Former Baton Rouge Mayor-President Kip Holden appeared as a guest on National Public Radio's "IA" program this week, speaking about the challenges Louisiana's capital city faced when taking in a huge influx of Hurricane Katrina evacuees in 2005.
Guests on the radio program debated whether Houston should have been evacuated before Hurricane Harvey hit.
Baton Rouge saw tens of thousands of Katrina evacuees stream into the city from the New Orleans area in 2005, during Holden's first year as mayor-president. The parish essentially grew overnight by 100,000.
Just months after East Baton Rouge Parish Mayor-President Kip Holden came into office in 200…
Holden discussed on the show the difficulty of trying to coordinate multiple agencies at once to ensure that a city can handle a swell of refugees.
"We had to shift from preparing for a hurricane to now having to take evacuees," said the former mayor-president. "We couldn't yell for help because we were the place people were coming to for help."
While Holden's response to Katrina was widely applauded, that wasn't the case when floods devastated Baton Rouge in 2016. He was criticized for going on a week long trip to Taiwan as other local and state leaders were preparing to testify in Washington, D.C. about floods.
East Baton Rouge Mayor-President Kip Holden is in Taiwan on an economic development mission …
Not long after returning from Taiwan, and at a time when flood recovery in Baton Rouge was still in its early stages, Holden traveled to Baltimore to give a "responding to crises in Baton Rouge" talk at a forum on 21st century neighborhoods.
Holden spoke on this week's NPR program only of Katrina and not his experience during the Baton Rouge floods of 2016.
He recalled the number of critical decisions that needed to be made quickly, saying that cities can prepare based on their performance during previous emergencies but that they will never necessarily be ready when engulfed by a natural disaster.
Asked about FEMA's response to Katrina, Holden said waiting for them was not an option.
"When people say, we need X service, you can't tell them, 'I'm sending some other agency over to your house or over to rescue you,' they don't want to hear it," he said.
In the days following Hurricane Katrina and the levee breaches that flooded 80 percent of Ne…
Holden wasn't the only local who was on the show. LSU civil engineering professor Brian Wolshon also spoke on the show about the difficulty of evacuating cities before large-scale disasters, like hurricanes.