Thursday, September 01, 2005

Katrina Chaos

Every blogger in the known blogiverse has posted at least something about Hurricane Katrina and the associated damage. My personal connection to the disaster is minor and trivial. My sister has plane reservations for an upcoming vacation to New Orleans. I doubt that will happen.

I also have a former coworker who moved to Mobile, Alabama, to get married and raise a family. He now has three children and works in Pascagoula (a town whose name always make me think of the Jimmy Buffett song). I do not even known if the phone number I have is current, since an out-of-service message could mean anything right now. And like all privacy-seeking people nowadays, his number is unlisted, so I cannot verify it.

My wife and I went on one of our first vacations as a married couple to Mardi Gras in 1988. We lucked into a hotel reservation in the French Quarter one block off of Bourbon Street that normally requires reservations a year in advance. We also, on a whim, ate “Breakfast at Brennans” which remains to this day one of the best meals we have ever had. We were living a charmed life and have a lot of good memories that can’t be taken away by any storm.

We were living in West Palm Beach when Andrew hit Miami. The friends we were visiting friends in Tampa asked us, “Are you prepared for the hurricane?” and we asked “What hurricane?” indicating we weren’t. My wife and I drove the four hours back to WPB to secure our townhouse which had four large sliding glass doors and pick up enough provisions for a few days. I took us eight hours to drive both cars back to Tampa. Fortunately, the damage to WPB was minor, but plenty of people in south Miami lived without basic services for days or weeks.

The big discussion currently, aside from shooting looters on sight or after a trial, is whether and how to rebuild New Orleans. People always have and always will live in very unsafe places. On the sides of volcanoes. Over seismic fault lines. Below sea level. The force and power of nature mocks our best efforts to adapt an inherently unsafe world to our needs.

A recent Straight Dope column discussed the magnitude of various disasters and pointed out something I have noticed myself. Disasters in the US do a lot of property damage, but, from a global perspective, are relatively light in casualties. Let us hope the same holds true here. For relief efforts I recommend Catholic Charities which can always relied on to be wherever people need help.

Update(9/2/05): For live in New Orleans blogging see interdictor's LiveJournal site. He is in the downtown New Orleans area giving some horrifying first hand accounts. Another blogger in Baton Rouge is also updating the situation from the other end of evacuation.

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Anonymous said...

I had not noticed the casualty connection myself, thanks for pointing that out. It makes me feel better for not being able to do anything to help.

Anonymous said...

I think we totally lucked out on the casualty count this time around. Having said that, however, look at the sheer number of people who were turned into instant refugees because they just plain didn't leave town.

So many time we listen to the dire warnings on the radio or on TV that the Big Storm Is Coming, batten down the hatches, cover the windows, get into the storm cellar or just plain Move to Higher Ground! And when the storm turns out to be not quite what we thought it would be, our reaction is that the weather soothsayers have been crying wolf, that they're full of crap. And we don't take the warnings seriously the next time around. And then we get whacked with the storm.

Sure, the number of dead is relatively low; probably because we (Americans, that is) do an overall better job on construction and so there aren't as many deaths as a result of shoddy building. But there are still thousands of people who had several DAYS' worth of warning--this was one slow-moving storm--and are now the wretched homeless who are getting into fights, or killing themselves, or are reduced to looting, instead of being just homeless and a couple of hundred miles from the city where their house used to be.

yellojkt said...

I'm lucky enough to have reliable transportation and I will not put my family's lives at risk over my property. The Washington Post has an interesting article about two guys now stuck in Baton Rouge that could have gotten out. One defends looting as no big deal. An entirely different mindset.

Olyal said...

It is a dreadful thing to happen anywhere in the world. I hope that with a lot of TLC new Orleans can be rebuilt to something that resembles its former self.
Disasters can happen on many scales, in any place at any time.
There but for the grace of god go all of us.

Michele sent me.

dena said...

"there are still thousands of people who had several DAYS' worth of warning"

Sure they had warning, but what good does it do if you have no transportation. It happened in an urban area, and that's much worse than a hurricane hitting resort homes in Florida.

Put anyone in a fishbowl with dead bodies floating around, no sanitation, no water, no food and it doesn't matter who they are. It's anarchy, but it would happen if everyone in that city were white and upper middle class. Or would our government find a way to yank the wealthy out a little more quickly?

visiting from michele's

Pedro Pedroso said...

Sorry but not everyone is interested or even gives shit to american problems...especially when you have Presidents like BUSH.

Of course I feel sorry for all the normal folks that are suffering...but maybe if you spend less money in war and invested more in your country the problems that came with this disaster could be smaller!

just my 2 cents!

Pedro Pedroso said...

and now a small of example of a portuguese blog where this katrina situation is mentioned (not mine for sure):

BUSH: I want to know who are the folks who did this!
ADVISOR: Who did what?
BUSH: You know, the attack on New Orleans. You don't think they'd fool me with that name Katrina. I reckon that's a false name.
ADVISOR: Well, sir, that's just the name of the hurricane.
BUSH: Who's behind it??
ADVISOR: Mother Nature, sir.
BUSH: Find that Big Mamma for me. Find out where she lives and bomb her and all her followers.
ADVISOR: Perhaps if we'd signed the Kyoto Protocol, sir...
BUSH: What?? The japs are also behind this? I want them bombed as well!!
ADVISOR: Certainly Mr. President.
BUSH: And now watch this drive!

Anonymous said...

HA! The above is hilarious. I'll check out the Baton Rouge link. Hi from michele's and the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Star said...

I am struck mostly by the fact that even with all the warnings and predictions of damage that assistance to people who were victims, whatever the reason> took so long in getting there. In some casews it still hasn't. Help people first and assess blame later.

Bonvallet said...

Really, is there a truly safe place to build your home today?

Ashlea S said...

Yello, did you ever hear from your friend in Pascagoula? Let me know, I may can help.

Ashlea S said...

Never mind, I just read your next post. Glad they are okay.