Officials: More Might Need Help Evacuating In 2009

PICAYUNE, Miss. (AP) -- Officials say the sour economy might force more people to seek government help evacuating coastal Louisiana ahead of a hurricane this year.

Mark Cooper, director of the Louisiana Governor's Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, said Louisiana is planning for some 50,000 people needing help to leave on government-secured buses, trains or planes, if a mandatory evacuation is called. He said that worst-case scenario number would be about 10,000 more than needed help leaving ahead of Hurricane Gustav last summer.

Cooper said the government has secured verbal commitments for additional shelter space, should it be needed.

The state of Louisiana also is planning to again provide services, such as wreckers and fuel trucks, to help avoid long traffic delays should contraflow be enacted.

Hurricane season begins Monday.

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