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Dropping Katrina's Emergency Ball
Dropping Katrina's Emergency Ball
[note: I wrote this to a local radio talk show host at the end of week that hurricane Katrina's wrath was unleashed upon the people of the gulf coast]
I really feel for the victims in New Orleans (N.O.) as I've also a brother and family that is now in Houston as the engineering firm is employed has a Houston office. They left Saturday night
as I understand and went to Memphis. They left Memphis on Wed. and headed to Houston then... I assume they made it ok. The phone circuits have been busy and we've not been able to get through to them as of yet.
Now... his responsibility was to get his dependents (and himself) out of the N.O. area in a timely fashion in order to avoid the disaster. For 3 or 4 people... that's a simple thing. Pack the van up with a few hours of work and you're off. You see the storm coming several days out, so it's not a big surprise... but to mobilize a few people... isn't nearly the same in magnitude as moving hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands (or even millions) of people would be. Crudely, if this had occured 150 years ago in the south, the slave owners (I assume) would have had the responsibility to take care of their slaves. Back then, the slaves were property of the slave owners and it needed to be cared for like other property of the slave owner. They wouldn't have had the ability to see a hurricane several days out, but then the volume of slaves per slave owner wouldn't have been in the thousands or tens of thousands either.
Like someone said earlier on the show today... truly the N.O. catastrophe is three separate events. 1) a hurricane [which they came through the event of Katrina thrashing the area] and 2) the breach of the levees [a post Katrina event] .. which was totally unexpected and 3) the mayhem, looting, murder, and loss of moral character by a few. As I've heard sometime earlier, when officials were asked if they were prepared, they said "yes" .. when asked "how" they said their predictions of survivability was based on a
model with a Category 3 hurricane and 130mph winds. Well.. Katrina hit as a Category 4 with 145mph winds. Something they've not been prepared for. They technically should have ran the model with both Category 4 and 5 conditions and find out what the magnitude of what the worst could be.
I think the emergency ball was dropped mostly by the city officials first.. and then the state officials second. The city officials needed to have an evacuation plan in place and that plan needed to include how long it'd take to gather everybody up, and get them on the busses (or planes). If a family can plan to get their own
out, the city should have a plan to get their dependants out as well. If the city didn't have a plan, then the state should know it and the state have a plan for them. There needed to be a schedule in place whereby the people (in their multitudes) can be mobilized and remove them from harms way. If they know that it takes a week
to remove everybody... then start the plan a week ahead of the time the "big one" is about to hit.
The decisions have to be made as to what is acceptable and what isn't. What's *best* isn't necessarily what is *planned*. City gov'ts tend not to plan on the most economical way to manage it's dependents. They tend to plan on what is *practical* and not what is *best*.
Without an adequate evacuation plan in place, then the contingency should have been for this even to turn into a giant Y-2-K exercise. There should have been enough MRE's, water, and other supplies to provide should conditions deteriorate.
The downside of all of this kind of planning is that both evacuation and emergency supplies ... cost some green stuff. There is a cost to massive MRE's, water, supplies, and storage to keep the stuff safe and ready for use on a moments notice of shipping and distribution. If evactuation is/was the route to go (who knows... maybe a combination plan was what was needed) then the availablilty to be able to call the fleet of busses and planes needed to be in place (and the cost to reserve the need to call them into service in a moments notice) as well.
I think they were prepared for *normal life* after the passing of the hurricane ... thinking that things would only be disrupted for a few days at most, not many dead, with the area only bruised up a bit. They didn't count on ZERO water, ZERO food, ZERO electricity, ZERO supplies, and inadequate services. The "big one" hadn't ever
hit N.O. in this fashion and they had no idea what the cataclysm that could have happened.
Back in Illinois where I'm originally from, there was a time back in the 90's when a super-cell of tornados ripped through east-central IL and nearly wiped out the town of Ogden. I think it was between 2/3rds and 3/4s removed from the face of the earth. Lil' ol' Ogden took a pounding for a few moments that one night... also looked like a warzone.... obtained assistance and was rebuilt with a little more than a year and less then two (I think). The catastrophy of N.O. is on such a much larger scale, it just makes my head spin.
Where Ogden IL lost a few hundred homes and infrastructure, N.O. has pretty much lost the use of everything. I wouldn't be surprised to find out if the fortification, drying, detoxification, decontamination, de-waste-ifying, re-infrastructuring, re-installation, and rebuilding of N.O. takes upwards of a decade to accomplish on such a huge magnitude. It's not like N.O. is a giant whiteboard where they can
just wipe everything away and start building right back ontop of what was/is there. N.O. is several feet below sea level... and it needs to be cleaned up, massaged, and manicured back into shape.
I have no idea whether the Louisiana Superdome will ever be used again. That project was a half a billion dollars in development. The people of N.O. might not want to fund a 2nd building of it.
It's hard to say.
In the same way the federal agencies regarding national security (fbi, cia, nsa, army, navy, etc.) don't communicate well, it's pretty obvious that the cities have about the same level of
communication with the state and federal authorities. For a disaster recovery plan to be in place, the communication gaps need to be closed.
The rescue efforts that are starting to arrive in N.O. is difficult at best. Not only do the rescuers have to provide for others, but they also have to have the supplies for themselves. They can't run out to McD's to get a quarter pounder and a coke. They have to consume that which they bring with them. So, the army of people that are heading down there... have to have far more than the people that helped out NYC after the WTC bombing in a big way.
Let's use it as a learning experience.
It's an unfortunate series of events. Limony Snickets.