Unprotected sections of Interstate 10, to the east and west of the city, will be swamped by storm surge even during a smaller storm, The Lens is reporting.
Emergency preparedness officials and engineers tell The Lens those stretches of highway — two of the major evacuation routes for New Orleans and parishes south of Lake Pontchartrain — are at low elevation, and are unprotected by levees. They've also flooded before: slow-moving Hurricane Isaac, "just" a Category 1 storm, shut I-10 west at LaPlace in 2012.
“We evacuate before a storm, not during one, which is why evacuation plans are set for 50, 40 and 30 hours before tropical storm conditions [winds of 40 mph] are expected at the mouth of the river,” Chris Guilbeaux, deputy director in the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, told Lens reporter Bob Marshall.
Emergency officials say the danger is real, and citizens must heed evacuation orders. If they don't, it might be impossible to escape:
Guilbeaux said the state would like to have those exposed sections of I-10 either raised or protected by levees, but lacks the funds. Even then, evacuation orders would still be issued long before a surge would flood them.
“You don’t get a 7 or 8 foot surge with a 40 miles per hour wind, which is when we issue those orders,” he said. “As always, the best way to avoid trouble is to be prepared, and leave when the order goes out.”