Wednesday, September 21, 2005

H-36: This is Going to Hurt

We're at H-36.

Evacuations are still underway. As of 1630CST, most of the hospitals in the strike zone were almost complete with their evacuations. This has filled up many of the hospitals in the reception zone so we're having to make some adjustments.

The feds are staging assets into Texas including urban search and rescue and swift water rescue teams. The USS Iwo Jima is moving into place to be ready with airlift and other military responses. FEMA is moving in a large mobile hospital to take the strain of area hospitals.

Friction Points:

  • ACL Fest in Austin:

  • From their website:

    "Update on Hurricane Rita and ACL Just like you, we are keeping a very close watch on the weather and are being advised by meteorologists. We do expect some rain on Saturday, so be sure to bring an umbrella and wear your rain gear.

    If weather conditions appear to present any kind of danger to fans, musicians or crew, we are prepared to make the necessary adjustments to maintain safety. Until then, the Festival is on, rain or shine. Look here for updates."

    We're expecting Tropical Storm gusts in Austin on Saturday. If Rita, shifts it could get worse. I think an outdoor festival with thousands of people outside while a CAT5 tears up the coast might be a bad idea at this point.

  • Transportation: The focus is still special needs facilities, especially nursing homes. Ambulances are in short supply. There are ample buses but many drivers are evacuating. A driver shortage was blamed in NOLA as well. Local governments are asking for more drivers that they might not get. I say take some people and give them a crash course on bus driving and make it happen. The state has made this legal. It might not be pretty, but ugly gets the job done sometimes. I think this exposes a fault line in emergency planning. Perhaps every cop, firefighter, and national guard soldier ought to have a bus familiarization course. This also might be a good job for volunteers and community emergency response teams (CERT). I think we'll pull it off, but it could be smoother.
  • Spontaneous Shelters: Texans are generous to a fault. There is Southern hospitality (overrated) and Texas hospitality. When we say "howdy, how are you?", we actually expect an answer. I'm always shocked when I'm up north at how curt people are. In every disaster, there are always generous Texans (okay its not just in Texas) that open their doors to those in need. The problem is that they don't do it in accordance with any plan.
  • Churches are often big players in this. People are often sheltered through informal church connections. Baptists move themselves to the generous Baptist church a couple counties down the road. The problem is that the church down the road might not actually be a suitable shelter. Can it withstand the winds? Back-up power? Adequate sanitation? Medical assistance? Plus, if you open a shelter that is not part of the system, then you can't get reimbursed for your expenses. Meanwhile, space is available at pre-planned shelters that have all the necessary life support systems in place.

    Spontaneous shelters are not a good idea. If you want to help, call the Red Cross or some other group. Trust me, they'll put you to work.

  • Pets: That's the x-factor is this evacuation. The rule-book got thrown out the window. How many people do you know who actually own a carrier for their pets? I'm waiting for the report that some old lady shows up with fifty cats at a shelter. But, I guess as long as she's safe, then we'll deal with it.

  • Resources stretched thin: Some of the things that we were planning on getting from the feds are already committed. We've adjusted fire. Texas has also committed resources to Katrina that we've had to pull back. Some of the volunteer types are exhausted. We're managing.

  • The Industrialized Texas Coast near Freeport, South of Houston

  • HazMat: Much of the Texas coast is heavily industrialized, especially with the oil and gas industry. The picture above is out of the area that will be hit worst, but it represents a lot of what is on the coast. There might be large environment and economic impacts.

  • Analysis: This is a bad storm, but its going to be different from Katrina. Geography is working in our favor. The closest city that Texas has to New Orleans is Galveston, which, given its history, takes hurricanes very seriously. The mayor of Galveston leaned forward in the foxhole and started getting people out early. It Rita swings north and hits there, it won't be as bad as NOLA.

    And even if Houston takes a direct hit, there is not the same type of levee situation as in NOLA. Tropical Storm Allison created an epic flood in Houston. Lots of damage, but few deaths.

    Tonight will be key. I'm off shift right now so I'll have to wait until morning to see how it goes. No plan survives contact with the enemy, and we've had some problems. These are getting sorted out tonight. The key is to get people out by H-12.

    On a personal note, Case de Alexander will be its own little spontaneous shelter. The in-laws are shagging ass out of Houston as I type. Our little 1200 sq ft. house will host four of the Seymour clan plus me, Julie, and Zane.

    I'm a little concerned about the winds and loosing power with a five month old baby so I went to price generators. There is not a generator to be had in Austin. They've all been shipped to Katrina so I loaded up on flashlights and batteries. I even bought a little flashlight for my niece so she's comfortable. She's seen enough Katrina news to be scared. I probably won't need the generator, but it would have been a fun new toy. If all else fails, Julie and the baby can hang out in my office. We've got lots of generator power, and there are twenty cases of diet coke stacked in the hall. We're ready for anything.

    I also filled up my truck tonight. There were also a lot of people getting gas. I talked with a couple folks as I filled up the Bronco. Everyone is worried about shortages and big oil price mean storm related price fluctuations.

    Coverage Notes: KRISTV, Channel 6 in Corpus Christi has some good info.

    And the Texas Division of Emergency Management's SITREP page always has good info.


    At September 26, 2005, Anonymous Chris said...

    You make a good point about the use of CERT teams. That would be a good way to utilize people that want to help, who have desires to serve an some training.


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