. “That is not the position that our medical community can handle right now.”

In Plaquemines Parish, there’s a mandatory evacuation order beginning at 3 p.m. for the East Bank and areas between the Phillips 66 Alliance Refinery and Venice. Other parts of the parish are under a voluntary evacuation order.

Lafourche Parish announced a mandatory evacuation for the entire parish beginning at 5 a.m. Saturday.

Grand Isle in Jefferson Parish issued a voluntary evacuation late Thursday. There’s also a voluntary evacuation order for Jean Lafitte, Lower Lafitte, Crown Point and Barataria.

St. Tammany Parish President Mike Cooper warned residents on Thursday to gather essential supplies, extra food and water, medicine, batteries and other essential items — and to be prepared for the pandemic, too.

“Remember, we're still fighting COVID-19, so get cleaning supplies and protective gear,” he said in a video posted to Facebook.

Nic Hunter, the mayor of Lake Charles, said it was “surreal” to be warning people of a possible hurricane making landfall within days of the anniversary of Hurricane Laura, which hit the southwest of Louisiana as a Category 4 storm on Aug. 27, 2020.

“Like many of you, I want to get on the roof of City Hall and shout, ‘Mother Nature, we've had enough. We've had our fill.’ I don't have the words,” Hunter said in a video posted to Facebook on Wednesday.

Hurricane Ida is expected to make landfall in southeast Louisiana late Sunday or early Monday, the former being the 16th anniversary date of Hurricane Katrina’s landfall.

Rosemary Westwood is the public and reproductive health reporter for WWNO/WRKF. She was previously a freelance writer specializing in gender and reproductive rights, a radio producer, columnist, magazine writer and podcast host.

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