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Hurricane Harvey and Disaster Evacuations

 
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 28, 2017 2:54 pm    Post subject: Hurricane Harvey and Disaster Evacuations Reply with quote

This thread really isn't about the hurricane itself but more about the topic of politicians in authority and when they should--or should not--issue mandatory evacuation orders. Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner and other city leaders did not issue evacuation orders, instead urging people to shelter in place, because a) trying to evacuate 2 million people is a logistical nightmare and b) the last time a mandatory evacuation order was given--Hurricane Rita back in 2005--the evacuation killed more people than the hurricane did. The traffic jams stretched for hundreds of miles, people ran out of gas and were stranded in the middle of nowhere (relatively speaking--10 miles from the nearest gas station is essentially the middle of nowhere if you are on foot), and one bus evacuating elderly people caught fire, killing everyone on board. At that time, an evacuation order was given because it was just the year before when Katrina hit New Orleans, another time when city leaders did not evacuate the citizens, the situation was made significantly worse because no one got out of the way.

The Texas Tribune ran a piece last year going into detail how Houston was completely unprepared for a direct hurricane hit. Apparently, no one at Houston City Hall read that piece or paid much attention to it. They knew at least two days before that Harvey would pretty much hit them directly, especially with heavy rain totals so they could have--should have--gotten the most helpless/vulnerable people out (those in hospitals, those in nursing homes, the elderly in general, etc).

Abbot had been advising people to evacuate but the Governor is not permitted, by State law, to order cities to evacuate in these circumstances; instead, that responsibility lies with city leaders (mayors/city councils). The talking voices on the radio this morning were asking "was the decision not to evacuate political?" and "is the discussion being made political?". The answers to both questions is yes. Houston Mayor Turner is a Democrat while Abbott is a Republican, so naturally if Abbot says "x" then Turner is going to default to "not x".

Given Mayor Turner's decision, which was very similar to Mayor Nagin's decision back with Katrina, it appears as if Democrat city leaders want their citizens who cannot evacuate on their own to lose everything and be completely at the government's mercy. If I were a real conspiracy theorist, I might even go so far as to say that the evacuation order was not given so that somehow people could blame Harvey's aftermath on Trump (even though he has absolutely nothing to do with it).

I understand that political leaders don't want to make the "wrong" call and appear foolish; however, if you choices are "do x and inconvenience a lot of people even though it may save some lives" and "do not do x and risk a certain number of deaths" then you have to choose the first option--evacuate, inconvenience people, and minimize casualties. Everyone suffering in the Houston area right now because of high water is suffering for two reasons: 1) they didn't leave of their own free will and 2) city leaders did not mandate an evacuation. All the blame lies at the feet of Houston City Hall.

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PostPosted: Mon Aug 28, 2017 3:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

As news stories come out of that area. You ever notice the vast and many acts
of heroism? People doing the impossible with little or no resources. Yet when it
comes to prevention before a disaster strikes, how ill prepared or planned or
incompetency there is? Even when the people in charge know what is coming.
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 28, 2017 3:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

No one wants to spend the money for disaster preparedness before a disaster hits. Instead, they would rather spend the money on cleanup after the fact then stupidly ask questions like "how could this have happened?". Well, things like Harvey happening to Houston or Katrina happening to New Orleans happen specifically because a) city and State leaders do not implement disaster preparation plans ahead of when they are needed, b) city leaders do not issue mandatory evacuation orders the first moment it looks like they are needed--seriously, people need to quit worrying about "crying wolf" and just evacuate, and c) citizens are not taking the initiative to prepare themselves for either evacuation or shelter in place--if shelter then you should have five days' worth of food/water in place and if evacuate then you should have travel bags pack and a route planned out (with alternate routes in case the main route is jammed).

If we have to evacuate, we have already discussed what to do--we can have bags packed and hit our route in 15 minutes, 30 minutes tops. I also know a handful of ways to get out of the Metroplex which avoid the major highways (at least until we are out of the metro area, at which time I have to get back on to a highway).

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PostPosted: Tue Aug 29, 2017 4:56 am    Post subject: Re: Hurricane Harvey and Disaster Evacuations Reply with quote

Hashi Lebwohl wrote:
...the last time a mandatory evacuation order was given--Hurricane Rita back in 2005--the evacuation killed more people than the hurricane did.


Sorry, that's pretty amusing. Not for the victims of course, but as a serious dose of irony... Very Happy

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PostPosted: Tue Aug 29, 2017 1:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Rita's evacuation happened the way it happened because we do not have any sort of organized disaster preparedness plans in this country. When an emergency happens and officials declare a mandatory evacuation, instead of an orderly procession where everyone follows the drill we have a mass panic attack--everyone all tried to hit the road at the same time and everyone wanted to the first person out, resulting in gridlock on a scale never before seen in history.

We already saw the same typical events just before Harvey hit--panic-buying at grocery stores as people rush in to buy all the milk, bread, water, and canned soup they can afford and/or carry instead of already having three to five days' worth of food saved up in case of an emergency...people panic-buying gasoline, causing outages and pump lines we haven't seen since the 1970s (not to mention price-gouging at the pump--gasoline prices jumped $0.40 per gallon here overnight because no one passes up an opportunity to make an extra buck off someone's emergency).

Meanwhile, we have the usual after-effects--some of the people who drove in with boats to rescue people are having to watch out for looters, who are apparently willing to shoot back in order to keep taking advantage of the situation to take what they can from people who have already lost nearly everything they had. Some people choose to sit out things like hurricanes specifically because it is so easy to loot after the worst of it has hit--no power means no alarms and generally the police are too busy trying to rescue people to respond to a B&E.

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PostPosted: Tue Aug 29, 2017 3:53 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hashi Lebwohl wrote:
...--panic-buying at grocery stores as people rush in to buy all the milk, bread, water, and canned soup they can afford and/or carry instead of already having three to five days' worth of food saved up in case of an emergency...people panic-buying gasoline, causing outages and pump lines we haven't seen since the 1970s (not to mention price-gouging at the pump--gasoline prices jumped $0.40 per gallon here overnight because no one passes up an opportunity to make an extra buck off someone's emergency).


Increased price is just a natural response to increased demand. It has nothing to do with price "gouging," no more than a shortage of any resource drives up price. During an emergency, the natural fluctuation of supply/demand actually helps to conserve resources. Increased prices helps to minimize people buying too much of a critical resource--a few people buying everything while everyone else goes without. In addition, it motivates people to move resources into that area, speeding the recovery as they chase after "opportunity to make a buck off someone's emergency."

I've been a "storm chaser" myself, making money after storms by selling roofs. If the profit motive wasn't there, people like me would stay home with their families rather than move out of state for months at a time to provide crucial services to those in need. And the recovery would take much longer.

Yeah, we need better evacuation plans. But it really could have gone much worse. A traffic jam was bound to happen no matter how you evacuate an entire coastal region.
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PostPosted: Wed Aug 30, 2017 2:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I am not saying that there aren't opportunities for people to make money during an extreme event because there clearly are. Contractors of all sorts will have weeks of work available to them, if not months, and they may charge the market rate for their work.

I was specifically mentioning price-gouging, which always happens in these cases. For example, a couple of reporters looked into booking a room in the Victoria area before Harvey and were quoted $129 to $149 per night; when they got there, though, the rate had jumped to $329. That is actually a crime even if it does follow the capitalist economic model governing scarcity--people/corporations are not allowed to squeeze people who are desperate and would pay any price for a dry room for a night. There have also been instances of people selling cases of bottled water for $99 and gasoline prices at $10 per gallon. Even if this does follow the fundamental laws of economics it is still wrong.

This would also be a good time for the Federal Government to issue some temporary regulation exemptions to allow Big Oil to build new refineries in places like West Texas or New Mexico, far away from the coast and in places where most typical natural disasters (hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, etc) do not occur. At some point, we are going to realize that having refineries right on the coast is a bad idea.

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PostPosted: Thu Aug 31, 2017 10:34 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Its ridiculous isn't it that resources are not dedicated to planning and preparedness ..
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PostPosted: Thu Aug 31, 2017 2:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

If time and money are spent for disaster preparation yet no disaster happens, some politician will come along and start talking about "that waste of taxpayer money" and move to cut it out of the budget. I support trimming the fat out of the government budget whenever possible, but truthfully things like "hurricane preparation" for areas along the Gulf Coast is money well-spent. The alternative is still playing itself out on the news just like it did in New Orleans back in 2004.
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 12, 2017 1:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

More people evacuated for Irma than did for Rita and there weren't massive gridlock-style parking lots on the highways and no buses with elderly people caught fire. The Greater Houston Area should have had a mandatory evacuation, but perhaps they will do that next time.
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PostPosted: Wed Sep 13, 2017 3:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I understand that business is business but putting up notices that a) September rent is due (but you won't have any late fees) and b) you are evicted because of damage to your building--please collect your belongings before we haul them off to the dump is simply cold-blooded. Come on, apartment management companies--these people lost a hell of a lot and know you are kicking them while they are down?

You know what the kicker is? If these people don't pay September rent their current management company will circulate their name to other apartment management companies and it will be exceedingly difficult for them to rent a new apartment somewhere else.

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PostPosted: Wed Sep 13, 2017 5:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hashi Lebwohl wrote:
I understand that business is business but putting up notices that a) September rent is due (but you won't have any late fees) and b) you are evicted because of damage to your building--please collect your belongings before we haul them off to the dump is simply cold-blooded. Come on, apartment management companies--these people lost a hell of a lot and know you are kicking them while they are down?

You know what the kicker is? If these people don't pay September rent their current management company will circulate their name to other apartment management companies and it will be exceedingly difficult for them to rent a new apartment somewhere else.


I smell a class-action lawsuit...
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PostPosted: Thu Sep 14, 2017 4:40 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hope so. Sympathy should be with the evacuees anyway...

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PostPosted: Fri Sep 15, 2017 7:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Meanwhile, back in Florida, at least one nursing home encountered delays in getting its air conditioning units operating normally again and the heat resulted in some deaths. Apparently nursing homes are not listed as "critical infrastructure" so they weren't serviced first.
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