Thousands of students at two historically black colleges in New Orleans began leaving the Crescent City Monday as Hurricane Isaac approached from the Gulf, while others either sheltered in place or were bused to sister college campuses miles away.
“We have told every student to activate their hurricane plan,” said Kenneth St. Charles, Xavier’s vice president for institutional advancement. “Many decided to leave while others are sheltering in place.”
All classes and university operations have been cancelled for Tuesday and Wednesday and are set to resume on Thursday,” St. Charles told BlackAmericaweb.com.
Classes and university operations also have been suspended at Dillard University for Tuesday and Wednesday, according to the institution’s website.
Students from that campus were taken to Centenary College of Louisiana in Shreveport, about 300 miles away.
When Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005, Dillard students also were taken to Centenary.
The campuses at both Dillard and Xavier faced serious damage from the flooding that followed Katrina. In recent years, they have focused on rebuilding and restoring both their campuses and their enrollment.
A majority of the Xavier students were able to leave the campus, but a group of students along with President Norman Francis took shelter on one of the higher floors of a campus building.
St. Charles said Monday night that university officials are closely monitoring the weather reports and information from emergency management.
A complete evacuation of the campus had not been ordered because the city had not called for evacuation, he said.
Both New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal spoke during a press conference on storm preparations on Monday afternoon.
Landrieu said there would be no mandatory evacuation of Orleans Parish, but he said strongly encouraged residents living outside of levee protections to leave.
"If your plan for an event like this was to leave, now is the time," Landrieu said.
It was the failure of the levees in 2005 that forced thousands from their homes and businesses after they were ruined by floodwaters. Several people also lost their lives in the floods and the aftermath.
Jindal said he had been on a conference call with President Obama, FEMA Director Craig Fugate and governors from other Gulf Coast states. FEMA is set to start on Tuesday sending extra MREs (meals ready to eat), tarps and other supplies.
"We are going to need help after the storm as well," Jindal added.
"It's much better to have too many resources on hand than to realize too late that we didn't have enough," Jindal said.
Flights in and out of New Orleans were being cancelled Monday, and public officials warned that travel could become difficult.
Early reports showed that a majority of the current New Orleans residents were deciding to shelter in place.
“Most people who come here are cognizant of the fact that storms such as this one will happen,” St. Charles said. “We assist students with their hurricane plans, and for those who have no way home, we will take care of them.”