The Ernest N. Morial Convention Center. (Michael Isaac Stein/The Lens)

At a press conference Thursday, New Orleans city officials announced plans to offer evacuation for residents with acute medical conditions and other special needs amid intense summer heat after Hurricane Ida caused a citywide blackout. The general public will be able to access the buses heading out of town soon, they said, and a special medical center will be opened at the Convention Center.

“We are developing a transportation option for residents who want to go to a shelter. We are working on that now,” city Homeland Security Director Collin Arnold said. “We are going to prioritize that for our elderly and special medical population — then the general public.”

Prior to the storm, Mayor LaToya Cantrell said the state had signed contracts with 125 buses that could bring people out of the city after the storm. Earlier this week the mayor appeared to shift away from a post-hurricane evacuation plan — but as residents went for a fourth day without power officials said they were preparing a plan.

“We want it orderly. We want it fair,” Arnold said. “We want it to be advantageous for our community.”

The city also plans to open space at the Convention Center to hold people with special medical needs, who may not be able to survive without power as its being restored, in the coming days.

There are already two special shelters, which are full, and a third was opening in Baton Rouge on Thursday. City Health Director Dr. Jennifer Avegno said the Baton Rouge site was filling quickly. But the city is working on a local site.

“We are opening a special medical needs shelter at the Convention Center. This is not a walk up,” she said. “This is for people  — think fragile, bed bound, require around the clock care basically — this will all be arranged drop offs.”

Avegno stressed the facility will not be open to the general public, but will house people coming from hospitals or powerless homes.

She also announced that the city is opening a first-aid medical station at Allie Mae Williams Multi-Service Center on Jackson Avenue. They will be able to provide oxygen, minimal prescription services, and can recharge medical devices, such as nebulizers. 

“This is a band aid station,” Avegno said. “This is designed to help our residents with things they need urgently and decompress our hospitals.” 

Right now there are two medical special needs shelters around the state— those are basically full. One in Baton Rouge opening today is filling up quickly.

Meanwhile, the city has opened cooling stations throughout the city. They also offer food, water and charging stations.

City sites are giving away 30,000 meals today, according to Arnold.

Marta Jewson

Marta Jewson covers education in New Orleans for The Lens. She began her reporting career covering charter schools for The Lens and helped found the hyperlocal news site Mid-City Messenger. Jewson returned...