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Homeland Security

Hurricane Zebra

Hurricane Zebra enters the Gulf of Mexico on a Wednesday, with wind speeds well over 100 mph and intense rainfall. Meanwhile, federal officials predict the storm will be over New Orleans within two days. Indeed, Zebra's center is over New Orleans by Friday afternoon, with gale-force winds and water overtopping the levees. Streets become canals, escape routes are shut down, and hospitals are swamped. Hurricane Zebra then heads north, toward Baton Rouge along Interstate 10.

Hurricane Zebra was the creation a few LSU scientists for state and federal agencies to practice procedures and communications on 13 July 2000. The point is to see what happens when these agencies were stretched to the breaking point by catastrophic flooding, wind damage and sporadic tornadoes. The simulated storm exercise, Hurricane Zebra included the Department of Transportation and Development (DOTD), State Police, Office of Emergency Peparedness and National Guard.

There had been such a lull in hurricane activity over the previous 25 years, and many people had become complacent to the real threat of hurricanes. The Pacific Decadal that began in late 2000 was expected to last for 10-30 years and cause harsher weather patterns with an increased incidence of hurricanes and typhoons as sea levels rise. Louisiana is losing wetlands and sea-surface temperatures are rising, causing increased strength and impact of storms).

At the end of the six-hour demonstration, officials reported only a few software glitches and minor communication problems. "We're real pleased," State Police Capt. Kenneth Trull said. Col. Terry Landry, on his first full day as superintendent of State Police, said the demonstration showed the agency is prepared for the havoc of a hurricane.

In reality, the National Guard can't communicate with the DOTD, and the DOTD can't communicate with the State Police. Hurricane Zebra does not appear to have been a particuarly high-fidelity or realistic simulation, given the failure to discover innumerable problems subsequently revealed in actual hurricanes.

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