As Hurricane Dean barrels toward the Gulf Coast, Texas and Louisiana have drawn from their experience with Katrina and Rita in the hopes of forestalling tragedy with their most vulnerable populations:
With long-range computer models showing Dean turning north after striking Mexico, officials in Texas and Louisiana launched preparations for a possible midweek landfall.
Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco declared a state of emergency Friday and activated the state's emergency response center. Texas Gov. Rick Perry called Dean an imminent threat and took steps to deploy emergency responders to the coast.
"It is imperative that Texans living along the coast pay close attention to threatening weather conditions and heed the warnings of their local leaders," Perry said. Link
Some of the preparations being taken:
- Monitoring of the storm's track by state evacuation authorities.
- Preparations for early evacuation of the elderly and those with special needs.
- NASA is making arrangements to recall the Space Shuttle early if the storm requires an evacuation of the Huston Control Center.
The current Hurricane Center projection has Dean hitting Jamaica on Sunday with sustained winds of 155 mph.
"Everyone must take the threat very seriously and put in place all necessary safety measures," Jamaican Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller said.
The Cayman Islands are the next in a path that is projected to head toward Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula before veering north, where it will encounter the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico. At that point, the storm may make landfall somewhere near the Texas/Mexico border. Since the projections are so early and the storm is potentially wide (possible category five), the variables on the path are wide, as well.
What is not a projection: The steps being taken by those in its path, most notably Texas, to prevent a repeat of the disastrous outcome of failed evacuations experienced during Katrina and Rita, which includes the decision by NASA to land the space shuttle Endeavour early if the storm turns toward the Huston Control Center.
As Dean is the first hurricane projected to make landfall on the US coast since 2005, it will be preparedness test for wherever it does hit, as it is already wreaking havoc on the islands of St. Lucia, Dominica and Martinique. Since this is most likely not the last big storm to hit the region this season, the more prepared the respective governments are, the better. Even with that, there will be (and already has been) loss of life and property, as all the preparations in the world cannot forestall that outcome in the path of a category five hurricane.
Here's a link to Hurricane Dean's projected route.