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Imaginary `Alicia' tests Louisiana's storm readiness

Mock hurricane lets New Orleans planners practice evacuations

NEW ORLEANS -- State and federal authorities tracked the path of a fictitious ``Hurricane Alicia" yesterday as part of two-day drill aimed at avoiding the chaos that followed last year's deadly Hurricane Katrina.

The drill was organized to allow first responders and others, including Mayor C. Ray Nagin and Governor Kathleen Blanco, to react as though a Category 3 hurricane was hitting the state's Gulf Coast.

``I want you to know Louisiana is prepared for the next storm ," Blanco told reporters at the state Office of Emergency Preparedness headquarters in Baton Rouge.

In New Orleans, volunteers playing the part of evacuees boarded city buses and headed to the city's convention center. From there, they would be taken to shelters.

``The more we practice, the better we'll be when a storm hits," Marine Corporal Jose Resendiz, 30, said as he and about a dozen other make-believe evacuees boarded a bus in New Orleans's Algiers neighborhood.

Officials are concerned about more than 200,000 Louisiana residents living in travel trailers, and countless others in unfinished homes. Yesterday's drill was to include a mock evacuation of the state's largest trailer site.

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