Cleveland: Evacuation Plan Calls for Bus, Train Exodus

CLEVELAND (AP) - Evacuating Ohio's most populous county in the event of a natural disaster or terrorist attack would rely on moving people on the regional transit system's trains and 662 buses, Cuyahoga County officials said in a 62-page plan released Friday.

The county said the need for an organized evacuation plan was highlighted by the 2005 hurricane season and the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

A mass evacuation in the county, which has 1.3 million people, could be more difficult if the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority was affected by any emergency, the county said.

School, tour and intercity buses and taxis could be pressed into service to evacuate people, particularly the handicapped, nursing home and hospital patients, inmates, the homeless, visitors and those without cars, the county said.

The plan acknowledged that any mass evacuation by bus could be slowed by downtown Cleveland gridlock as motorists try to drive out.

That scenario occurred in 2003 when Cleveland lost electricity in a domino-effect blackout that reached from New York and Canada to the Midwest.

"The mass evacuation of downtown Cleveland during a normal business day will be the most demanding transportation scenario," the county said.

If any part of downtown is affected by an emergency, people might have to walk to four transportation pickup locations, according to the county plan, which conforms with a downtown evacuation plan already in place at the city level.