Landfall +12: Re-entry Planning and Damage Assessments
I’m off shift again. I left the EOC as the sun was coming up this morning. I can’t tell you how many times that I’ve come stumbling out of an operations center at dawn. When there is action, you never really want to leave, but at some point, you have to walk away. Get some sleep. The fight will still be here when you come back.
As I walked to my car there was actually a rooster sounding off somewhere in the distance. Why anyone has a rooster in Austin, I can’t explain. But, it sounded nice, probably because it doesn’t live in my neighborhood.
The first morning of OIF, I remember coming out of the CENTCOM operations center and walking back to the warehouse where we slept. Qatari mornings can be pleasant. On this morning the air was filled with the sound of jets streaking north to Iraq to visit destruction on the enemy. Today, Rita was out there with her own brand of shock and awe, but all we could feel in Austin was stiff breeze. Sometimes, during the war, I would come off shift early enough to hear the morning call to prayer in the distance, a reminder that you are a stranger in a strange land. The rooster reminded me of that.
So what happens today?
Today the state and local governments shift gears. The focus up until landfall was evacuation. Now we have to switch to damage assessments, re-entry planning, and if necessary, search and rescue. There have been no reported fatalities so hopefully, we won’t have to switch gears yet again into a recovery effort. However, it will be a miracle if nobody dies.
Re-entry will be our nut to crack. Today we have to sort out what to do with the 17,000 people in our shelters. I talked to my boss this morning when I woke up. He said the shelters were emptying. But, what does that really mean? People could just be stretching their legs and getting some breakfast. Or they could be going home.
The goal is an orderly, planned return, not an exodous. The state has told people to stay put, but we’ll see how that goes.
Today, the state has to do now is figure out which roads are open, how much fuel is available along the re-entry routes, and what areas are safe to go back into. I have a feeling that most of the people from the Matagorda Bay and Corpus Christi areas will leave today. But, that might not be the right thing to do at this point. There might not be enough fuel to sustain their return.
Over the next 24 hours our shelter population will dwindle, and we’ll be left with people who can’t return home either because there isn’t a home to return to or conditions aren’t safe along the route.
There are also reports of large-scale power outages so you don’t want to send people back into untenable circumstances until you know how long it will take to get the power back on. The storm is now stalling, and there will be floods. We don’t want to send people back into a flood zone. There is going to have to be a large amount of coordination and public outreach between the state, jurisdictions in the strike zone, and evacuation jurisdictions.
At some point today, the president is supposed to visit the State Operations Center in Austin where I used to work. No telling how much that will actually slow down the process. Does any work get done when you hear the general is headed towards your TOC?