Learn evacuation routes before hurricane season

Tryve Brackin

OVERVIEW: For residents living south of Interstate-10, evacuating for hurricanes has become a way of life. Storms pounding Louisiana from the Gulf of Mexico have forced officials around the state to alter evacuation routes over the years, especially learning a great deal from storms such as Katrina and Rita in 2005.

PREPARATION: Iberville Parish, for example, is located not far below Interstate-10 and even a slight portion of it is just north of the major highway that cuts across the state before heading south to the New Orleans area.

That parish's Emergency Preparedness Director Lorrie Doiron’s area of attention is midway through what the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness considers one of several pathways to safety when a hurricane might come ashore in the state. As is the case with all of the southern parishes in Louisiana, during an emergency storm situation, the parish emergency preparedness office has two personnel manning 911 telephone lines, three working the front office, and three on the emergency board. Doiron says the local agencies go on a 24-7 alert with a 30-hour warning period if a hurricane comes within a threatening distance in the Gulf of Mexico.

SOUTHEAST EVACUATION ROUTES: There are two major evacuation routes north from areas of the state below I-10 and I-12 if a storm is headed toward the southeast area of the state. One is I-10 from New Orleans north and then west to I-49 north or toward Texas. Another is 1-55 north to I-12 and then north of I-12 into Mississippi and onward north. And, I-10 east from New Orleans to I-59 north of Slidell and onward through Hattiesburg, Miss. northward. Contraflow to the west ends near LaPlace. I-55 and I-59 contraflow away from the N.O. area begin at the I-10 and I-59 corridors going north. To the west of the state the evacuation routes are I-10 west or east and I-49 north.

SOUTHWEST EVACUATION ROUTES: If a storm is headed for the Southwest portion of Louisiana, residents in Calcasieu and Cameron parishes have two major routes available. If a storm is heading inland from west to east off the Texas coast, evacuation east on I-10 is the first option, with routes available north on I-49 in Lafayette toward Alexandria and Shreveport; or connecting with Hwy. 165 in Iowa, north to Alexandria and Monroe if a storm is heading north through the Gulf, or from east to west. For residents in Western Calcasieu Parish, traveling Hwy. 27 north to DeRidder and then Hwy. 171 through DeRidder and Leesville is also another option.

THEY SAID: “Experience from recent storms has helped all of our state agencies to improve in evacuation procedure. Here in our parish our local law enforcement works closely with the National Guard and the DOTD to assist them if they are needed to keep state roads clear for evacuation routes through our area. Our parish emergency preparedness office and law enforcement officials are responsible for keeping the parish roads open and clear,” explained Doiron.

IF YOU ARE ORDERED TO EVACUATE: If you are ordered to evacuate, take only the essential items needed. Turn off gas, electricity, and water at your home to be departed. Disconnect appliances as well as a safety measure if and when power is restored. Recheck your emergency items for the road. Follow the designated evacuation routes by looking for the state blue-colored evacuation route signs along the roadsides. And, always expect heavy traffic along the evacuation routes and plan as best your departure time according.