Monday, August 28, 2006

Setting the record straight: Evacuation

Last night on 60 Minutes and again today on Good Morning America, we heard about the failure to evacuate the city. This is complete bullshit, and should be retracted in the same time, space and manner as it is being published with a complete and reckless disreguard for the truth.

To quote from the book Disater: Hurricane Katrina an dthe Failure of Homeland Secuity.

"City and state officials had manged to evacuate some 90 percenbt of the city in advance of the storm--a rate unprecednted in the annals of disaster response."

--- from the Author's Note, page xiv.

Somewhere, I have the backround to show that the reason a mandatory evacuation order wasn't given until Saturday is that the National Weather Service was still unsure Friday where the hurricane was going, and told state and local officials not to make an announcment until the models run Friday afternoon Aug. 26 were re-run overnight. I'm going to bo back a year and try to find those links.

Based on what I've heard so far, we are going to hear and read so many bald-faced lies in the next few hours fed to the media by people who are not friends of New Orleans, people with their own agendas directly contrary to ours.

I strongly recommend you watch this space and all of the New Orleans bloggers listed in the gutter at right if you want the real facts.

Most of the people who stayed did so not because they couldn't leave but because they didn't think it was necessary.
Those who did not leave chose not to leave and will do so next and every time. Nagin couldn't make em leave, neither could Morial(s) or anyone else. My wife was in the Hyatt and watched people in SUVs being dropped off at the Superdome on Monday after the storm. You just can't fix that type of cultural problem overnight. These comments exclude those who were physically unable to evacuate.
The mandatory evacuation order wasn't given until Sunday. It's largely irrelevant, compare our evacuation with others, and that's the one thing that N.O. can almost be proud of--certainly not defensive about.

Still it infuriates that Nagin repeatedly talks about a "ten hour window," when in fact there was a 30=36hr gap between the change in weather forecast and the order. Like I said, largely irrelevant to the number of deaths--most estimates say that it would have taken 72hrs to fully evacuate the city. It's highly relevant if you believe that any politician should be called on it whenever he pulls numbers out of his butt.
Maybe Nagin wasn't pulling numbers out his butt. Maybe my memory is wrong, but I think the regional plan called for the most vulnerable locales (Plaquemines, St. Bernard, Grand Isle, Lafitte, etc.) to call their evacuations first, since their folks have to go through N.O. to get out. Otherwise we'd have traffic backed up to the Gulf. The plan has gotta be on some state or parish website.

Also, on Saturday night, Nagin made himself VERY clear that only legalities kept him from calling a mandatory evacuation but that he had folks working on getting around that. He told people to get out. That's actually what made me decide to leave. He went around to every news station to get that message out on Sat. night.

I don't like Nagin; can't stand the sound of his voice anymore. But It's horrible how overly blamed he is for "not doing anything" to get people to leave. More people left this region than officials thought would have. We did WAYYYY better than Houston! I have yet to see one fuckin' story on how our leaders (the last time many of them actually led) pulled off an ORDERLY, successful, calm evacuation of about 1.2 million people.
I distinctly remember being told at Loyola's orientation that it would take 72 hours to evacuate New Orleans. It's been my strongly held opinion that the NHC could have given that much time to New Orleans, but didn't (more like 36).
Though I had specific criticisms of the city that Saturday, they're not major. I've always defended the city on that--I even reran my first post because of the anniversary. Whether you time the city's first warning from the 4am advisory or Mayfield's Fri. night call, the city had far less than the 72hrs warning that most people said it would need. I also know that mandatory evacuations called that far in advance would be meaningless, or would have been pre-K. Still if Nagin's going to insist on saying he had a 10hr. window, he should explain what means. Being right on the big picture doesn't give you license to pull details out of your butt.

As a matter of fact, there are some unfair attacks in the house report that I haven't seen anyone, but me, point out in either the blogosphere or the media. Ms. and Al. being praised for a 24hr. evacuation order while N.O. was condemned for a 24hr. order being just one. Yeah, they had fewer people, but they also more warning. Also Mississippi's 24hr. caused to close I-10 to New Orleanians who fled east--with very little notice.
The national reporting on this anniversary was been generally awful, and mostly incorrect. It is unbearable.
For example, Joe Scarborough today
characterized Mississippi citizens as hard working, self-reliant, and progressing in recovery, and suggested Louisiana citizens were the opposite. That comment is a reflection of how intellectually lazy these so-called experts really are.
Speaking from a state that has evacuations called nearly every summer for hurricanes, Florida, I can tell you the the changes that the state and local officials made to the evacuation plan after the Ivan fiasco saved tens of thousands of people. FEMA was a part of the planning too, with the Pam exercise. When the real thing hit, state and local authorities held to their part in the plan but FEMA was a no show. They knew they couldn't get everyone to evacuate on their own and relied on FEMA help to get transportation and communication to help.

I think Nagin's main mistake was calling the superdome a refuge of last resort because I think many went there instead of leaving when they could. That said, I think an 80% evacuation rate is an impressive number for any large city. I know it wont happen ever in Florida. Even the keys with a 5 day warning as Wilma spun off the coast of Mexico did not evacuate even 80% of it's population. Nagin called the mandatory evacuation when he thought he could. He warned people this looked like the storm they had all feared and called for a voluntary evacuation well before then.

The general rule for hurricane evacuations is to not call them too early before you are sure you are going to be hit, otherwise you block the roads for others evacuating. The other unofficial rule is to call the evacuation order with at least 8 hours of daylight available with which to do it. What few remember, in the 72 hours before the storm hit, the predicted landfall shifted from Pensacola to Mobile to New Orleans as the speed of the storm picked up and the turn to the north didn't happen. Nagin was only assured New Orleans was likely where it would hit Friday night and he called for the evacuation Saturday morning. The storm was continuing to pick up speed all the way until landfall, shortening the time they had.
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