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New Orleans Tests Revamped Hurricane Evacuation Plan

New Orleans officials enacted an updated plan Tuesday, under which an evacuation will be ordered up to 36 hours before a Category 3 or stronger hurricane hits the city. Local emergency responders used the test to prepare for the upcoming hurricane season.

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  • HURRICANE PLANNER:

    Currently, a hurricane watch is in effect for the entire Louisiana coast.

  • TOM BEARDEN, NewsHour Correspondent:

    The emergency operations center in Baton Rouge, running a full-scale simulation of a fictitious storm named Alicia, about to make landfall in southeastern Louisiana.

  • HURRICANE PLANNER:

    Currently, we are an estimated 48 hours from landfall.

  • TOM BEARDEN:

    The exercise started on Friday and runs through today. The idea was to allow first responders and public officials throughout the state, like New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, to test their plans for reacting to a Category 3 hurricane.

    RAY NAGIN, Mayor of New Orleans: New Orleans is definitely in the cone of probability, as far as it hitting us. As for our new plan, we'll be calling tomorrow. Most likely, it looks as though we may have a mandatory evacuation.

  • TOM BEARDEN:

    New plans outlined by the mayor and the governor call for a mandatory evacuation when a Category 3 or higher hurricane is predicted to strike the city. As before, officials expect most citizens to use their own vehicles to get away.

    They hope to speed the evacuation by converting most major highways into one-way routes out of the city. And there are plans to activate 6,000 National Guardsmen to protect people's property while they're gone.

    The goal is to avoid the deadly consequences of Hurricane Katrina, which killed more than 1,000 people in the state. Thousands of others who remained in New Orleans during the storm were crammed into the Superdome, begging for food and water.

    In a sharp break with the past, Nagin said this year New Orleans will not provide any shelters for people who don't have transportation. Instead, people will be evacuated as early as three days before projected landfall.

    Governor Kathleen Blanco explained.

    GOV. KATHLEEN BLANCO (D), Louisiana: When hurricanes threaten, the best way to save lives, as we all know very well, is to get people away from the danger zone before the hurricane strikes. Our citizens must know and understand that that is the safest way they can protect themselves and their families.