What They Should Have Learned from a Hurricane Named Ivan

Let’s start with a quote:

“The Superdome is not a shelter. If we were to lose power, if we were to lose plumbing facilities, if a storm were to hit and create flooding in the area; the Superdome would not be a desirable place to be.”

Something somebody said last week? Nope. Something said on September 23, 2004 by a spokesperson for the Superdome, shortly after Category 4 hurricane Ivan hit the Gulf Coast.

Twice recently, I’ve mentioned the experience of Cuba in dealing with that hurricane (which was a Category 5 when it hit Cuba) – 1.3 million people, more than 10% of the population, evacuated under the direction and with transportation provided by the government, not a single person dead, compared to 18 killed in Florida, Louisiana, and Mississippi, and 70 more in the Caribbean.

I decided to dig a little into this a provide a little more detail. Here’s one interesting tidbit from the Cuban experience. I’m sure we’ve all noticed the difficulty the U.S. is having evacuating people from New Orleans due to all the water on the roads. An insurmountable problem? Hardly:

“Amphibious tanks were deployed to evacuate people from floodwaters caused by torrential rains.”

Anyone want to speculate on whether the U.S. has more amphibious tanks than Cuba?

Here’s what happened in New Orleans less than a year ago:

Orleans looks for a better plan for those who can’t evacuate

“When thousands fled the city last week to get out of Ivan,s way, Gladys and Walter Elzey stayed behind. It wasn,t that they didn,t want to evacuate; they couldn,t.

“‘Number one, we didn,t have any money and didn,t have anywhere to go,’ said Gladys, who added that they also didn,t have a car.

“The Elzeys are two of approximately 80,000 residents in Orleans Parish who had no way to get out of the city and with the Superdome restricted initially to special needs patients only they had no where to go inside of the city.

“In Orleans mass transit isn,t a viable option for everyone because there aren,t enough busses to get everyone to the shelters in a timely fashion.

“There appears to be no easy answer, but officials will try to tackle the problem to at least have a plan before the next storm heads this way.”

Yeah, let us know how that’s working out.

Here’s another followup story to Hurricane Ivan:

Ivan exposes flaws in N.O.’s disaster plans

“Those who had the money to flee Hurricane Ivan ran into hours-long traffic jams. Those too poor to leave the city had to find their own shelter – a policy that was eventually reversed, but only a few hours before the deadly storm struck land.

“New Orleans dodged the knockout punch many feared from the hurricane, but the storm exposed what some say are significant flaws in the Big Easy’s civil disaster plans.

“‘They say evacuate, but they don’t say how I’m supposed to do that,’ Latonya Hill, 57, said at the time. ‘If I can’t walk it or get there on the bus, I don’t go. I don’t got a car. My daughter don’t either.’

“Advocates for the poor were indignant.

“‘If the government asks people to evacuate, the government has some responsibility to provide an option for those people who can’t evacuate and are at the whim of Mother Nature,’ said Joe Cook of the New Orleans ACLU.

“It’s always been a problem, but the situation is worse now that the Red Cross has stopped providing shelters in New Orleans for hurricanes rated above Category 2. Stronger hurricanes are too dangerous, and Ivan was a much more powerful Category 4.

“In this case, city officials first said they would provide no shelter, then agreed that the state-owned Louisiana Superdome would open to those with special medical needs. Only Wednesday afternoon, with Ivan just hours away, did the city open the 20-story-high domed stadium to the public.”

I found these and other articles about Hurricane Ivan here; I have yet to hear or see any of this referred to anywhere. It wasn’t just the problems with the levees, and the cutting of funds by the Federal Government to repair them, that was completely understood in advance; it was the entire gamut of problems associated with the aftermath as well.

ELI STEPHENS maintains the LeftI blogspot. He can be reached at: http://lefti.blogspot.com/