‘It only takes one’: New Orleans officials urge planning as hurricane season begins _lowres

Advocate staff photo by MATTHEW HINTON-- Mayor Mitch Landrieu. Sept. 4, 2015.

Local, state and federal officials had a simple message for New Orleans residents Tuesday on the eve of another hurricane season: Have a plan ready, and if an evacuation order is issued, get out of the city.

“It only takes one bad storm to put you in a position that you don’t want to be in,” Mayor Mitch Landrieu said.

Hurricane season officially starts Wednesday, though there already have been two named storms in the Atlantic this year. Weather forecasters are predicting a “normal” season, with between 10 and 16 named storms in the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico, more than during the relatively calm seasons of the past few years.

For the New Orleans region, the peak of hurricane season comes in late August and early September, but a storm can hit the area at any time before the season officially ends Nov. 30.

City departments are readying plans to assist in an evacuation and to keep public safety services running in the city during a storm.

Landrieu and other officials urged residents to begin planning now for a hurricane. Tips on how to draw up an evacuation plan are available at the city’s website ready.nola.gov.

Those who will need assistance with evacuation should call 311 for more information.

The National Weather Service will put out new forecasts 48 hours before predicted landfall showing how much flooding various areas can expect from storm surges. But those estimates will not be available for Orleans, Jefferson or St. Bernard parishes because of uncertainty about how the region’s upgraded, $14.5 billion levee system will affect the level of flooding.

Plans call for emergency responders and drainage crews to be on the ground during a hurricane. But, officials said, following evacuation orders will ensure that police and firefighters can focus on protecting public safety rather than performing rescues.

“We’ve learned what best practices are, and it’s really important that not only we’re prepared but that the only way this works is for citizens to take personal responsibility and to have a plan,” Landrieu said.

Follow Jeff Adelson on Twitter, @jadelson.