New Orleans, LA – The evacuation of nearly two million people from coastal Louisiana was completed according to plan by Sunday night, August 31 in anticipation of Hurricane Gustav. Forecasters said the hurricane was expected to reach landfall on Monday morning, testing three years of planning and rebuilding after Hurricane Katrina caused massive destruction to the Gulf coast.
The New Orleans Morial Convention Center and the Louisiana Superdome were secured and protected by the National Guard and State Police, and will not serve as evacuation centers or shelters. Stephen Perry, president and CEO of the New Orleans Convention and Visitor Bureau, said this decision ensures that after the storm and cleanup, the convention center and Superdome will be ready to host expositions, events, meetings and sporting events. Here is the statement from Perry, in its entirety, sent at 10 p.m EST on August 31.
“The city of New Orleans is now well prepared for the arrival of Hurricane Gustav. The evacuation of all visitors to the city went exceptionally well and almost flawlessly followed the emergency plan established after Hurricane Katrina. Only very minor logistical tweaking was necessary as the plan worked even better than hoped for.
“New Orleans is now the best prepared city in the world for a major disruptive event such as this. The federal, state and local governments, in stark contrast to the unexpected events of Katrina, coordinated seamlessly the positioning of supplies, emergency personnel, public safety officers and first responders.
“The city is proud to not only be the nation’s leader in fun, food, music and major cultural and sporting events, but now to be the most sophisticated destination in the world in all levels of emergency planning, execution and visitor management.
“The New Orleans CVB coordinated the flow of all emergency communications from the Office of Emergency Preparedness and Homeland Security to New Orleans hotels and our guest population.
“Visitors were informed of all developments and were encouraged to and provided the opportunity to depart a day early in advance of mandatory evacuation of the residents of the city. This was to ease their departure and make it as convenient as possible. Drive-in visitors were provided the same opportunities.
“Additional transportation to Armstrong airport to supplement taxi and shuttle service was provided to ensure the easy flow of all visitors to the airport. The airlines added new sections and up-gauged equipment to ensure that all visitors were able to leave by the end of flight service at 6:00 p.m. Sunday. All operations at the airport have gone smoothly and all fly in visitors had departed by Sunday evening. The airport closed at that point and will remain closed until after the storm. Exact re-open times will be posted when that decision is made.
“The only visitors remaining in the city after 6:00 p.m. Sunday are national and local media imbedded in a few select hotel properties. Hotels have now closed to the public and have fully secured and protected their facilities.
“A city-wide curfew has been set for sunset Sunday evening until morning. This will continue through the storm to ensure the safety and protection of all local businesses and hotels, restaurants and other commercial properties. This will ensure that after the storm the city’s hospitality industry will be able to re-open relatively swiftly in fine condition.
“The New Orleans Morial Convention Center and the Louisiana Superdome are well secured and protected by the National Guard and State Police and will not serve any role as evacuation centers or shelters. This will ensure that, immediately after the storm events, those facilities will be in superb shape and ready to serve our corporate and association meeting community and the myriad of sporting and other special events hosted in the Dome.
“No city has ever been as well prepared for a major catastrophic event as is New Orleans today. The public and private security of our hospitality facilities is superb. We look forward to quickly managing through the storm and reopening for business shortly thereafter.
“We do expect some flooding from the surge of water and from the extensive rainfall expected. It is projected that the other bank of the Mississippi from the French Quarter, locally known as the West Bank, will be much more exposed than the east bank where the downtown and the French Quarter lie.
“All ultimately depends on the exact location of the strike of the storm, its wind velocity and the levels of rainfall. Right now we are cautiously optimistic that we will be back in short order.
“Wish us good luck and we will post new information as we are able and it becomes available.”
J. Stephen Perry
New Orleans Convention and Visitor Bureau
2020 St. Charles Ave.
New Orleans, LA 70130