First of all, we thought New Orleans had “dodged a bullet.” We awoke to stories that Biloxi and Gulfport had taken terrible hits but New Orleans had been mostly spared.
FEMA would be on hand in Biloxi and Gulfport, the usual emergency services and aid people would do the usual emergency service and aid things, folks would get their power restored in a few days or weeks, we’d all send small checks and life would pretty much go on as usual.
Then pumps and levees stopped working, and what had been a manageable disaster became a catastrophe of a scope and scale unseen in the U.S. in a hundred years; a city destroyed.
Before Katrina struck, New Orleans and surrounding areas had been declared “disasters” by President Bush, to expedite the delivery of monies and services needed to cope with what everyone believed would be a very bad storm. Actually, he did the same thing, last year, for Hurricane Charley, and was criticized for doing so by some, but that’s not important right now.
Katrina tells us that nature is more powerful than any of us mere mortals can comprehend. But still, mere mortals do the best they can.
I don’t see any thing else that could have been done. In short, the local officials did a brilliant job in evacuating a major city within 30 hours. They established a location people could go to so they wouldn’t die in flood waters.
And the response thus far has been magnificent—is there looting: yes; are there other infirmaties of human nature? Of course—but let no one doubt, the response to this major natural disaster has been superb. And small nitpicking critics will cavil and snipe—but consider what might have been.
I do think that a firmer hand with looters early on might have forestalled the more egregious lawlessness we're seeing now.
But this is a natural disaster without parallel in American history like the Chicago Fire if it had spread across three states -- and disaster relief isn't like calling Domino's. Nor does the fact that we're Americans somehow offer supernatural protection from the consequences of a calamity like this.
Some of the nitpicking and complaining may well be justified, even beyond the inevitable dropped balls in something like this. But there will be plenty of time for that later. Right now, people should be focusing on constructive action, not point-scoring.
Bridges are out, roads are blocked, boats are sunk, and all sorts of other infrastructure is down. Aid can't get through in quantity until that's fixed, at least somewhat. In a situation like this, the first week you get a trickle, the second week you get enough, and the third week you get pretty much all you want.
We're still in week one.
That, as I've said earlier, is why the every household in the U.S. should have enough food and water to get you through a week on your own.
In 124 or so hours since Katrina struck land many things happened:
Between 2,500 and 3,000 people have been rescued by the Coast Guard, National Guard and First Responders.
National Guard and Regular Army have deployed 50,000 troops…the biggest domestic relief effort in U.S. history after Monday’s onslaught by killer Hurricane Katrina.
The Navy is sending the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier Harry S. Truman to join an armada of vessels off the coast of the Gulf of Mexico.
The Air Force said it was adding a high-flying U-2 spy plane to the relief effort to take pictures to help relief efforts at the request of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
The Army has put on alert roughly 3,000 active-duty ground troops from Fort Bragg, North Carolina, to be prepared to deploy to New Orleans…The brigade-sized force, likely to be from the 82nd Airborne Division, would engage in crowd control and site-protection activities. Pipelines are being restored
and refineries are beginning to get back into operation.
In other words, American generosity and pragmatic idealism is kicking in, as it always does.
Moreover, things are going to get better. Within a week, as floodwaters continue to recede, and the people who are trapped have been rescued, things will look markedly better than they do at this moment, because Americans will do the hard work of making it better - as they always do.