Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Evacuations and common sense

Alrighty, I'm already bracing for accusations of "you insensitive clod" and such, but when a city issues evacuation warnings for a hurricane, and the area is already declared a federal disaster area before the hurricane strikes, doesn't it seem like you should GET OUT WHILE YOU CAN? I know already that there were many poor in the urban wards of New Orleans who have said that they had no access to transportation. God bless and protect all who are so truly without resources that they had no way to escape, and nowhere to go. But one also hears reports of those who didn't really think that the hurricane would be that bad, or who just didn't want to go, and are now being rescued from rooptops. These rescues are costing the taxpayers millions of dollars and the time and resources of trained personnel who might otherwise be deployed to stabilizing the area and getting the disaster under what control they can

The city of New Orleans issued evacuation warnings in advance of the hurricane, and according to reports 80% of the city's population did evacuate beforehand. The Superdome was designated as a shelter, and many chose to stick out the storm there -- not in the most pleasant conditions (as was expected), but lives were saved. Here's what I want to know:
1) Was transportation, either out of the city or to the Superdome, provided from the poorest areas, to those who needed it most?
2) Since warnings were issued beforehand, where were activist groups before the hurricane struck urging people from their neighborhoods and supplementing city and state agencies? Isn't an ounce of prevention worth a pound of cure? Next time, instead of complaining about how the poor bear the brunt of these sorts of disasters, help get them out in time!

There have been discussions on The Corner and on Amy Welborn's blog about the proper response to looting. Of course there are those who cannot otherwise obtain food and water and diapers right now, and there is much food that will spoil if not eaten quickly. But TVs? Name-brand shoes by the boxful? That's greed, and it's criminal. The police forces in New Orleans are stretched to the limit and are working under difficult and dangerous situations as it is, and there are no facilities to hold looters right now. If someone doesn't respect an officer's order to "stop and drop it", what exactly ought the officer to do to keep law and order? Everyone knows theft is a crime (and ignornance of the law is no excuse, as they say). Darwin tells me that during the riots in Los Angeles in 1992 (I think that's the year) jails were filled to capacity, and so officers would just use plastic cuffs on looters and leave them face down on the ground until someone could come pick them up. But there's several feet of water in downtown New Orleans right now, so that doesn't exactly work. I think that the quickest solution to restoring order would be to first of all provide a quick evacuation solution to get people out of the downtown area, but also to warn looters once and then shoot to kill. Law and order must be maintained if the entire area is not to descend into civil chaos.

Just my thoughts, and I'd be interested to hear what you think.


Julie D. said...

Also, I think that you have to live in areas where hurricanes are threatened fairly often to get a grip on the mindset. People have ridden out lesser storms and seen threatened storms move off altogether ... so they think that they know more than the weather men. (Yes, I think it's stupid too ... but that's human nature for ya.)

As for the looting? Callous but if it isn't for food ... shoot 'em. It will stop any borderline looters and keep the real baddies from getting so bold.

David L Alexander said...

Julie et al: We're also talking about a part of the country where people have parties with live music known as "hurricane parties." Many are used to riding this out. Obviously this one didn't turn out as planned.

mrsdarwin said...

I'm devastated for those who had no way to get out of the city (see Darwin's posted picture of flooded school buses; just add water for instant indignation). But there have been reports on Fox of looters with AK-47s. AK-47s are illegal in the US; even the police don't use them. These are gang members taking over the city. Don't tell me you can afford an AK-47 but you don't have a car to evacuate. I know New Orleans is ridden with corruption and is reknowned for its crime, but this needs to be addressed when the post-mortem goes down. These criminals have delayed police, the feds, the civil authorities, and concerned citizens who've tried to help, and they should be caught and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law (if they're still alive.)

Anonymous said...

I had a chance today, as a Red Cross volunteer, to talk to many people that were just evacuated from the Superdome. I gathered that $100 for hotel rooms or transportation was a lot of money for them. They also did not have cars and had very large families (extended). So now my question is how the city or agencies helped them evacuate?

mrsdarwin said...

You bring up a good point, Hector. The president did say, however, that the first priority right now was saving lives. How many more lives would have been saved if there had been organized evacuations from the city? And now there are church groups and aid organizations (and the Red Cross!) stepping up to help those who had nothing. In his speech the president said that the private sector needed to do their part, and maybe that's where we come into this. Still, more could have been helped if more could have been evacuated before the storm hit.

Anonymous said...

I feel a little odd getting indignant over response to the hurricane, because I tend not to read the news much, and so I went from a vague impression of "Oh, there's another hurricane somewhere?" to "WHAT THE HECK??!!"

But then, I wasn't in a position of responsibility for those people, and I think that those who were must have been criminally stupid not to make more efforts.

I do feel a large measure of sympathy for the people who stayed, because if you *are* really poor, and if you don't have relatives to go stay with, you would be abandoning all your earthly possessions in order to blow most of your savings on bus tickets and motel rooms (or camping out under a freeway overpass). Not an attractive picture, and if you've weathered hurricanes before, I can see how staying would be really attractive.

The question is, indeed, why nobody was helping these people BEFORE the storm. And I think there's plenty of blame to go round, both for the government and for private groups.

Julie D. said...

Yes, definitely someone should have helped everyone who would be willing to leave before the storm.

However, have you heard about all the people who even now are refusing to leave their homes? So that puts another wrinkle on it.