New Orleans gets expanded hurricane route

NEW ORLEANS, June 5 (UPI) -- State officials have approved a hurricane evacuation plan allowing New Orleans-area residents to use both sides of Interstate 59 to flee north into Mississippi, settling a controversy that broke out last year.

Louisiana Gov. Mike Foster and Mississippi Gov. Ronnie Musgrove announced the plan Wednesday. A similar plan was rejected last year by Musgrove, who was concerned residents of Louisiana would clog the highway for fleeing Mississippians.


"This plan is an effective and efficient commitment to public safety," Foster said. "We are hopeful that we never have to implement the contraflow portion of this plan. But in the event massive evacuations are needed from the state's coastal region, including New Orleans, Mississippi will provide evacuation assistance to our citizens."

The contraflow plan would use all lanes of the interstate highway that runs northeast out of New Orleans into Mississippi. A joint decision by the Louisiana State Police and Mississippi Highway Patrol would activate the plan.

Last fall when Tropical Storm Isidore and Hurricane Lili struck Louisiana, Musgrove said he would not honor a request to use contraflow on the route. Some officials were worried not enough Mississippi troopers were available to handle the traffic and tend to other duties around the state.


Musgrove's refusal to accept the evacuation plan sparked angry calls to radio talk shows and letters to the editor. Some Louisiana residents even called for a boycott of its Gulf coast neighbor but a major evacuation of New Orleans was avoided.

The new evacuation plan was worked out in meetings between the state's two emergency management agencies. Musgrove said he was pleased with the new agreement serving the interests of both states.

"This plan promotes and provides for the safe and orderly evacuation of our neighbors in Louisiana in the event of a major hurricane," he said. "This protective measure accommodates the needs of our neighbors without minimizing the equally needed protection and evacuation plans for the citizens of Mississippi."

Under the evacuation plan, northbound traffic from Louisiana could use all lanes of I-59 as far north as Hattiesburg, Miss., in a worst-case scenario. State troopers would supervise the evacuation and monitor the backups along the highway.

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