A Open Letter to Jindal and Nagin about future Hurricanes

Let it be known, Hurricane Gustav is a big, nasty, ugly storm, and it means to do some business with the South Louisiana. With this storm bearing down on the South Louisiana coast, the word is out from the state and the City of New Orleans: Get Out Now! This from Mayor Ray Nagin:

New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin called Gustav “the mother of all storms,” saying its destruction could outstrip that from Katrina, which flooded much of his city.

“You need to be scared,” Nagin said of the Category 4 hurricane tearing along Cuba’s western coast. “You need to be concerned, and you need to get your butts moving out of New Orleans right now. This is the storm of the century.”

Governor Bobby Jindal’s public have been equally dire:

Governor Jindal said, “The most updated information from the National Hurricane Center shows that the storm is very likely to get stronger. As early as tomorrow afternoon they will issue a hurricane watch and on Sunday they will likely issue a hurricane warning for Hurricane Gustav. Louisiana will most likely begin to see tropical storm force winds Monday morning. These are very dangerous winds, and because people cannot drive in these conditions, we expect to begin contraflow Sunday morning or even late Saturday night. They are now predicting this could be a hurricane category 3 or 4 storm, and the state is working closely with coastal parishes to aid them in evacuating their residents in a timely manner.”

Governor Jindal announced that a total of 19 total parishes have declared a state of emergency now … The Governor said, “Coastal parishes should be recommending that their residents voluntarily begin to evacuate today, and some will issue mandatory evacuations tomorrow, so residents are evacuated before contraflow begins on Sunday morning.”

To give credit where credit is due, city and state officials aren’t just trying to scare New Orleans and Gulf Coast residents into evacuating. They have also done a much better job than last time at facilitating evacuation. According to Mayor Nagin, about 10,000 people have already been evacuated on buses, trains, and planes provided by the city and state governments, which is about 10,000 more people than the government had helped to evacuated at this point three years ago. Unlike last time, when there were no buses and no place for people to go to get on a bus, this time there are 17 temporary terminals where people without transportation can go to get on a bus. The state government has mobilized roughly 500 buses to service people trying to get out of the city and other parts of South Louisiana, and Governor Jindal has reportedly been asking for more buses from Texas and other states. Moreover, the city of New Orleans contracted with Amtrak to help move some 1,500 elderly people out of the city by train. Finally, as of this writing the state government has begun “contraflow” procedures on I-10, meaning that they have converted the Interstate into a one-way highway moving west away from the city. Once again, this has been done quicker than it was last time.

While it’s far too early to applaud anybody, it does appear that Louisiana is a lot better prepared for this hurricane than we were for Katrina. If Gustav changes course and hits Alabama or Texas this will all have been much ado about nothing, but it’s good to know that state and local officials have learned something from the bitter experiences of three years ago. Let me also say that, whatever their professional relationship might be like (I really have no idea) Nagin and Jindal seem to be working better together than did Nagin and Blanco. That may not be saying much, since it is difficult to imagine two politicians hating each other more than those two pols hated one another.

With all that being said, if the last couple of days have shown up anything, it is how much further we still have to go to perfect our response to these sorts of natural disasters. One of the biggest challenges we face, which I have already touched upon, is the simple problem of transportation. As a quick glance at a Louisiana map will show, there’s really only a few major routes out of New Orleans in case of a storm, including I-10 East & West, Highway 90, and the Lake Ponchartrain Causeway. That’s fine for commercial and everyday travel, but when you’re trying to get in and/or get out of a city in a hurry, it poses a real challenge. Which got me thinking: is there a cheap, safe, and most importantly fast way to move people into and out of a major city like New Orleans without relying on automobiles? The answer I came up with can be summarized in one word: monorails.

Monorails are a cheap, reliable, user friendly, and (most importantly) fast form of public transportation. Although speeds vary depending on the type of transportation desired, a typical monorail might travel at between 100 and 150 MPH for long stretches. What if a monorail were constructed from New Orleans to Baton Rouge and to Alexandria? Such a plan would likely accomplish three objectives: First, it would reduce wear and tear on our roads. Second, it would reduce consumption of fossil fuels such as oil. Third, it would provide Louisiana with a safe and speedy way of evacuating New Orleans prior to major weather-related catastrophes such as hurricanes.

What do you guys think?