NEW ORLEANS (AP) – Fleeing to safety was not an option for some people as 140-mph Hurricane Ivan churned toward the Gulf Coast, threatening to submerge the below-sea-level city in what could be the most disastrous storm to hit in nearly 40 years.
Latonya Hill, who waited out the dangerous storm sitting on her stoop Tuesday, said the official pleas for residents to pack up and leave meant little to her.
“Got no place to go and no way to get there,” said the 57-year-old grandmother, who lives on a disability check and money she picks up cleaning houses or baby sitting.
Hill is among the estimated 100,000 people in New Orleans who rely on city transportation to get around, making evacuation impossible for them. Yet, no shelters were open in the city as of Tuesday night and there were no plans to open any.
The city was working on setting up a shelter of “last resort,” Mayor Ray Nagin said. No shelters had been set up yet because of concerns about flooding and capacity, Nagin added.
More than 1.2 million people in metropolitan New Orleans were warned to get out as Ivan approached, and those who could streamed inland in bumper-to-bumper traffic in an agonizingly slow exodus, spurred by dire warnings that the hurricane could overwhelm New Orleans with up to 20 feet of water.
About three-quarters of a million more people along the coast in Florida, Mississippi and Alabama also were told to evacuate.