As of this morning, the disturbance brewing in the Gulf is officially Tropical Storm Barry—and he’s forecast to make landfall along the Louisiana coast early Saturday morning as a hurricane.
In the wake of yesterday’s flash floods, with the Mississippi River at record-tying levels and Barry on the horizon, many New Orleanians aren’t sure whether to stay in the city or go.
“We are continuing monitoring levels of the Mississippi River and the potential for storm surge in the river,” Mayor LaToya Cantrell said in a statement. “While it is uncertain what the impact will be, we will be affected and we need to be prepared.”
With that in mind, here are a few things to do before Barry gets here.
1. Clean your catch basin
Right now, the greatest threats posed by Tropical Storm Barry are rain and storm surge. Barry could drop as much as 15 inches of rain on New Orleans’ levee system, which is already taxed from the Mississippi River’s unusually high levels. New Orleanians can’t control how much water falls from the sky, but we can do our best to clear the pathways of elimination for excess water. The catch basins on your block are the first line of defense. Make sure there’s not any debris or garbage obstructing their entrances.
2. Sign up for NOLA Ready emergency alerts and download the street closure app
The National Hurricane Center is a great resource, but when the electricity and internet go out, it’s hard to stay connected to trustworthy information. A battery-powered radio is ideal for this, and cell phone alerts can help as long as towers are still standing. Hurricane Katrina survivors may remember that in the days immediately after the storm, they couldn’t make calls from their cell phones, but they could send and receive text messages.
“Know what is going on ... whether by signing up directly for NOLA Ready’s emergency alert or watching your favorite news station,” said Laura Mellem, public engagement manager in the NOLA office of homeland security and preparedness, “You can sign up at ready.nola.gov or by texting your zip code to 888777.”
You also can check Streetwise, a web application that monitors street flooding and traffic incidents reported to the city.
3. Make a plan
At this point, a mandatory evacuation has not been issued for Orleans Parish, so your own finances and comfort level can dictate whether you hunker down or evacuate. “For a lesser-grade storm, you can evacuate if you don’t want to deal with the power being out for a couple days, or you can create a plan to shelter in place,” Mellem said.
NOLA Ready offers a city-assisted evacuation process in the event of a mandatory evacuation for residents who have no other way to leave. Seventeen pickup locations are marked by large statues that resemble a stick figure with one hand in the air.
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During a mandatory evacuation ahead of a major hurricane, residents with no other way to evacuate can go to one of these 17 evacuation pickup spots to get a ride with the @cityofnola. Volunteers needed! Join @nolaready and @evacuteerorg on May 22nd to help test our City-Assisted Evacuation plan. Lunch will be provided, parking is free! To register and for more information: evacuteer.org #nolaready #cityofyes #hurricaneseason
4. Gather supplies
You’ll need a go bag in the event of a mandatory evacuation and a home kit if you shelter in place. A list of essentials for both is available at NOLA Ready’s website.
For the home kit: “It should be enable you to be on your own for at least three days: nonperishable food for everyone, including pets, three gallons of water per person, medications, a radio, flashlight, books, and games,” Mellen said.
For the go bag: “Include food, water, medical supplies, IDs, cash, a list of emergency contacts and important documents (birth certificate, deeds, insurance policies, marriage certificates)—anything you might need to file paperwork in the case that you are gone from home for a long time,” Mellen said.
5. Bring in or secure outside furniture
You don’t want your patio umbrella or grill to become projectiles. Of course, make sure your and your neighbors’ pets are safe and secure inside their homes. Move your car to high ground—all parking restrictions on neutral grounds and sidewalks have been suspended until further notice.
6. Fill your car up with gas, charge your appliances, fill your bathtub with drinking water, and have cash on hand.
Tarps, flashlights, playing cards, battery-powered candles, canned food, a manual can opener, an attic hatchet, and your favorite nonperishable comfort foods all come in handy, too.
Here’s hoping everyone stays safe and dry this weekend.