Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Katrina Closure

Hurrican Katrina was one of my first blogging"paloozas," and the story of the city's destruction and Bush's failure to give a damn, and the efforts of bloggers and pundits to justify and explain and excuse infuriated, and enlightend, and educated me in far too many diffferent ways. I mention this now because a comment (written today) by newcomer Shira Bat Shira took me back:

I just started reading your blog a few weeks ago and noticed your Katrina archive. I was first drawn to your site by your very good response to Lazar Brody and his Katrina message.

My dear, dumb, Dag, what was also dreadful was Bush diverting rescue workers from thgeir jobs so that they could instead stand behind him for photographs. What was also dreadful was that FEMA couldn't get food or water to the convention center for four days. And the list goes on as Bushes buddies become richer.

The national and international news focused on a narrow view of Hurricane Katrina. It has largely ignored the story of my hometown of Gulfport Mississippi and other cities along the Mississippi Gulf Coast. We have not rebuilt as many commenters have asserted. It will take many, many years to replace the 100,000 that Katrina destroyed, not flooded, destroyed.

But to get back the news media agenda, they reported the lurid tales they could find(those tales proved to false) and ignored the real stories.

The FEMA supply trucks arrived within 3 days on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Why not in Louisiana? Several factors, the first being those in the Superdome and the Convention Center did have food and water supplied by the Louisiana National Guard. It was rationed but nobody starved or died of thirst. Second, why attempt to cart in massive amounts of food and water when the city was being evacuated? Tirdly, the extraordinary rescue efforts of the Coast Guard, the Louisiana National Guard, the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, police, fire men, and ordinary citizens tends to give the impression that people in the New Orleans area and Mississippi did not evacuate. This is not true. Over 2 million people evacuated. If they hadn't, the death toll would have been much higher. And speaking of the death toll, the majority of those who died because of Hurricane Katrina in both Mississippi and Louisiana were the elderly, not the poor. They did not want to leave their homes. We had to lie to my Mom to get her to come with us.

So many extraordinary and awesome things occured during and after Hurricane Katrina and it is being lost because of politics. Consider, 50,000 people were rescued, one of the most massive rescues every done and all we hear about is how Bush is to blame for everything. At the beginning of 2007, the number of volunteers helping us to rebuild our lives in Louisiana and Mississippi reached 500,000.

If you want to look at what an ineffective government response to a natural disaster is, just look at what is going on(or not going on) in Burma.

The typhoon in Burma had a storm surge of 12 feet. The storm surge in Katrina, according to NOAA, was 28 feet.

People are looking at the wrong-end of Hurricane Katrina. it did not make sense to bring in food and water to New Orleans when the city was being evacuated and when the Louisiana National Guard had water and food to meet needs.

As one commenter pointed out, each time President Bush visited Biloxi or Gulfport Mississippi, resources had to be used for security and transportation. How much worse would it have been if he had tried to visit New Orleans when that city was still underwater and being evacuated? His visits to Mississippi were very much appreciated because it made us feel less isolated.

There were so many things that did go right during Hurricane Katrina and it makes me sad that the focus is on politics.

The fact is, no amount of Federal aid is going to make rebuilding the 100,000 homes lost in Mississippi and the 100,000 homes flooded in Louisiana be rebuilt any quicker. It will take 10 to 15 years to get back to semblance of normalcy.

Shira, I wish you'd been here in 2005. Your information and POV would have been very helpful.

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