Time to exhale

So, Monday morning and Ike has now left the building. According to this article, Ike was a hurricane for a whopping 9 days and 21 hours and CNN, as of this morning, is reporting 13 Ike-related deaths. And while that number is sure to rise, electricity and water is still unavailable for most, and damages to homes and businesses are speculated to reach into the billions (18 billion by this account), most of the folks I talked to over the weekend came out of the storm more or less intact. In fact, of the  dozen or so family members or friends that live in the Houston area, only one had any real damage to their house. And, luckily, that was minimal. Everyone, on the other hand, is missing either a part or all of their fence. So it goes.  

For those of us in Austin, inclement weather consisted of a canopy of dark, scary looking clouds that did absolutely nothing but hang out, look dark and scary for a bit, then leave. Seems we were lucky, too.

So what was different from Katrina? The storm itself, surely, but what else? Was communication better? Were the processes more dialed-out? Considering there are still areas emergency and relief crews can’t reach this might be a premature conversation, but I’d like to hear what you think. Especially if you were one of those who stayed to ride it out.

 photo  by pixthree

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4 comments

  1. We rode it out (as you know). I think communication was better. Not just that though, most people I know listened to the news and if their area said to leave, they LEFT. They didn’t hang around waiting on the government to help them. There were many ways to go if you didn’t have the means. All you had to do was call and they would pick you up. For the most part, even now the communication lines are pretty good. There are a few situations you hear on the news where things are confusing. It’s amazing to me when the interfere people most aren’t upset, just going with the flow. There are over 60 places around the Houston area that you can get water, ice, MRE’s…etc. Gas, on the other hand, is a different story.

    A lot of the communcation for this storm came in on Thursday, when they first realized it was coming here. So to clear out the main evacuation zones in basically 2 days time, that in itself is amazing.

  2. Thanks for the comment, Lynn…
    You’re right, communication was quite a bit better here – one might even argue a bit over the top – but it certainly didn’t hurt. FEMA also seems to be doing a much better job than before, so that helps, too. The real question now is how quickly can things get back on steady ground; water and power up and running, clean-up and salvage, oil production back on line, and so on. We’ll see…

  3. Hi Michael,

    Isn’t a huge difference between Ike and Katrina is that in Louisiana the levees and flood walls were in a desperate state? What about the fact that New Orleans is under sea level? I also read the Katrina made landfall as a category 3 but Ike was a 2.
    But the fact that Katrina fell on a black Democratic community and Ike fell on a white Republican community, had a lot to do with FEMA’s reaction. I would like to think they learned from their mistakes but that would be too coincidental.

  4. Hi Derry,
    Thanks for the comment. I absolutely agree, physical factors such as levees and the Sea Wall, not to mention the storm itself, were big factors in how things played out. And while much of New Orleans is below sea level, Galveston doesn’t have much of a margin of error – it’s only 6′ above it. At any rate, each day images are showing us just how much damage actually occurred during Ike. And, some of those areas that were unreachable at the time of this post remain so. I mention this because, again, it’s still too early to really know what the actual damages will be.
    I have to wonder about the racial issue, however. Compare census data on New Orleans and Galveston and you get some interesting results. Roughly 72% of New Orleans (as of 2006) is a minority. Galveston reports somewhere around 50%. There’s certainly a difference, but not as massive as one might expect. Median income is fairly comparable (27K vs 29K), as is education level (25% vs 23.7% college educated). And, the biggie, fairly similar numbers in terms of poverty level (27.9% vs 22%). I wonder how much sheer mass has to do with efforts. New Orleans was home to some 223,000 people before Katrina. Galveston, on the other hand, had a population of about 57,000. That means New Orleans had almost 4 times the number of people to evacuate, rescue, shelter, and on.
    Have the efforts been better in Houston? Absolutely. But remember, Houston is also a bit more than 50% minority.
    Could it be the learning curve? Guilt over the first fiasco to do this one absolutely right? I don’t know. I do know I’m glad it’s happening, though. Let’s keep our fingers crossed for the questions that remain…

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