Two in a row
By Charles "Trey" Wickwire
It is currently 4:15 on Friday, September 23, 2005. I am sitting in a house in the northwest quadrant of Houston Texas waiting for the landfall of Hurricane Rita. Fox news is playing in the background and they still do not know if it will hit Galveston or Port Arthur. I am not worried; I have lived through many hurricanes in my lifetime. I am originally from the Baton Rouge area in south Louisiana, storms and flooding is a part of life for us. In fact, my wife and daughter were in Baton Rouge during Katrina and are now here with me waiting for yet another major hurricane in less than a month. And we still have two months in the hurricane season.
Lately there has been a lot of discussion focused on who is at fault for all the things that have gone wrong during Katrina and now Rita. Rita has not even made landfall and folks are second guessing the decisions made by public officials. Before I go any further I would like to say one thing that is very important when discussing these things. We are dealing with events that are unprecedented in recent history. It is very easy to look into the past and say what should have been done. Hindsight is always 20/20. But when you are in the middle of a catastrophe as it is unfolding it is not always easy to see clearly or make decisions with little or no information.
During Katrina a lot of errors were made and the federal government has taken most of the heat for those errors. I am sure that FEMA and even President Bush could have done a few things better, but let's not forget the responsibilities of the local government officials. Governor Blanco and Mayor Nagin were caught like deer in the headlights, frozen in fear as the people they were responsible for begin to die in numbers we still have not finished counting.
Now I do not believe that Blanco and Nagin were malicious in there lack of action. But as consummate politicians it is probable that their thoughts were not on the safety of their constituents but rather the damage to their careers. Otherwise they would not have hesitated to evacuate, they would not have waited until the federal government begged them to make the evacuation mandatory.
What is inexcusable it the fact the thirteen months before Katrina hit, a drill was conducted in Louisiana that told state officials what would happen if a major hurricane hit New Orleans. The report was detailed and even showed the breakdown in security in the Superdome and yet Blanco and Nagin did nothing to prevent disaster from happening.
There is something that happened during Katrina that has not received the attention I think it needs. During the crisis there was a large percentage of state, law and emergency personnel who deserted their post to take care of family and property. It has to be a horrible decision to make; do you do your duty and stay on the job, risking the lives of your family or do you abandon your job and rush to your family's side.
This is where the federal government can help. Every disaster plan should have provisions for federal employees to come in and fill some of the state positions so that the local employees can take care of their homes and families.
Monday, September 19, 2005, folks in Houston took notice of Hurricane Rita. Governor Perry and Mayor White decided not let Houston become the next New Orleans. They immediately began to implement their disaster plan. By Wednesday, more than a million people had begun to head north away from the coast. This is something that has never happened before and we are already seeing some holes in Houston's disaster plan.
No where in the plan was there a way to support such a large exodus of humanity. One million people on the road all going the same direction on one of six routes. For the last two days people have been sitting in traffic, going no where and running out of gas. After this I think you will see disaster planners turn to the military for help in planning the logistics of large scale convoys.
The biggest problem has been gas, or the lack of it. There is no way that I can think of to prepare for the volume of fuel necessary to evacuate a city the size of Houston. This is another area that the military may be of assistance. No one can move people like the military.
In all I would say that the state of Texas has done admirably during this crisis. I wish that the officials in my home state had done as well. Some say that Texas is only doing better because they have the lesson of Louisiana in front of them. That is possible but I don't think so. I think that Houston has a better plan and a mayor who is willing to implement it. Also, Texas has a Governor who is decisive and ready to act.
Well the wind is picking up and I expect to lose power soon so I should send this story in while I can. Nothing to do now but ride it out…
Well it is Sunday now and the power is stable enough to turn the computer back on. Houston and Galveston have dodged a bullet and my home state of Louisiana has once again taken the brunt of nature's wrath. To top it all off Rita is forecasted to circle across the north of Louisiana dropping a great deal of rain into the Mississippi river valley where it can only go one place; New Orleans.
I see Governor Blanco has had the nerve to say Louisiana's evacuation plan was superior to Texas' because over one million people evacuated without the traffic jams and fuel shortages. Harris County Judge Robert Eckels defended the Texas plan by responding to Governor Blanco saying if Rita had hit Galveston point blank, there would not have been bodies floating in the streets.
I am a little surprised to see the mud flying between Louisiana and Texas so soon. It is true that there is a friendly rivalry between the two states that is not always so friendly. But now, in this time of need, we should be focusing on how we can help each other rather than making petty comments on who handled their situation better.
The clean up has started and the repercussions are just now starting to show themselves. No matter what the economic impacts of this storm, we can all be thankful that the loss of life was held at a minimum.
Charles Wickwire, aka Trey, is a Computer Specialist who likes to share his opinion with those who are interested and even those who are not.
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