BATON ROUGE -- Most models have Hurricane Irma heading toward Florida or up the East Coast, but New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu isn't taking any chances.
"There are one or two models that take it through the Gulf and point it in our direction," Landrieu said. "We hope that doesn’t happen. It doesn’t appear that’s going to happen, but because of how these storms move, you have to be prepared."
Tuesday, Landrieu joined Governor John Bel Edwards and emergency officials from across south Louisiana to discuss hurricane evacuation with Irma's projected path taking it dangerously close to the Gulf of Mexico.
The category 5 hurricane could make landfall in Florida as early as Sunday.
"What’s difficult about this storm is that it’s going to turn, but if it doesn’t turn, it doesn’t give us a lot of time," Landrieu said. "So, the governor and I and other parish officials have a lot of tough decisions to make in the next couple of days so that we can give people the right direction."
South Texas to the west is still reeling from Hurricane Harvey and is out of play as a potential evacuation destination.
Florida to the east is in Irma's path.
Gov. Edwards has instructed state police to develop a contra-flow plan that would take people north.
"We would take that traffic that would typically go on I-10 west into Texas and move it north on I-49 and then they can go into Texas from the Shreveport area," Edwards said. "If we have to evacuate people from the low-lying areas in south Louisiana they will be given an evacuation route that, almost certainly, it will not include I-10 going into Texas."
State and local leaders are warning residents the order to move out if needed, may come quickly.
"If you can’t go to the left and you can’t go to the right and you can only go one way, it means you have to leave earlier," Landrieu said.
"We’re going to go through the next several days and see what Irma does and we’ll make our decisions based upon what it’s capacity is to do harm to us and what the forecast says that it’s likely to do," Edward said.
The governor added, "The challenge here is the sequence for making decisions as the storm approaches requires us to make some decisions perhaps before we know whether the storm is going to turn to the north and stay out of the Gulf."
Both the governor and the mayor are telling people to stock up in case they're instructed to shelter in place, gas up and most important keep an eye on the storm. This is a very dangerous hurricane.
"Whatever is in its way is going to get hurt, really, really badly," Landreu said. "That’s what the people of New Orleans have to be planning for."
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