Mandatory Evacuation (Part 2) by “The Coach”
On Sunday, August 31, 2008 at approximately 7:15 A.M., my wife arrived home from working the midnight shift. We finished securing our home, said a prayer for our safe evacuation and left shortly after.
My wife had her pistol with her in her vehicle and I had my pistol with me in my vehicle. We both have permits to carry those pistols concealed and we have trained with them extensively. We both carried Leatherman, multi-tools on our belts. During Hurricane Katrina, we found multi-tools very useful.
We decided to evacuate using I-10 east and entered the I-10 at the Williams Blvd., La., State Highway 49, entrance in Kenner, Louisiana. That is where vehicle traffic became stop and go. Someone could have literally walked faster than we were moving. Once on I-10 east, we could not get off. ALL of the exits off of I-10 east were blocked all the way to the Louisiana/Mississippi border 41.8 miles.
It took us eight (8) hours to travel from the Williams Blvd., La Hwy. 49, entrance to I-10 in Kenner, Louisiana, to the New Orleans east sign, a total of 21.4 miles. (See the Photo to the left) At this point my wife radioed me advising she needed to urinate. I had to go also. We could not get off of the I-10 and the government did not place any port-a-potties along the evacuation route. Our only option was to pull to the side of I-10 and do what we had to do. My wife pulled over to the right emergency lane and stopped. I pulled my pickup truck behind my wife’s car to conceal her as much as possible. We both kept a roll of toilet paper, in a zip lock bag, in our bug out bags. My wife exited her car, opened the passenger’s side door and relieved herself. When she finished, I did the same, since there was nowhere else to go. Once other evacuates, traveling on I-10, realized what we were doing, many started to pull over also. When you have to go, you have to go!
NOTE: I had my C.B. radio operational in my pickup truck. I found it totally useless because of the amount of radio traffic being transmitted on it. I could not understand anything being transmitted on it because of numerous people talking at the same time. However, the little hand held radios worked great between my wife and I.
Before getting back on I-10 east to continue our evacuation, I put five (5) gallons of gas, from the five (5) gallon cans on the back of my truck, in my wife’s car and ten (10) gallons of gas into my pickup truck. While doing so, a vehicle pulled up behind me. He asked if he could buy my last five (5) gallons of gas. I told him, no. The driver told me he was almost out of gas and would pay me $50.00 for the five (5) gallon of gas. I told the gentleman, no, that I did not know how much longer it would be before we could get off of the interstate to get gas for our vehicles and refill the five gallon gas cans. I told him I may need the last five (5) gallons for my truck or my wife’s car. The “gentleman” got very aggravated and demanded I sell him the gas. I had to get in his face and tell him to back off. He was not a happy camper!
When we attempted to reenter I-10 traffic, there was no problem. A driver stopped his vehicle and allowed both my wife and I to get back into traffic. As a general rule, most evacuating drivers were civil and realized no one was going anywhere fast.
We were still moving at a stop and go speed.
Approximately two (2) hours later, we made it to the I-10/I-12/I-59 split. I noticed that the I-10 east portion of the split was barricaded off and no one was allowed to go that way. I asked a Louisiana State Trooper why? The trooper replied that the Alabama State Police had closed I-10 at the Mobile tunnel because of the large volume of traffic and the bottle neck it was creating.
We took the I-59 north fork of the interchange.
Traffic continued to move at a stop and go speed. (See photo to the left. That is I-59 north in Miss.) After entering Mississippi, I noticed that ALL of the I-59 exits we passed were blocked by police vehicles. The police were not letting anyone get off of I-59. Many drivers tried to explain that they had nothing to eat, needed fuel and needed to go to the bathroom. However, the Mississippi Law Enforcement Officers did not want to hear it. They told people if the attempted to force their way off of the interstate onto the exit ramps, they would be arrested. I then learned that ALL interstate exit ramps on I-59 were closed from the Louisiana/Mississippi border to just before Hattiesburg, Mississippi.
We finally made it to Hattiesburg, Mississippi and continued north to Meridian, Mississippi. At approximately 11:15 P.M., on August 31, 2008, we arrived in Meridian, Mississippi and located our host. (See photo to the left) I will not use their real names, but Mr. and Mrs. Smith were VERY helpful and accommodating. They made us feel at home and had a meal ready for us.
To this day I do not know how my wife worked all night and then spent all of those hours driving without falling asleep.
On Monday, September 1, 2008, Hurricane Gustav hit the City of Houma in southeast Louisiana, exactly where the Hurricane Center had predicted.
That morning, we filled our gas tanks and checked the engine and transmission fluid levels. I also checked the tire pressure in both vehicles. I filled all of the five (5) gallon gas cans. We got our vehicles washed and picked up some canned soft drinks and sandwich meat. Upon returning to our host’s home, we squared away both vehicles and got them ready for the return trip home the next morning.
On Tuesday, September 2, 2008, we thanked our hosts and said a prayer before returning home without incident. Luckily, our home did not sustain any hurricane damage.
The Law Enforcement authorities did not tell anyone that all of the exits off the interstate would be closed all the way to Hattiesburg, Mississippi during the evacuation of southeast Louisiana. Also, no one was told that I-10 east to Mobile, Alabama was closed. It was a total surprise. If we had not packed the vehicles with the supplies that we did, we would have been very hungry, thirsty and ran out of gas.
Always prepare for the unexpected when planning for an evacuation or bug out. Plan for all of the situations that MAY occur. Remember Murphy’s Law, whatever can go wrong, will go wrong, at the worst possible time!
Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.
George Santayana (1863 – 1952), The Life of Reason, Volume 1, 1905