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[QUOTE]Ivan exposes flaws in N.O.'s disaster plans
05:09 PM CDT on Sunday, September 19, 2004
By KEVIN McGILL
Those who had the money to flee Hurricane Ivan ran into hours-long traffic jams. Those too poor to leave the city had to find their own shelter - a policy that was eventually reversed, but only a few hours before the deadly storm struck land.
New Orleans dodged the knockout punch many feared from the hurricane, but the storm exposed what some say are significant flaws in the Big Easy's civil disaster plans.
Much of New Orleans is below sea level, kept dry by a system of pumps and levees. As Ivan charged through the Gulf of Mexico, more than a million people were urged to flee. Forecasters warned that a direct hit on the city could send torrents of Mississippi River backwash over the city's levees, creating a 20-foot-deep cesspool of human and industrial waste.
Residents with cars took to the highways. Others wondered what to do.
"They say evacuate, but they don't say how I'm supposed to do that," Latonya Hill, 57, said at the time. "If I can't walk it or get there on the bus, I don't go. I don't got a car. My daughter don't either."
Advocates for the poor were indignant.
"If the government asks people to evacuate, the government has some responsibility to provide an option for those people who can't evacuate and are at the whim of Mother Nature," said Joe Cook of the New Orleans ACLU.
It's always been a problem, but the situation is worse now that the Red Cross has stopped providing shelters in New Orleans for hurricanes rated above Category 2. Stronger hurricanes are too dangerous, and Ivan was a much more powerful Category 4.
In this case, city officials first said they would provide no shelter, then agreed that the state-owned Louisiana Superdome would open to those with special medical needs. Only Wednesday afternoon, with Ivan just hours away, did the city open the 20-story-high domed stadium to the public.
Mayor Ray Nagin's spokeswoman, Tanzie Jones, insisted that there was no reluctance at City Hall to open the Superdome, but said the evacuation was the top priority.
"Our main focus is to get the people out of the city," she said.
Callers to talk radio complained about the late decision to open up the dome, but the mayor said he would do nothing different.
"We did the compassionate thing by opening the shelter," Nagin said. "We wanted to make sure we didn't have a repeat performance of what happened before. We didn't want to see people cooped up in the Superdome for days."
When another dangerous hurricane, Georges, appeared headed for the city in 1998, the Superdome was opened as a shelter and an estimated 14,000 people poured in. But there were problems, including theft and vandalism.
This time far fewer took refuge from the storm - an estimated 1,100 - at the Superdome and there was far greater security: 300 National Guardsmen.
The main safety measure - getting people out of town - raised its own problems.
More than 1 million people tried to leave the city and surrounding suburbs on Tuesday, creating a traffic jam as bad as or worse than the evacuation that followed Georges. In the afternoon, state police took action, reversing inbound lanes on southeastern Louisiana interstates to provide more escape routes. Bottlenecks persisted, however.
Col. Henry Whitehorn, head of state police, said he believes his agency acted appropriately, but also acknowledged he never expected a seven-hour-long crawl for the 60 miles between New Orleans and Baton Rouge.
It was so bad that some broadcasters were telling people to stay home, that they had missed their window of opportunity to leave. They claimed the interstates had turned into parking lots where trapped people could die in a storm surge.
Gov. Kathleen Blanco and Nagin both acknowledged the need to improve traffic flow and said state police should consider reversing highway lanes earlier. They also promised meetings with governments in neighboring localities and state transportation officials to improve evacuation plans.
But Blanco and other state officials stressed that, while irritating, the clogged escape routes got people out of the most vulnerable areas.
"We were able to get people out," state Commissioner of Administration Jerry Luke LeBlanc said. "It was successful. There was frustration, yes. But we got people out of harm's way."
Add to this is, how many escape routes are there out of NO? I-10 east and west; I-55 north; the toll causeway over Lake P (did it survive?); and Hyw 90 but it was wiped out by the surge. What routes were available going south? I don't think any.
Let's say 1 million left by car--if an average of 4/car that's 250K cars trying to get out on the three basic routes. And since the traffic jams of previous evacuations were less than encouraging, many opted to stay.
So if 300K stayed, how long to bus them out assuming you can get to all of them? At 40/bus it'd take 7500 buses to get them all at once--if you have 100 buses, they have to make 75 trips and at ,say, 5 hr/rt, that's 375 hours or 15+days.
Let's face it, NO was a disaster waiting to happen--sure there's always glitches that happen, but even a perfectly smooth operation would take a week at least, IMO.
Updated: 5:21 p.m. ET Sept. 3, 2005
JACKSON, Miss. - Mississippi hurricane survivors looked around Saturday and wondered just how long it would take to get food, clean water and shelter. And they were more than angry at the federal government and the national news media.
Richard Gibbs was disgusted by reports of looting in New Orleans and upset at the lack of attention hurricane victims in his state were getting.
“I say burn the bridges and let ’em all rot there,” he said. “We’re suffering over here too, but we’re not killing each other. We’ve got to help each other. We need gas and food and water and medical supplies.”
Gibbs and his wife, Holly, have been stuck at their flooded home in Gulfport just off the Biloxi River. Water comes up to the second floor, they are out of gasoline, and food supplies are running perilously low.
Until recently, they also had Holly’s 75-year-old father, who has a pacemaker and severe diabetes, with them. Finally they got an ambulance to take him to the airport so he could be airlifted to Lafayette, La., for medical help.
‘Doing what I can do’
In poverty-stricken north Gulfport, Grover Chapman was angry at the lack of aid.
“Something should’ve been on this corner three days ago,” Chapman, 60, said Saturday as he whipped up dinner for his neighbors.
He used wood from his demolished produce stand to cook fish, rabbit, okra and butter beans he’d been keeping in his freezer. Although many houses here, about five miles inland, are still standing, they are severely damaged. Corrugated tin roofs lie scattered on the ground.
“I’m just doing what I can do,” Chapman said. “These people support me with my produce stand every day. Now it’s time to pay them back.”
One neighbor, 78-year-old Georgia Smylie, knew little about what’s happening elsewhere. She was too worried about her own situation.
“My medicine is running out. I need high blood pressure medicine, medicine for my heart,” she said.
Larry Sabato, a University of Virginia political scientist, said he’s been watching hours of Katrina coverage every day and most of the national media attention has focused on the devastation and looting in New Orleans.
“Mississippi needs more coverage,” Sabato said. “Until people see it on TV, they don’t think it’s real.”
Along the battered Mississippi Gulf Coast, crews started searching boats for corpses on Saturday. Several shrimpers are believed to have died as they tried to ride out the storm aboard their boats on the Intracoastal Waterway.
President Bush toured ravaged areas of the Mississippi coast on Friday with Gov. Haley Barbour and other state officials. They also flew over flooded New Orleans.
“I’m going to tell you, Mississippi got hit much harder than they did, but what happened in the aftermath — it makes your stomach hurt to go miles and miles and miles and the houses are all under water up to the roof,” Barbour said.
‘How many days later?’
Keisha Moran has been living in a tent in a department store parking lot in Bay St. Louis with her boyfriend and three young children since the hurricane struck. She said National Guardsmen have brought her water but no other aid so far, and she was furious that it took Bush several days before he came to see the damage in Mississippi.
“It’s how many days later? How many people are dead?” Moran said.
Mississippi’s death toll from Hurricane Katrina stood at 144 on Saturday, according to confirmed reports from coroners and the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency. Barbour had said Friday the total was 147, but he didn’t provide a county-by-county breakdown.
In a strongly worded editorial, The Sun Herald of Biloxi-Gulfport pleaded for help and questioned why a massive National Guard presence wasn’t already visible.
“We understand that New Orleans also was devastated by Hurricane Katrina, but surely this nation has the resources to rescue both that metropolitan (area) and ours,” the newspaper editorialized, saying survival basics like ice, gasoline and medicine have been too slow to arrive.
“We are not calling on the nation and the state to make life more comfortable in South Mississippi, we are calling on the nation and the state to make life here possible,” the paper wrote.
Rotting Food, Dirty Water and Heat Add to Problems
By SHAILA DEWAN and ABBY GOODNOUGH
Published: September 2, 2005
GULFPORT, Miss., Sept. 1 - The National Guard went out on Thursday to pick up the chicken.
Rotting away in plastic packages strewn all over the west side of Gulfport, bearing who knows what diseases, the chicken - 40 tons of it - is one of the more unusual public health concerns facing the Gulf Coast in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
Sherry Finkelstein bathed in an open fire hydrant Thursday in Biloxi, Miss., where residents remained without electricity, water or communications in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.
There are also the lack of running water, the scarcity of toilets, the rats, the rashes, the rotting cadavers, the sewage backflow, dehydration, tetanus, mental trauma and searing summer heat. And the shrimp.
As residents here struggle with the immensity of the destruction, the entire hurricane-ravaged region has been declared a federal health emergency. The chicken and a million pounds of frozen uncooked shrimp had been awaiting distribution on the waterfront when the storm hit. Now they are adding to official worry over what might be found in the water supply when testing begins.
"We have no idea what is in that water," said Joe Spraggins, the director of emergency management for Harrison County.
Doctors say the number of patients with storm-related injuries has tapered off, while new afflictions are appearing. "Now we're seeing post-traumatic stress-type stuff, a lot of babies with fevers, general viral-type stuff and dehydration," said Dr. George Ward, director of the emergency room at Memorial Hospital.
Over the next few days, Dr. Ward said, hospitals will begin seeing people with "all types of intestinal infections" from drinking dirty water. He said his hospital had enough antibiotics to last a week or two but would need much more, especially if running water was not restored by week's end.
At a morning briefing on Thursday, Mr. Spraggins said that tetanus shots were on their way. "We got a bill for them, we just haven't seen them," he said. By afternoon, they had started to arrive. Rescue and health workers were being inoculated for tetanus and hepatitis A, state officials said.
Meanwhile, people's attempts to survive may be compounding the health problems.
In Bay St. Louis, Miss., the police on Thursday shut down a high school that had been illegally turned into a squalid, lawless shelter where hundreds of people were fighting and using the floors as toilets. Hotels that withstood the storm have become refugee camps, with victims packed into fetid rooms with no lights, water or flushing toilets.
At the Holiday Inn in Gulfport, children and adults, some with washcloths and soap, crowded into a swimming pool that had been home to dolphins from a local marina during the storm.
On Thursday afternoon, Horace Hodges, another temporary tenant, made the rounds, carrying two buckets and offering to fetch water from a murky, puce-colored swimming pool to fill people's toilet tanks. In the parking lot, a wharf rat the size of a small dog scurried underfoot as Howard O'Gwin Jr., who was living in one room with nine other family members, two dogs and a bird, unloaded bottled water from a shopping cart.
Officials, overwhelmed by the immensity of the problem, can offer little help. Asked what sort of latrine regimen he could recommend, Mr. Spraggins, a former colonel in the National Guard, said sheepishly, "I don't want to say the advice."
Several times, Mr. Spraggins has warned of the backflush that can occur when water pressure is low and toilets are flushed, sometimes driving waste water into the potable supply. He said 2,500 portable toilets had been ordered for the county, which has a population of 190,000. Cities as far north as Hattiesburg have no running water, state officials said.
Mr. Spraggins also said that some of the desperate had tried to hook up grills to broken gas lines in hopes of boiling water.
"It doesn't take long to explode everything," he warned.
On the second floor of the Sun Coast, Rae Rogers, her husband, sister-in-law and four children shared two beds and a few gallons of fresh water. For the first few nights after the storm, they slept on the sidewalk in front of their wrecked apartment complex, where they said more than 12 bodies remained inside.
After five days with no baths or showers, the children had itchy rashes on their backs, legs and stomachs, Ms. Rogers said. "I'm hoping it's just from the dirty mud," she said. "It smells like death to me, all over the place."
Public health experts said the things that scared people the most were not usually the greatest threats.
"It's the dehydration, the stress, the heat, the anxiety that are the greatest threats right now," said W. Courtland Robinson, a professor at the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins. Corpses, he said, are "merely gross," and contagious diseases are rare. After the tsunami in Asia last December, he said, there were only 100 cases of tetanus and a few cases of cholera.
For some, the hurricane has meant a forced return to nature. Marilyn Garcia and William Arnold Jr. said they were using the woods for a bathroom. And for bathing on Thursday, they had come by bicycle to a marshy, possibly alligator-infested pond in Bay St. Louis known as "the blue hole."
Ms. Garcia stood dripping wet in her clothes. Mr. Arnold smiled and gave a grand gesture toward the pond. "It's artesian," he said.
Gulfport braces for surge in sanitation diseases
By Shaila Dewan and Abby Goodnough in Gulfport, Mississippi
September 3, 2005
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The National Guard went out to pick up the chicken. Rotting away in plastic packages strewn all over the west side of Gulfport, bearing who knows what diseases, the chicken - 40 tonnes of it - is one of the more unusual public health concerns facing the Gulf Coast in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
There are also the lack of running water, the scarcity of toilets, the rats, the rashes, the rotting corpses, the sewage backflow, dehydration, tetanus, mental trauma and searing summer heat. And the shrimp.
As Gulfport residents struggle with the immensity of the destruction, the entire hurricane-ravaged region has been declared a federal health emergency.
The chicken and 450,000 kilograms of frozen uncooked shrimp had been awaiting distribution on the waterfront when Katrina hit. Now they are adding to official worry over what might be found in the water supply when testing begins.
Doctors say the number of patients with storm-related injuries has tapered off, while new afflictions are appearing. "Now we're seeing post-traumatic stress-type stuff, a lot of babies with fevers, general viral-type stuff, and dehydration," said Dr George Ward, director of the emergency room at Memorial Hospital.
AdvertisementOver the next few days, he said, hospitals will begin seeing people with "all types of intestinal infections" from drinking dirty water. He said his hospital had enough antibiotics to last a week or two but would need much more, especially if running water was not restored by the end of the week.
By Thursday afternoon, supplies of tetanus vaccine had begun arriving. Rescue and health workers were being inoculated for tetanus and hepatitis A, state officials said.
Meanwhile, people's attempts to survive may be compounding the health problems.
In Bay St Louis on Thursday, police shut down a high school that had been illegally turned into a squalid, lawless shelter where 400 people were fighting and using the floors as toilets. Hotels that withstood the storm have become refugee camps, with victims packed into fetid rooms with no lights, water or flushing toilets.
At the Holiday Inn in Gulfport, children and adults, some with washcloths and soap, crowded into a swimming pool that housed dolphins from a local marina during the storm.
Officials, overwhelmed by the immensity of the problem, can offer little help.
Liz Sharlot, the chief spokeswoman for the Mississippi Department of Health, said succinctly, "Bathing is not essential to life."
bit ... people can play blame for political purposes ... blame bush and/or the feds ... other side can say the local/state is responsible in the short term (i.e. first responders) ... e.g. locals left the buses in the low grounds and they got flooded.
but, I think the people who ignored the mandatory evacuation are the biggest ones to be blamed. They were warned. They made the decision to stay (now, I know they is a subset of that who didn't have the means ... and I feel bad for them ... their neighbors/community leaders need to help out).
Rescuers (local, state, federal) have done their best ... this is a once in a decade disaster.
[QUOTE=bitonti]heres the bottom line - our gov't's lack of responsiveness at all levels (federal, state and local) was shameful.[/QUOTE]