Ultima Thule

In ancient times the northernmost region of the habitable world - hence, any distant, unknown or mysterious land.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Thoughts on Katrina

By Aussiegirl

Like so many Americans I have been watching the unfolding catastrophe in
Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama with growing concern and horror.

It's fair to say that this is by far the worst natural disaster to befall this country in its entire history. As I'm watching the refugees, for that's what they are, a number of thoughts go through my mind.

First -- we are witnessing the equivalent of a nuclear device going off in one of our cities. Think about it. If you had even imagined last week that a major American metropolis would have to be completely evacuated for untold months, that thousands of citizens were trapped and helpless to evacuate without aid, that untold numbers of dead lay buried in destroyed buildings, and that the city would be uninhabitable for months and would have to be completely rebuilt before life could return to normal, would you have believed it could happen? That's what we are
facing. The questions are enormous. And what is instructive is to look at how the government and the Department of Homeland Security and FEMA are responding to this crisis, because this is the sort of scenario they have supposedly been preparing for. So far I'm a little nervous about our preparedness, despite all the talk and billions spend on creating new bureaucracies.

Yesterday morning it became clear that the levees had failed and that the worst case scenario of an almostly completely flooded New Orleans was coming true, after it had seemed as though the city had escaped the worst of the damage. The governor ordered the city to be completely evacuated. Fine -- how exactly did she expect that to happen without boats or helicopters or other aid?

Good grief!! Lord save us from women executives -- the Louisiana Governor Blanco unfortunatelyresembles her name -- Blanco -- she looks like a deer caught in the headlines -- oops -- I was going to type headlights -- but that was an apt slip of the fingers.

Even before this happened anyone with an ounce of common sense would have realized that the Superdome was going to be uninhabitable once the power failed, and that they needed to make plans to evacuate those people after the hurricane if the worst case scenario of flooding came to pass. The Superdome, which would have been a fine shelter for a few hours to weather the storm, is not inhabitable once the power fails.It's obvious that the water and sewage is going to fail once the city is flooded. Was any thought given as to how they were going to evacuate people once they became surrounded by water?

As we watch what is unfolding it is becoming clear that we are
witnessing the death of an American city. Clogged with silt, water, sewage, bodies, devoid of business and commerce -- it is completely uninhabitable for the forseeable future. The question must be asked -- is it worth rebuilding this city? Or should it be abandoned like ancient Pompeii and its half-million residents will have to be housed as refugees and eventually resettled in other towns and cities.

Have we ever tried to rebuild a city that has been completely underwater for weeks and weeks? I would imagine all the buildings will be
completely uninhabitable -- imagine the cost to repair and dry out those buildings -- and clean them of all that sewage and fuel and contaminants? And they will have to build seawalls capable of withstanding a category 5 hurricane -- which could happen this year still -- much less next year. Another Cat 4 or 5 storm could hit a week
after they open the city for business. Where are the businesses going to go in the meantime? So many questions, and so few answers. Is it sensible to continue rebuilding cities which are so vulnerable to yearly hurricanes. Can the country afford it?

Today there were people lining the ramps leading to the Superdome and no one was even dropping water or food to them while they lay there exposed to the sun and elements, most of them already exhausted and injured. I'd say that we are witnessing the unfortunate result of poor planning. They
still didn't know today what to do with all those people in the dome -- and they knew yesterday morning that they would have to be moved somewhere. Eventually they came up with the idea of moving them to the Houston Astrodome -- but with no coherent plan of how to accomplish this. Close to half a million people are refugees -- literally -- just like in wartime. Temporary housing is going to have to be found for all those people for a long time to come -- and they are going to have to be relocated and resettled somewhere, somehow -- it's not just a matter of
a few days and then everyone can go home and start rebuilding.

The first priority must be rescuing people and providing them with elementary food, water and sanitation and health care. This is beyond the capacity of these people to accomplish themselves -- if your house is gone and your car is gone and you can't access your money and you have no transport -- you are a refugee -- they are going to have to set up refugee centers like they did in the wartime to deal with this.

The President finally got engaged and flew back to Washington, passing over the devastated area on his way back. Now is no time for him to be seen as being on vacation, even though he can do what he has to do from Texas as well. Still, symbolism is important. It's important that the military is getting involved, for only they have the resources to provide shelter, food, water and medical care on short notice and on a mobile basis. This is a crisis even larger, in human and economic dimensions, than 9/11. And we must respond accordingly. And we must think creatively. Perhaps it's time to abandon New Orleans and build a new city on higher ground.

And we haven't even talked about the destruction of Biloxi and other Mississippi towns. Or the price of gas and what that will do to supply and prices of fuel in the coming weeks and months. Let's just hope the terrorists don't decide to strike now.


At 5:08 AM, Blogger TJ Willms said...

"A deer in the Headlines," very witty, but oh so true in every respect. I have to admit I'm having some difficulty feeling too sorry for the people we see trapped on their roof tops, they were warned to get out of the city by the New Orleans police chief in terms that even the dimmest of people could relate to.

"What I'm telling you now is you need to do what's right by you and your families and haul-ass out of here Now!"

This warning was delivered a full day before Katrina made landfall and still some people decided to stay in their homes keeping their children with them in what could only be called reckless endangerment. I feel for the suffering they will be going through, but people have to stop pulling misery down on themselves and expecting to be rescued from their own foolishness.

At 1:27 PM, Anonymous jane lee said...

Miles O'Brien asks Haley Barbour why the military wasn't used more extensively BEFORE the storm. What yelling and screaming would there have been if the hated military had been stationed around New Orleans before the storm hit? I think I can hear "Bush wants to take control of the country and is using the military to do it."

At 5:30 PM, Blogger Nico said...

Regarding the TJ Williams post:

I have to admit I'm having some difficulty feeling too sorry for the people we see trapped on their roof tops, they were warned to get out of the city by the New Orleans police chief in terms that even the dimmest of people could relate to.

1) It is sad if you can't feel compassion for tens of thousands of suffering people.

2) Have you ever BEEN to New Orleans? The grinding poverty there was unreal before this hurricane. A lot of people there don't have cars and live below the poverty line. How were they supposed to leave? How far can you realistically walk in a day? 10-15 miles if you absolutely push the hell out of yourself and don't have any kids with you or elderly people to help along and have no possessions. Yeah, it'd do them a whole lot of good to be stuck out in the elements totally unprotected.

At 6:45 PM, Anonymous Poole said...

Every year, the Federal, State and local governments distribute information on what people should do to prepare for a hurricane. Every list I have seen mentions water, food and medicine for 3 to 5 days. Radios, batteries, flashlights, etc. are also essentials.

I do not remember seeing any news footage of people carrying supplies to the Superdome. All I saw were people walking with a few iems in their hands.

If nothing comes out of this disaster, then governments could learn to post their plans on the internet. Imagine how these plans could be improved and monitored if the distributed knowledge of the blogosphere could be used to vett, improve, revise and update all of these plans.

At 8:55 PM, Blogger Yogi-Twoworlds said...

I concur more than you can discern with all but your comparison of the unfolding tragedy to any other event of our knowing. I say unfolding because it has yet to peak. If I put myself in these victims place with Army helicopters flying over and no help, News Ferrets sliding through with prying questions dressed in pristine clothes with well hydrated faces I would think I was at best a government experiment and at worst somehow marked for death. The event is far past any previous event including the hallowed 9/ 11. Nucear and 9/11 are man-made this is our Mother speaking a message to pick and leave before She changes Her face. We are of similar mind and I would love to create a netlationship. You are welcome to visit me at www.logicmuse.com

At 1:29 AM, Blogger opine6 said...

There apparently was no plan in place to get the poor out of the city prior to the hurricane, although there was a category 5+ bearing down on the city.

Railroads run through the town, tour buses abound, there's a streetcar. This planning should have already been on the books, coordinated, and well published to the masses. There would be some who stayed anyway, and put rescuers in peril, but most of the city could have been evacuated.

The people blaming Bush are misguided. The Federal involvement comes at the request of the Governor. She did not request Federal help until late in the day Tuesday, when it became obvious the city was flooding and it couldn't be stopped. To have Federal resources arriving in two days was a very fast response, considering the logistics of getting troops mobilized and the logistics to support them once they got there.

At 2:38 AM, Anonymous Uncle Lar said...

Regarding the silouan92 post:

"Have you ever BEEN to New Orleans? The grinding poverty there was unreal before this hurricane. A lot of people there don't have cars and live below the poverty line. How were they supposed to leave? How far can you realistically walk in a day? 10-15 miles if you absolutely push the hell out of yourself and don't have any kids with you or elderly people to help along and have no possessions. Yeah, it'd do them a whole lot of good to be stuck out in the elements totally unprotected."

Maybe TJ hasn't been to New Orleans, but I have... several times. In fact, twenty years ago I lived in Shreveport, Louisiana. I went to New Orleans to party on Bourbon Street every weekend I could get away. I have always loved the town, and I ache for it's citizens... at least the law-abiding ones.

That said, both the City of New Orleans and the State of Louisiana had ample notice that they were going to get slammed by a Category 4 or 5 hurricane, and they knew they had thousands of people that needed to be evacuated, but had no transportation of their own. New Orleans had a decent city bus system when I used to visit on a regular basis. I'm assuming that they still have one. They also have railroads and semi-trailer trucks. They should have loaded everybody who didn't have a ride on city buses for rides to trains and trucks. Every empty boxcar and semi-trailer should have been filled with evacuees and hauled out of town. While I'll admit that this is a lousy way to travel, it beats living for days in unimaginable squalor... or dying in it.

Another alternative would have been to organize pickup points for people who had cars with empty seats to give those without cars rides out of town or to the nearest train or truck.

These facts beg the question: why didn't the City of New Orleans and the State of Louisiana get those people out? They certainly had the means with which to do so, if they'd planned better.

At 3:34 AM, Blogger Stagefrightallica said...

Aussiegirl you spoke my mind and heart. I live in Baton Rouge Louisiana and work half a mile down the road from I-10. The mall that I work at is ground Zero for electric and tree trimmers. The international (aka Jimmy Swaggart )ministry around the corner is involved also with meals, lodging and other logistical folk. Help is on the way. Help started Monday evening with the stageing of these workers.

Do I feel Louisiana lacked a worse case situation about New Orleans....? YOU DAMM RIGHT! I've been thinking on it ever since I watched a show 12 years ago on the Discovery Channel about what a CAT 1 will do to our beloved New Orleans.

There will be lots of blame to go around down the road. Gov. Blanco is doing the best she can right now. Do I feel confident in her public show of power, resolve and determination. No...but I will hold back my negative feeling for now. Bobby Jindal for Gov in 2008

oops sorry

I watch the TV and all I see is the misery. It is real and painful but what I see the most is what it is like to live in a welfare state. You damm right...A WELFARE STATE!!! Wineing is contagious like yawning and a lot of that is getting captured by eager photojournalist looking to score the big one. The one question I know folk from all across this nation want to ask thoes who are in distress and wineing about why Big Brother Government failed them is what was your plan? People in northern US states know THEY WILL DIE if they don't prepare for the winter. Clear and simple. I know many of the poor don't have a car (I did not own my first car till I was 30) to plan there way out but what happen to all that "community" talk by thoes Pimp Daddy rhymen reverends about being your brothers keeper in "The Community" Did none of these folk have a joint plan with their neighboors....? sigh....

Thuggery now reigns in New Orleans. Footlocker and Best Buy are all the thugs see in there selfish and greedy eyes, because as we all know "It takes A Village" to haul off 45 FUBU tee shirt, 12 pairs of Reeboks and a 42 inch CRT TV that will not work for another for another 6 months!

I don't know what I'm saying I could be 100% out of faze.
What I do know is that it will be a long time before I can go to my favorite Irish Tavern, O'Flaherty's on Toulouse St.

I can wait......sigh.......

At 3:45 PM, Blogger Danny said...

"Should We rebild New Orleans???"
That is the stupidest question I have heard in a while and I have been listening to people calling into the radio stations? I have a question for you. Should NY be rebuilding the world trade center??? Should San Francisco and Los Angeles rebuild after a Earthquake. SHould Sri Lanka rebuid. All these places have been destroyed by some disaster and there is no hesitaion in rebuilding them??? With Questions of wether to rebuild It seems NO is indeed the city that care forgot. New Orleans will be rebuilt exactly where it is. We are no less important ( and probably more important) to the country than Ney York, San Francisco, or Las Angeles. If we Do not rebild New Orleans then perhaps San Francisco can Remain destroyed after the next major Earthquake.


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