Katrina: New Orleans Mayor Orders Forced Evacuation

More than a week after Hurricane Katrina destroyed much of the city, New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin has ordered a forced evacuation.

New Orleans Mayor Orders Forced Evacuation (AP)

To the estimated 10,000 residents still believed to be holed up in this ruined city, the mayor had a blunt new warning: Get out now — or risk being taken out by force. As floodwaters began to slowly recede with the city’s first pumps returning to operation, Mayor C. Ray Nagin authorized law enforcement officers and the U.S. military to force the evacuation of all residents who refuse to heed orders to leave. Police Capt. Marlon Defillo said that forced removal of citizens had not yet begun. “That’s an absolute last resort,” he said.

Nagin’s order targets those still in the city unless they have been designated as helping with the relief effort. Repeated calls to Nagin’s spokeswoman, Tami Frazier, seeking comment were not returned.

The move — which supersedes an earlier, milder order to evacuate made before Hurricane Katrina crashed ashore Aug. 29 — comes after rescuers scouring New Orleans found hundreds of people willing to defy repeated urgings to get out. They included people like Dennis Rizzuto, 38, who said he had plenty of water, food to last a month and a generator powering his home. He and his family were offered a boat ride to safety, but he declined. “They’re going to have to drag me,” Rizzuto said.

That’s a sentiment Capt. Scott Powell, of the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, has heard before as he tries to evacuate people by air boat. “A lot of people don’t want to leave. They’ve got dogs and they just want to stay with their homes. They say they’re going to stay until the water goes down,” he said.

Unless Rizzuto is hindering the recovery effort in some way, he has every right to stay in his home and take what seems a perfectly reasonable calculated risk at this stage of the game. And, frankly, if the mayor has the power to force people to leave, he should have exercised it before the storm hit, when it would have saved a few thousand lives.

Update: Don Sensing takes a look at the timeline of events and concludes that Nagin probably could not have reasonably issued an evacuation order in time to get everyone out.

Even had Nagin called for immediate evacuation early Saturday morning, I don’t think more people could have or would have left unless the city took active steps to make it happen. Thousands of people could have been been convoyed out using the buses. That they were not is fairly laid at Ray Nagin’s feet, it seems to me. If a plan to do so had been in place, an early Saturday evacuation order would have made an immeasurable difference in reducing the suffering. That nothing was done was, IMO, inexcusable — the Nagin administration had been through hurricane evacuations before and knew that people would be stranded. . . .

So, more people could have been evacuated with more decisive action but not everyone. And, of course, had he ordered the evacuation and the storm taken a different path, the city would have faced countless lawuits.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. This classic false dichotomy of either everyone must be rescued or no one could have been rescued is part of the problem, IMHO. Had half of those remaining in New Orleans been evacuated, perhaps the humanitarian crisis that developed wouldn’t have been quite so overwhelming. If only half as many people had been in the Superdome, would conditions have deteriorated so rapidly? Wouldn’t the available resources in the aftermath been able to get folks out twice as fast if there were only half as many people?

    But it remains just frigggin’ hilarious to me that so many are willing to cut Mayor Nagin and Governor Blanco some slack while demanding that President Bush and all his minions be drawn and quartered. Well, it beats crying abbout the insanity of it all.

  2. Marc says:

    I just saw a Fox live interview with Gov. Blanco. (07/Sept/1:30 pm est)

    The question posed to her was about whether forced evacuations were ordered and being held. The first words out of her mouth should tell you how the rest of the response went.

    “The Governor, that’s me…..”

    Oh, and btw she said there is no “forced evacuation,” she didn’t order it, it doesn’t exist. Guess her and the Mayor aren’t on speaking terms again!

  3. John Burgess says:

    You think the city isn’t going to face countless lawsuits anyway? You can hear the plaintiff attorney’s licking their chops, sharpening their pencils, and hiring surge-capacity paralegals as I type.

  4. Donald Keniston says:

    I have been trying to contact the ACLU regarding this matter for some days, but have been unsuccessful. Are they presently involved in this matter? If not, “WHY NOT???” this is clearly a violation of the 4th amendment to the constitution.
    While I agree that those in flooded houses should leave for their own protection. It appears it is their right to stay, and as for those in unflooded areas who wish to stay -to help, to protect, or any other reason, should Not be harassed by the authorities.
    Can I find a way to get the appropriate ACLU chapter to get in touch with me????

  5. Donald Keniston says:

    Page 2
    For the past three days, I have seen images of california Highway patrol enforcing the forced evacuation rule of the mayor of New Orleans even though the local authorities have declined to enforce them. They have forcibly taken One woman and her neighbors out when the wanted to stay and repair their property, (they were on dry, reasonably undamaged land), then literally TAKE DOWN a frail woman, obviously in her 70s who was trying to protect her property.

    SHADES OF LA POLICE BRUTALITY. I am a citizen of california, and I am ashamed of the antics of those Goose-stepping storm troopers, and I think Louisiana should expel them immediately