from the September 02, 2005 edition -
The Monitor's View
Concerned about Louisianians stranded in the unsanitary Superdome, the
governor of Texas invited all 25,000 of them to the cool, dry Houston
Astrodome Wednesday. Thursday, he invited another 25,000 evacuees to
San Antonio. "We're neighbors and we're going to pull together,"
Gov. Rick Perry stated.
After hurricane Katrina, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama are now
everyone's "next door." Those states' vast needs require help from
across the country -- donations to private charities, offers to open up
homes to the displaced, and all levels of government assistance.
The catastrophe is also particularly relevant to those who share the
same potential for large-scale disaster or evacuation -- people living
in flood or earthquake zones, for instance, or cities deemed terrorist
targets. As Governor Perry observed, "we could be the ones that have
this extraordinary need."
Dealing skillfully with this current need, therefore, serves a dual
purpose: helping the millions directly affected, and teaching
Americans how to cope more effectively with disasters.
So far, local, state, and national officials have shown a good measure
of competence in handling Katrina before, during, and after it hit.
Last year, local and state officials along the Gulf of Mexico were
criticized for poor evacuation procedures in advance of hurricane
Ivan. This time, they called for mandatory evacuations early on and
opened all lanes to outbound traffic on the two interstates leading
away from Louisiana's and Mississippi's most populous areas. More than
a million people fled, including about 80 percent of the population of
Because President Bush designated both states disaster areas in
advance of the storm, the Red Cross and the Federal Emergency
Management Agency could mobilize beforehand, setting up shelters and
bringing water, ice, and food.
Rightly, the Bush administration recognized the storm's ripple effect
on oil, and temporarily waived key air-quality fuel standards to
increase gas supplies after the storm damaged the Gulf's petroleum
The Pentagon has also sprung into action with an unprecedented
domestic joint task force, coordinating National Guard and active-duty
forces across four states. Meanwhile, naval vessels and helicopters
are on the way.
But the death toll; the plight of people too ill, poor, or stubborn to
evacuate; the lawlessness; and the billions of dollars in destroyed homes
and businesses show just how much officials at all levels -- and
individuals -- still have to learn in handling a truly far-reaching disaster.
Response has been quick, but with more prepositioning of National
Guard forces and equipment, it could have been faster. Evacuation
planning should have served disadvantaged people better. This storm
reminds coastal regions that wetlands preservation does matter in
controlling flooding (Louisiana has lost 1 million acres of marshland
since 1930), and so do building restrictions.
Now, and in coming months of reconstruction, Americans must remember
their Gulf neighbors. They need our prayers and donations. And all of
us need to learn from their experience.
www.csmonitor.com | Copyright 2005 The Christian Science Monitor.
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[TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: Indeed, we are all neighbors in this
thing together. How did Katrina affect you? Well, maybe it made the
price of your gasoline more expensive; it surely will make the cost of
your heating fuel in the coming winter months more expensive. How did
Katrina affect me? Well, today when the Meals on Wheels lady came around
with my noonday meal, she said she was asked to announce to everyone
she served that the meals in September will be 'a little more skimpy
than they are usually.' I asked her why. She said the Kansas Food Bank,
which serves SEK-CAP (the southeast Kansas food pantries which in turn
maintains our local food pantry and Meals on Wheels) had been asked to
provide 'anything extra they could to Louisiana and Mississippi, due
to the hurricane damage, and the increased numbers of people being served.'
We will get only about 90 percent of our usual rations -- not the best
food anyway -- while Kansas Food Bank 'levels off' the resulting shortfall.
In addition to her daily vists, I usually go once per month to the
Independence Food Pantry for a few items. We're all going to pay for
Katrina for awhile it seems. PAT]