So it's the one-year anniversary of hurricane Katrina. We usually prefer to celebrate happy occasions, like birthdays and anniversaries, not recall the devastation of several states and the death of more than eighteen hundred people. But we must remember Katrina, for so many reasons, not the least being that we must be ready for the next hurricane to hit us.
In short, Katrina was the twelfth named storm of the season, following eight tropical storms and three hurricanes (Dennis, Emily, Irene) two of which were deadly and powerful but none of which did much to frighten Americans, even though the first hurricane, Dennis, smashed into Florida while still a Category 4 storm. I wrote last September about the mood when Katrina was forming:
"So, because there were eleven storms in the Caribbean during 2005 before Katrina, there was a kind of fatigue, a 'been there, done that' assumption. Also, since the three August storms before Katrina were less dangerous than expected, a false optimism prevailed."
As late as August 26th, the National Weather Service was announcing Katrina was weakening after hitting Florida as a Category 1 hurricane, and was expected to make landfall over Florida's panhandle as a tropical storm. No one at the time was noting that Katrina had become a tropical storm just one day after the tropical depression was formed, and gained strength to hurricane force faster than anyone expected.
On August 27, when weather reports began to warn that Louisiana and Mississippi were likely to get hit by the rain, the public did not take the danger seriously. A common response was one made by Fred Wilson, quoted as saying "The only dangerous hurricanes so far are the ones we've been drinking."
For those who want to whack Mayor Nagin, I agree that I find him an insufferable jerk, but as a point of record, Mayor Nagin suggested a voluntary evacuation Saturday evening, warning residents in low-lying areas "We want you to take this a little more seriously and start moving -- right now, as a matter of fact"
As for those morons who still want to blame President Bush, it is also a matter of record that he ordered a state of emergency for the state of Louisiana Saturday, two days before the storm hit, which specifically authorized FEMA "to coordinate all disaster relief efforts and to provide appropriate assistance in a number of Louisiana parishes, or counties"
I hate the blame game, but with all the noise from liars and jerks it is necessary once again to home in on responsibility. On the one hand, Mike Brown at FEMA should have done a better job of following up on his teams, and the lack of comprehensive planning for the scale of the disaster is an indictment of the process and the men who led the department. And there is no question that Mayor Nagin and Governor Blanco were first negligent, then cowardly in their responses to the disaster. Nagin's refusal to use available busses to evacuate people ranks up there with Blanco's refusal to allow Red Cross supplies to the Superdome for stupidity, but the common link to it all was Bennett C. Landreneau, the head of Lousiana's Department of Homeland Security, who was directly responsible for communicating condition updates and rescue information to both Nagin and Blanco, and for coordinating the response from responders at all levels. In a truly immoral resolution, Nagin was re-elected, Blanco was untouched by her negligence, and the MSM has still not said a single word of criticism about Landreneau, who belongs in a jail cell for his actions, or rather their lack.
I mentioned a year ago the blunt fact that "Katrina came up faster than expected, did not go where expected, and hit harder than expected, taking out the infrastructure which is generally used by emergency services. The plans in place for refugee housing did not include provisions for the total collapse of the levies and the number of victims. It should be noted that no exercise in disaster management is possible for this scale of disaster, nor has anyone responded to a disaster on this scale in less than a week". Let's step away from the hype.
Here in Houston, we did right in a big way. We opened up our town, and I don't just mean the 'Dome and some cots. Companies went out looking for folks to hire, agencies arranged new residences. Shewt, even MORTGAGE COMPANIES, who are supposed to be heartless bastards, made some sweetheart deals to get Katrina relocaters houses and a solid chance to start again. For months, just about EVERYONE here in Houston went out of their way to help in every way they could. My family and I gave money, furniture, food, and support. When a Katrina evacuee stole my car a week later, I didn't blame the whole group, although my wife was really PO'd, and when my company hired Katrina evacuees, they were welcome just as anyone would be to our team.
What did we get out of all this? Well, yes, we had some problems, mostly because the N.O. gangs got into fights with H-town gangs for turf and drug territory. And that led to some murders and assaults and nastiness. Frankly, we've seen that before - I remember in 1995 when a couple Asian gangs got into a nasty war with the Latin Kings here, and it had zip to do with what city they were from. Same thing here, just one set of losers going after another. Yes, Katrina brought them here, but that's not N.O.'s deal.
So, what about the people who can't get jobs? To be blunt, a lot of people from N.O. have money and property. Those are the ones who could not wait to get back and rebuild; they have investments to get moving again. And people with strong professional skills had no trouble catching on. The problem is the same thing we regular folks always see with jobs at the floor level, no matter what industry and company - most jobs suck in some way. No, I'm not buying the "all I can find is restaurant waitering" excuse, that's a lie and you know it. Houston has some high-paying, solid opportunities. The problem is, finding a decent job takes a lot of work. The last time I had to go job hunting it took me three months to find the right position, and that was with a stable home situation and my family in decent shape.
Life is cruel sometimes. You get good, you get bad, and not usually because you deserve it. What most of us do is get by and try to get better, and sooner or later the folks who got hit by Katrina will find their way. It will be tough, and probably not fair, but in the end you get what you make.
You don't owe anybody, but NOBODY OWES YOU, either.
It's not your fault, but that doesn't make it somebody else's fault.
And even if you are having a rough go of it, spitting on people who gave you help and tried to be there is not smart or right.
Houston is still doing pretty well, and the problems that can be solved are being worked on. If you want a job, there's still a lot here to be had. And if you want a better job, they are also available, as open to people from New Orleans as to anyone who has lived in Houston all their life.
And by the way, you're welcome.