No Mass Evacuations To Harris County

Thousands of Katrina evacuees from the Superdome made it to the Astrodome, September 1, 2005. KUHF photo.
As Tropical Storm Isaac veers further westward many New Orleans residents are making plans to evacuate. But Harris County is no longer an evacuation zone for people in coastal areas.

The Astrodome will never again house evacuees, not simply because it's sliding into decay, but also because Harris County is no longer an evacuation destination.

Harris County Judge Ed Emmett, who doubles as the Homeland Security chief for the region, says when thousands of people were stranded in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, bringing them here was the obvious decision for local officials at the time.

"While everybody looked at it as a great humanitarian gesture, there was actually a task force formed in the state of Texas to talk about evacuations. And the overwhelming recommendation that came out of that was you do not evacuate from one hurricane zone to another."

Emmett says it became evident that Harris County should not serve as an evacuation zone when just a month later, Hurricane Rita threatened the Houston area and suddenly everyone was in danger again.  

He says now coastal states call for people to evacuate inland.

"It was a good gesture to make, at the time, but since then everybody has come up with much better plans for evacuation and they do not include evacuating along a coastal area."

Emmett says his emergency officials are closely monitoring Isaac and are ready to help if other states call on Harris County for assistance, but that assistance won't come in the form of taking in evacuees.

Bio photo of Laurie Johnson

Laurie Johnson

Local Host, All Things Considered

Laurie Johnson is the Houston host for All Things Considered at KUHF NPR for Houston. Before taking the anchor chair, she worked as a general assignments reporter at KUHF, starting there as an intern in 2002...