I truly hope and pray that all folks in the mandatory evacuation areas heed all the warnings and leave. Please evacuate! This storm is 400 miles wide and is currently a Category 3 hurricane with winds gusting to 150 mph, so it is also affecting coastal areas adjacent to Louisiana, as well. Hurricane Gustav is gaining in both speed and pressure, with landfall now projected to be earlier than originally anticipated. Coastal Texas, as far west as Sabine Pass is being evacuated, as well as coastal Mississippi. Retired Lt. General Honore stated that 'landfall looks like it may be west of New Orleans, with that city hit by the most destructive east side of the storm. New Orleans is facing potentially more wind damage, rainfall, and flooding due to tidal and storm surge than during Katrina.'
Louisiana Governor Jindal has recommended Louisiana residents go to http://www.emergency.louisiana.org/ for accurate, updated information. Everything south of I-10 is subject to flooding. Storm surge is currently projected up to 12-16 feet in some areas. He has said not to take a chance riding out the storm; take the warnings seriously. Don't wait until tropical winds begin to hit your area, as that is too late. He strongly encourages you to 'pack up yourself and your family. and evacuate now! Go now! We can't be certain how the levees will hold, and the West levees weren't even tested during Katrina. If you live behind a levee, you should look at it as being there to protect your house, not your life. If it fails, you lose your home, but not your life.'
I say, better safe, than sorry (or injured or dead). Mayor Nagin said that 'if you live in or near a trailer, they are only rated to a maximum wind load of 35mph, so they can become projectiles flying around New Orleans. Post-storm, there may not be electricity, potable water, open grocery stores. There may be toxic floodwaters, downed powerlines and other extremely unsafe conditions. As for looters, they will be taken directly to Angola maximum security prison and put in with the general population of inmates who serve sentences of 50 years or more.'
The last train out of New Orleans will be at 5:30pm Central Time, due to the necessity of closing 3 sets of flood gates behind this last train, as it moves along its route. If you cannot take your pet with you, pets can be registered and left at the evacuation center at the same railroad station from which you can evacuate. Don't forget their prescription medications and instructions! They will be placed in crates and loaded onto air-conditioned trucks and taken out of harm's way.
FEMA's website is http://www.fema.gov/ Evacuees can go there to register your current location on the National Emergency Family Registry and Locator System (NEFRLS), just as you did during Katrina: https://asd.fema.gov/inter/nefrls/home.htm If you do not have internet access at some point, you can call 1-800-588-9822 to register, as well.
If you evacuate, the Red Cross lists important items not to forget to take with you, to which I've added a few things (because you have had time to prepare for this emergency):
Toiletries - toothbrush, toothpaste, toilet paper, etc.
Medical supplies - prescription medications, dentures and vitamins
Clothing and bedding - bring a change of clothes; a sleeping bag, blanket, or bedroll; and a pillow for each household member
Games/books/comfort items for children
Disaster supplies - including a flashlight, batteries, radio, first aid kit, bottled water, and some pre-packaged, non-perishable food such as granola bars or meals ready-to-eat (MRE)
Car keys and keys to your place of destination (friend's or relative's home)
Pets and any pet prescription medications, if at all possible
List of important phone numbers and addresses, including credit card and bank account information
Important papers such as passports and birth certificates
Those folks who would like to receive the new experimental podcast briefings or updates from the National Weather Service's National Hurricane Center, please go to the following: http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/audio/index.shtml They plan to issue the podcast every few hours upon landfall. To subscribe, go to http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/audio/index_podcast.xml
Those who would like to receive updates to their mobile phone should go to the following:
Text only: www.nhc.noaa.gov/index.shtml?text
Mobile/PDA's/SmartPhones/phones capable of receiving basic HTML: www.nhc.noaa.gov/mobile
If you are one of the people affected by Gustav, in addition to the FEMA site, you can let your loved ones know when you have reached a safe haven by registering yourself and family on the Red Cross Safe and Well website by going to http://www.redcross.org/ and clicking on the Safe and Well link, then click List myself as safe and well," enter your pre-disaster address and information, and select one the standard messages appropriate to your situation. If you do not have internet access, or lose it during the storm, you can call the Red Cross to do the same at 1-800-RED-CROSS (1-800-733-2767), and follow the prompts. If you have a family member in the affected area, you can go to their website and do a search by entering their name and pre-disaster address and phone number. If they have registered, you will be able to hear any messages they have left.
For the rest of us, yes many of us are lucky to be off work on Labor day. However, considering our fellow citizens are facing this major hurricane and the possible loss of their homes and possessions, for the second time, perhaps we can take some time out of our day to at least donate to the Red Cross http://american.redcross.org/site/PageServer?pagename=ggl_options or another appropriate disaster relief organization.
Good luck and my hopes and prayers are with all those affected and those who remain in harm's way to provide essential services!
My information has been compiled directly from the following sources: CNN Live Broadcast and the FEMA, Red Cross, and National Weather Service websites.
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17 hours ago