I've been avoiding this topic for the last day or two because I didn't want to be premature in coming to any kind of conclusion. After all, Gustav could very well miss Louisiana still, perhaps even by quite a ways.
According to this map, as of the time of this writing (about 8:00pm Wednesday night), Gustav is projected to make landfall somewhere between East Texas and the Florida panhandle sometime around Monday night.
I am as aware as most of the dangers of a hurricane. My grandmother was in New Orleans when Katrina hit, and she did not evacuate until about 4 or 5 days after the cataclysm hit. I was living on LSU campus when Hurricane Andrew hit in 1992. I lived in Gonzales for countless storms.
I also know what a big undertaking an evacuation of New Orleans would be. Regardless, I think unless something changes, this game should not be cancelled, even if it appears there will be a direct hit on Louisiana. I believe this for several reasons:
- Baton Rouge is not a bad place to be if a hurricane is going to hit. Yes, I know that a lot of people who would be attending the game would probably need to be evacuating wherever they are. But, if they have to leave where they are, going to Baton Rouge is not a bad plan. Taking an RV with you is also not such a bad thing. Baton Rouge is rather far inland compared to New Orleans, and hurricanes lose a lot of strength before they hit the Red Stick. For all but the biggest and baddest of storms, Baton Rouge is a relatively safe place to be. There is plenty of time to plan for people just staying in Baton Rouge past the game, and those planning on traveling to Baton Rouge can and should take the things they would need for an extended absence. Now, if you're fearful of catastrophic loss, such as if you live in a low-lying area of New Orleans, you probably should just plan to skip the game and prepare for leaving your home instead. But, if you're just taking precautionary measures, and expect to be gone for about a week, you should just make it part of the trip.
- If we're going to cancel a game taking place 48 hours before a hurricane might hit, we might as well cancel football altogether. I mean seriously, how many years are we going to have in which there isn't a hurricane in the Gulf in the week leading up to a football game? If the standard for canceling a football game is "hurricane is within 2 days of possibly making landfall in or near Louisiana", we'll be canceling and rescheduling at least one game per season more years than not. This would be a seriously disruptive policy that I think would also be rather unnecessary.
- It's really not that hard to execute a small evacuation during a game week. It's been done before. I remember it being done in 1998. I remember it well because I was shamefully living with my parents in Gonzales at the time (post-grad school unemployment issues) and I couldn't take the interstate home. It was very inconvenient, but I managed, as did everyone else. Now, I think it was perhaps Houma or Morgan City being evacuated for that, and not New Orleans as a whole, but it was managed without great pain or difficulty. An orderly evacuation, if it's even necessary, starting Friday should not be impossible to pull off simultaneously with game preparation. It should be especially do-able if it's really going to be planned to start days ahead of projected landfall.
- If you were going to execute an evacuation 48-62 hours ahead of time, as projected, how could you even be sure what areas needed to be evacuated. 62 hours ahead of Monday evening corresponds to early Saturday morning. If you're trying to project which areas are in the most danger for a Monday night hurricane on Saturday morning, where would you even begin? The projections would still be very uncertain. Only the most vulnerable would have to be moved at that point. The rest would have to wait until there was greater certainty.
I realize the State of Louisiana is very antsy about a hurricane after what happened in 2005, but I don't think we should forget that most hurricane scares end up not coming to the sort of catastrophic fruition we witnessed in 2005. This is not at all to suggest that we should ignore the danger, but at the same time it will get us nowhere to try to move mountains every time there is danger on the horizon. Sensible solutions mean measured solutions, and measured solutions means not overreacting.
Now if this storm was projected to hit Saturday morning or Sunday morning, I might have a different opinion, but canceling an event that occurs a full 48 hours before landfall just seems wasteful and it seems like overreacting. It seems like, to borrow a phrase from 2001, "if we cancel this game, the hurricane has won." We cannot and should not drop everything in our lives just because a hurricane might hit in the intermediate future. In this situation, I think we can both take the necessary precautions and go on about our lives for the most part, at least through Saturday.