Many people who don’t live in this area may have wondered why storm preparations begin so far in advance of the storm. These storms are much more predictable than tornadoes and we get a lot of warning, however, the exact place the storm will make landfall is not known until the storm is about 20 hours away.
One reason we start preparing early is that as soon as a storm is predicted to be in the Gulf of Mexico there is run on hurricane supplies. We need batteries for the portable radios and flashlights since there is a better than average chance that electrical service will be disrupted. Without electricity there is no refrigeration, not gasoline pumps, to air-conditioning, etc. So there is a dash for supplies needed to to weather the storm, things like fresh bread, tuna, batteries, or generators. . .
We begin boarding up the windows early because it is easier to do before the rain starts and it frees us up to handle other details.
New Orleans has over a million people, many of whom do not have transportation. It takes a long time to move that many people out of harm’s way. The pictures we have seen of traffic on the freeways is evidence of this-and they started evacuations 3 days ago.
This picture is from the New Orleans newspaper, The Times Picayune, and it shows traffic heading west. Unfortunately, the traffic heading east is even worse.
As you can see from this map there are not very many north/south interstates on the Gulf Coast. For this reason most traffic must travel east or west to get to an evacuation route, and that is where the problem lies.
Interstate 10 in New Orleans has roughly 5 lanes on each side of the freeway. The traffic on this freeway then bottlenecks to 2 lanes-and this is true whether you travel east or west. No wonder the traffic comes to a crawl! That is why it is very important to start moving the people out of the way as soon as possible.
No one likes to evacuate-it is dangerous, expensive, nerve-racking, and hard work, but if you live in this area it is sometimes necessary. Occasionally you evacuate and the storm takes a turn, and all was in vain. Those are the times you say a prayer of thanks for all the wasted effort.