Towards Better Democracy

Good words, well written, better the world. Good literature betters the world immeasurably.

A city left hapless

As a blogger, I think it important to keep up and running when and where I can. I wanted to post of this blog, if not an update, at least word from this afflicted city. This blog has many followers and silence at this end is not helpful.

News of any inciden to the outside world, particularly of disasters, is always minimal and those trying to follow events are hampered by the lack of detailed reporting. I think people are glad to hear more of how the situation is, and of  the events that materially effect others lives.

I think that those outside of aaffected areas are glad to hear that life goes on within it and of what efforts are being made to allow this.

It is far too early to be talking of what the cities, their inhabitants, and officials need to do for the future to cope and respond properly in situations like the present. There will be those who ask what value lies in conducting such a survey as this, incomplete though it is. Unless and until a thorough inventory of shortcomings and inadequacies is conduted no future improvements will or can be made.

Perhaps what this post can best do is to report on what the present situation and how the storm in general terms has affected the cities and their inhabitants. At this stage pointing to some of the egregious failures and inadequacies helps point to a future post where what needs to be done is future can be evaluated. For this is not going to be the last storm that hits this area and some in the future may be worse than the one we have just witnessed. This is fourth largest city in the United States with some 4 million people living within its bounds.

No storm or hurricane in this area has been as bad as the present. I have lived in the city since 1984 and seen a number of them during that time. They have varied in their severity. One problem that residents and everyone here faces are two fold. One is that storm systems in the Gulf of Mexico and variable in their strength and movement. They are quite unpredictable and will move, gather strength and change course with great speed. On the other hand, there tends to be an attitude of optimism. So many storms and hurricane weather systems tend to dissipate and die out of move of into the Atlantic. While such an occurrence provides relief, the fact that it does occur has people get complacent and to not take warnings seriously. Weather tracking is good and those engaged in ii competent.

What hit this city and made it quite unprecedented was the sheer volume of water than fell on Saturday night. There was plenty of warning that this would be the case. People were filling their cars with gas and stocking up from the supermarkets during the course of Thursday.

What nobody appears to have prepared for, especially officials, was the bayous would overflow their banks with the result that heavy precipitation had nowhere to drain to and water stood in considerable depth in many areas. Some still are as I write.

The most severe effect, therefore of this storm, is flood damage. The extent of t he damage is considerable.

This city and surrounding areas is situated on a flood plain with some areas more low lying than others. Areas particularly vulnerable are well known. For these areas more than any other response was poor or worse than that in many cases. Help to those effected came late and was inadequate.

Before continuing one should mention those facilities which responded well during the course of the storm development. Of particular note is the local power company. They have been exemplary in their efforts to keep the power up and running. In areas where power poles were felled because of ground giving way were obviously affected. Generally throughout the area power has been continuously maintained. This compares most favourably with previously where power was lost for long periods, meaning in excess of 24 hours and only intermittent power available beyond that.

The second facility of note is communications. Television stations maintained broadcasting where they could, but not all. Telephone companies and internet providers stand alongside the power company in providing uninterrupted availability. This is important since people need to be in touch with both what is going on and with friends, neighbours and loved ones. Officials charged with responding to quickly developing events critically need to be able to communicate with each other.

Televisions reporting was not, and continues to be less than what it could be. While human stories are no doubt helpful, though I am not sure they are, particularly when reporters are exposing themselves to life threatening situations, there was not sufficient reporting on the storm’s progress and effects. Not sufficient attention was given to officials both issuing warnings and holding press conferences. 

There were, in addition, some noticable changes of behaviour on the part of inhabitants. Contrary to all recent floodings, and it does not take a storm for signifant flooding to take place in this area, rain itself can cause that, people did not venture out in their vehicles. 

For example, I live on a boulevard with a grassed and treed medium. In a recent storm of not great severity, the boulevard flooded. Cars, both saloons and HUVs were abandoned on the medium and many cases on the lanes themselves. This was depite warnings to not drive unless you had to. On that occassion, the flood water on the boulevard abated within  three or four hours. There are flood gauges on all underpasses where is a danger of flooding and these are all too often ignored.

First responders always do as best they can in such situations as this. But they are hampered if they do not have support structures in place to aid them in their work.

The merit of a post such as this, if there be any merit in it at all, lies in a follow up. Were I to reach out to those who set policy and effect plans for the future, my contribution will not be small. Few take the trouble to do this. There is a very great deal that can be done and prepared for in advance. As stated earlier, this will not be the last storm this city will suffer from, Being better prepared substantialy mitigates effects.

But now is not yet the time.

Malcolm D B Munro
Monday 29 August, 2017 







Filed under: Arts, history, Media, Memoir, Music, poetry, songs, stories

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