MRC GEM Prepares to Assist With Gustav Evacuees

MRC GEM members may be called upon to help with shelter staffing as Georgia prepares to receive what may be as many as 10,000 evacuees forced out of their homes by Hurricane Gustav.

The National Hurricane Center has confirmed that Gustav has reached category three strength and warns that "additional strengthening is forecast after Gustav reaches the Gulf of Mexico." If this forecast is realized, Gustav could become more powerful than Katrina and Rita were three years ago. The storm is expected to make landfall near the Louisana Gulf coast some time Monday.

Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour has called for the evacuation of residents along the Katrina-scarred coast; many of these residents still live in temporary housing. Louisiana has begun voluntary evacuations, while city-assisted evacuations began in New Orleans at 8 a.m. local time according to an e-mail sent by Mayor C. Ray Nagin's office.

President Bush declared a state of emergency for Louisiana yesterday. Normally a Federal disaster declaration doesn't occur until actual damage has exceeded certain statutory threshholds. However, under the Federal National Response Framework adopted since Katrina, this advance declaration allows marshalling of Federal resources in advance of an anticipated disaster. Texas, Mississippi and Louisiana issued their own state emergency and disaster declarations and alerted National Guard units.

GEMA, the Georgia Department of Human Resources and the Red Cross have identified shelters along I-20 and I-85 should people running from Gustav head toward Atlanta. The state can temporarily house as many as 2,500 in schools and other public buildings along those interstates. Additional shelter resources have been identified and will be activated as needed.