Friday, September 02, 2005

Wasn't that a mighty storm?

I've held off posting on Hurricane Katrina for nearly a week, but I can't keep my mouth shut any longer. There is only one reason that nine people died in Florida, hundreds in Mississippi, and probably thousands in Louisiana.

Human stupidity.

Human stupidity, for all the people in Florida who didn't evacuate. ("Oh, it's just a Category 1 storm.") Even a 'weak' hurricane is quite a force to be reckoned with, as nine families now know all too well.

Human stupidity, for the people in the Louisiana and Mississippi gulf coast who chose not to evacuate. They don't even have the excuse of the Floridians; this was a Category 5 hurricane, one of the strongest ever in the Atlantic, bearing down on them. There was plenty of time to evacuate; warnings were going out on Friday and the storm didn't hit until Monday morning.

When New Orleans ordered a 'mandatory evacuation', approximately 20% of the population (including the mayor) didn't leave. They can call it 'mandatory' until they are blue in the face, but this evacuation was clearly voluntary.

Here's the worst part, though. It seems that the evacuation order only applied to people with cars, and with money to pay inflated gas and hotel prices. More than 9,000 people took shelter (I know they don't want to call it a shelter, but please, look the word up; it is what it is) in the Superdome; many were waiting in line all day Sunday to get in. Why didn't 250 busses take these people to the Astrodome, out of harm's way, before the hurricane hit? Wouldn't that have been easier than waiting until 3+ days after the storm to evacuate? Isn't it likely that if evacuation had been free, a lot more people would have left?

I remember one September,
When storm winds swept the town;
The high tide from the ocean, Lord,
Put water all around.

cho: Wasn't that a mighty day,
A mighty day, a mighty day,
Great God, that morning
When the storm winds swept the town!

There was a sea-wall there in Galveston
To keep the waters down,
But the high tide from the ocean, Lord,
Put water in the town.

The trumpets warned the people,
'You'd better leave this place!'
But they never meant to leave their homes
Till death was in their face.

The trains they all were loaded
With people leaving town;
The tracks gave way to the ocean, Lord,
And the trains they went on down.

The seas began to rolling,
The ships they could not land;
I heard a Captain crying,
'God, please save a drowning man!'

The waters, like some river,
Came a-rushing to and fro;
I saw my father drowning, God,
And I watched my mother go!

Now death, your hands are icy;
You've got them on my knee.
You took away my mother,
Now you're coming after me!

Somewhere between 8,000 and 12,000 people died in the Galveston Hurricane of 1900 and it remains the deadliest natural disaster ever to strike the US. Katrina may surpass that number; as of last night more than 20,000 people were still missing.

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