More Work is Needed for Effective Evacuation Plans for Gulf Coast States

The Gulf Coast states have good evacuation plans for tropical storms, but more work is needed to prepare for another major hurricane, Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta said Friday.

"I feel the region has more work to do to ensure that all groups would know where to go, when they should leave and whether they should go by plane, train or bus if they cannot drive," he said.

Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida all have plans to reverse highway lanes to increase inland capacity during storm evacuations, he said.

But he said he wants better coordination between local governments and between states to avoid the kind of traffic jams seen in Texas as Hurricane Rita approached last September. Drivers spent hours stopped or barely moving, some running out of gas.

Mineta announced his evaluation of the region's evacuation plans at New Orleans' international airport. He said Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., had asked for the evaluation before Hurricane Katrina hit on Aug. 29.

The study found that many states, both in the Gulf region and out, were updating their plans based on lessons learned from recent hurricanes, including finding extra transportation and coordinating with neighboring states, it said.

Mineta said his department is working with the Air Transportation Association to arrange for about 37 aircraft — and possibly more — if they are needed for evacuations.

The 2006 Atlantic hurricane season started Thursday.