Matthew's Foray into Blogging

Friday, September 02, 2005

A Hurricane: Who Would Have Guessed?

Our elected and appointed government officials dropped the ball in preparedness for a foreseeable, even inevitable, natural disaster. The possibility of a category four or five storm pummeling the Gulf Coast was not unfathomable. It was not even a matter of if it would happen, but when it would happen. Hurricane Camille devastated Mississippi’s Gulf Coast 35 years ago, and Hurricane Betsy swamped New Orleans 36 years ago. In 2001, FEMA ranked the potential damage to New Orleans should a hurricane strike as among the three likeliest, most catastrophic disasters facing the country. Tropical Storm Allison caused serious problems for Houston in 2001, and prompted forecasts of the decimation that would result if a category five storm were to visit its wrath upon Houston.

What has been done to ready our coastal cities for such a storm? Any measures that have been taken are unapparent. New Orleans and Louisiana officials’ requests to the federal government to improve the levies and other protections against flooding went unanswered. The dikes that contained Lake Pontchartrain were laughably inadequate.

Yeah, the Governor of Louisiana issued orders to evacuate, if residents had cars or could afford to put gas in their tanks. At the very least, there should have been in place a plan for busing to safety those who lacked the means to leave. The infrastructure for evacuating people from the coastal cities in Louisiana was insufficient; the situation is the same in Houston. If millions of people were to take to their cars to flee an oncoming storm, the roadways would become clogged. Following the storm, Interstate 10 is currently impassable. If New Orleans was practically below sea level as it was, the decision to reside there seems imprudent.

FEMA was ill-prepared to mount a disaster relief effort. The Department of Homeland Security, which is charged with disaster preparation and relief, has proven itself inadequate for the job.

Now the politicians have the opportunity to go before the cameras to pontificate about the relief efforts and disaster recovery. They failed in the initial instance, but now they take advantage of the occasion for political gain.

“Notwithstanding, therefore, that we have not witnessed within the last three thousand years the devastation by deluge of a large continent, yet, as we may predict the future occurrence of such catastrophes, we are authorized to regard them as part of the present order of Nature.” Charles Lyell, Principles of Geology.

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