Monday, September 19, 2005

The Truth about Katrina

The purpose of this blog is to dig through media bias and misinformation and find the truth, whatever it might be. Since the biggest story in at least 5 years is unfolding before us today it seems logical to start with Katrina. The resounding theme of most news outlets seems to be how slow the initial response to Katrina was. In researching this I found this article that does a great job of detailing what has to be done and what a "fast" vs "slow" response time is. It basically states that the federal government was right on target as far as response time once it was cleared by the state government to move in. Jack Kelly: No shameThe federal response to Katrina was not as portrayedSunday, September 11, 2005

It is settled wisdom among journalists that the federal response to the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina was unconscionably slow.Jack Kelly is national security writer for the Post-Gazette and The Blade of Toledo, Ohio (, 412-263-1476). "Mr. Bush's performance last week will rank as one of the worst ever during a dire national emergency," wrote New York Times columnist Bob Herbert in a somewhat more strident expression of the conventional wisdom.But the conventional wisdom is the opposite of the truth.Jason van Steenwyk is a Florida Army National Guardsman who has been mobilized six times for hurricane relief. He notes that:"The federal government pretty much met its standard time lines, but the volume of support provided during the 72-96 hour was unprecedented. The federal response here was faster than Hugo, faster than Andrew, faster than Iniki, faster than Francine and Jeanne."For instance, it took five days for National Guard troops to arrive in strength on the scene in Homestead, Fla. after Hurricane Andrew hit in 2002. But after Katrina, there was a significant National Guard presence in the afflicted region in three.Journalists who are long on opinions and short on knowledge have no idea what is involved in moving hundreds of tons of relief supplies into an area the size of England in which power lines are down, telecommunications are out, no gasoline is available, bridges are damaged, roads and airports are covered with debris, and apparently have little interest in finding out.So they libel as a "national disgrace" the most monumental and successful disaster relief operation in world history.I write this column a week and a day after the main levee protecting New Orleans breached. In the course of that week:More than 32,000 people have been rescued, many plucked from rooftops by Coast Guard helicopters.The Army Corps of Engineers has all but repaired the breaches and begun pumping water out of New Orleans.Shelter, food and medical care have been provided to more than 180,000 refugees.Journalists complain that it took a whole week to do this. A former Air Force logistics officer had some words of advice for us in the Fourth Estate on his blog, Moltenthought:"We do not yet have teleporter or replicator technology like you saw on 'Star Trek' in college between hookah hits and waiting to pick up your worthless communications degree while the grown-ups actually engaged in the recovery effort were studying engineering."The United States military can wipe out the Taliban and the Iraqi Republican Guard far more swiftly than they can bring 3 million Swanson dinners to an underwater city through an area the size of Great Britain which has no power, no working ports or airports, and a devastated and impassable road network."You cannot speed recovery and relief efforts up by prepositioning assets (in the affected areas) since the assets are endangered by the very storm which destroyed the region."No amount of yelling, crying and mustering of moral indignation will change any of the facts above.""You cannot just snap your fingers and make the military appear somewhere," van Steenwyk said.Guardsmen need to receive mobilization orders; report to their armories; draw equipment; receive orders and convoy to the disaster area. Guardsmen driving down from Pennsylvania or Navy ships sailing from Norfolk can't be on the scene immediately.Relief efforts must be planned. Other than prepositioning supplies near the area likely to be afflicted (which was done quite efficiently), this cannot be done until the hurricane has struck and a damage assessment can be made. There must be a route reconnaissance to determine if roads are open, and bridges along the way can bear the weight of heavily laden trucks.And federal troops and Guardsmen from other states cannot be sent to a disaster area until their presence has been requested by the governors of the afflicted states.Exhibit A on the bill of indictment of federal sluggishness is that it took four days before most people were evacuated from the Louisiana Superdome.The levee broke Tuesday morning. Buses had to be rounded up and driven from Houston to New Orleans across debris-strewn roads. The first ones arrived Wednesday evening. That seems pretty fast to me.A better question -- which few journalists ask -- is why weren't the roughly 2,000 municipal and school buses in New Orleans utilized to take people out of the city before Katrina struck?"

This article seems to do the best job of anything I've found that explains what goes into a rescue operation of this magnitude and how long it should really take. This is a good point to start trying to figure out what could have been done better. I hope this is informative for you and will spark some discussion of better alternatives and exploration of the truth.

In closing, I want to thank the people who have put so much time and energy into helping the evacuees in this tragic time. If you're not involved, it's very hard to know what goes into just taking care of everyday life in this situation. A good friend of mine is from Houston, and with her permission, I'm posting her response on a message board to the question "how are things down Houston way?" it expresses better than I ever could how things are being handled there. Plus some great insight into the political debates going on today.

We're up to our shoulderblades in evacuees, trying to feed, clothe, educate, find jobs for, and house the 125,000 extra people we suddenly have in our city. We are giving blood. We are donating food and water. Many people are taking evacuees, strangers they have never met, into their own homes. We are trying to reunite families. Children's Protective Services suddenly needs six dozen extra caseworkers in the Houston area. Some charitable organizations have begun rerouting donations to other organizations because their warehouses are full. Things are tight in places, but we do have enough food, water, clothing, and schools for everybody. We're finding places for these folks to stay, too-- the populations of the 'Dome, Reliant Arena, and the George R. Brown Convention Center have been, slowly but surely, steadily decreasing.What we don't have enough of is volunteers, especially in the mornings. Nobody seems to want to get out of bed at 5am to go help feed these people breakfast and get their kids on school buses.Do you guys realize that there have been about a dozen deaths resulting from this hurricane from cholera? CHOLERA. We haven't had cholera in the US since what, the Civil War?Here's the thing. We're doing the best we can, whether people believe that or not. There have been, and probably still will be, some hiccups along the way due to bureaucracy or red tape or whatever else. But the people on the front lines are rolling up their sleeves and diving right into the foray. We ain't talking about Tom DeLay this and Governor Blanco that and "Let's form a bipartisan commission to look into what went wrong on the Gulf Coast in the days following the hurricane." Because, boys and girls, THAT **** DON'T MATTER YET. People need food, water, clothes, medicine, school, jobs, and places to live. Ain't nobody here concerned about who to vote for in the next elections yet. I find it hypocritical that the partisan political bickering is going on away from the front lines, but not so much ON the front lines.People can't wear, eat, drink, or sleep on bipartisan exploratory commissions."

Thanks for reading and I hope that it stirs a desire to know the truth, no matter what the "established" news sources try to tell us.


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