Mandatory Evacuation (Part 1) by “The Coach”
Hurricane Gustav formed on Tuesday, August 25, 2008 in the Caribbean. Approximately three (3) years after Hurricane Katrina hit the New Orleans area. This is a true account of the mandatory evacuation of my wife and me.
On Saturday, August 30, 2008, the authorities called for a voluntary evacuation of southeast Louisiana.
Early in the AM hours of Sunday, August 31, 2008, Hurricane Gustav entered the Gulf of Mexico. The winds were a sustained 150 miles per hour. Hurricane Gustav was forecasted to hit the southeast coast of Louisiana on the afternoon of Monday, September 1, 2008 between New Orleans and Baton Rouge, La. This put the New Orleans metro area on the east side of Hurricane Gustav. The east side of a hurricane is where the strongest winds, heaviest rain, highest tides and tornados are located. At 8:00 AM the authorities changed that voluntary evacuation to a mandatory evacuation order. The Governor of Louisiana, Bobby Jindal, ordered the Louisiana Nation Guard activated. New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin ordered a dust to dawn curfew. He advised everyone that if they decided to weather Hurricane Gustav in place and not evacuate as ordered, they could not expect ANY emergency governmental services to assist them in any emergency for an unknown period of time. They would be totally on their own with no assistance.
At this time my wife and I still worked for a governmental agency in downtown New Orleans. Getting out early is the key to a quick evacuation or bug out. I was required to work the 3:00 P.M. to 11:00 P.M. shift on Saturday, August 30, 2008. My wife had to work the 11:00 P.M. to 7:00 A.M. shift for Sunday, August 31, 2008. We knew we were going to be in a lot of vehicle traffic exiting southeast Louisiana by the time we could leave. The bad news was that we could not leave until after my wife got off of work at 7:00 AM on Sunday, August 31, 2008. We made the decision to evacuate and not weather the storm at our residence because we were going to be on the east side of Hurricane Gustav when it came ashore.
I attempted to make reservations at a motels and hotels in central Mississippi and central Alabama. Every motel/hotel that I tried was already booked full. I then telephoned the pastor of my church. I asked him if there were any information on sheltering accommodations for the church members evacuating for the hurricane. I told him our predicament of not being able to evacuate until Sunday morning, August 31, 2008. Our pastor knew where my wife and I worked and understood our problem. Within thirty (30) minutes, our Pastor telephoned me back. He gave me the name and address of a couples residence who were members of a sister church in Meridian, Mississippi. We made Meridian, Mississippi the destination of our evacuation.
We decided to take both my wife’s car and my pickup truck when we evacuated. My wife packed her vehicle and topped off her fuel tank before she went to work on Saturday, August 30, 2008. On my way home from work at 11:30 P.M. on Saturday, August 30, 2008, I fueled my truck. I then went home and packed my pickup truck. I secured the hurricane shutters on our home. I then packed two small ice chests, one for each of our vehicles. I packed sandwiches, soft drinks and bottled water in both ice chest. I also packed two shoe boxes with snack food items. I placed one ice chest and one shoe box of snack food on the passenger’s front seat of my truck. When my wife got home, she did the same in her vehicle.
We had loaded our vehicles with our bug out bags, computer thumb drives that had all of our photographs on them, one suite case each, with clothes, shower kits and our fire boxes with all of our important documents. We also packed a case of bottle water and a plastic bucket full of freeze dried prepackaged meals in each vehicle. In my truck, I packed a small tent and our camping gear, which included our sleeping bags and pads and folding military cots, just in case. When people evacuated for Hurricane Katrina, they were not able to return home for a minimum of three (3) weeks. We wanted to be prepared in case Hurricane Gustav would be a repeat.
After Hurricane Katrina, I purchased two hand held radios from my local Wally World. I planned to use them to communicate between my wife in her vehicle and myself in my truck while evacuating. We learned during Hurricane Katrina that the cell phone system got overwhelmed quickly and did not operate reliably. I took the rechargeable batteries out of the radios and replaced them with AA batteries. There would be no way that we could recharge the batteries that the radios came with while evacuating. However, we could change out the AA batteries quickly. Each radio takes three (3) AA batteries to operate it. I got two zip lock bags and placed twelve (12) extra AA batteries in each of those bags as spare batteries for each radio.
I also placed four (4), full, five (5) gallon gas cans in a carry rack that attached to the trailer hitch of my pickup truck. This proved to be valuable when we evacuated.
I then got a few hours of sleep.