I've talked to so many people today who are blaming Bush for all of this. I can understand blaming FEMA. I can even understand blame on the state of Louisiana, but to all appearances, Bush did everything he could here. Note that Bush declared a state of emergency 2 days prior to landfall. In fact, Katrina was a Category 3 storm at the time. Somehow, despite this, people seem to have the perception that Bush has mismanaged the situation. The claim that he's spent his time on vacation is only partially true. He cut the vacation two days short as things started to get a bit hairier. I can't help but notice that Michael Moore appears to have had a greater impact than he should have with Fahrenheit 9/11.
FEMA, on the other hand, seems to be doing a less-than-stellar job. From cnn.com:
"I think everyone in the country needs to take a big, collective, deep breath and recognize that there are a lot of people in this state, in Mississippi and Alabama who are living under conditions that, quite frankly, I doubt any reporter in this room is living under -- no food, no water, it's hot, it's sticky, their homes have been destroyed, they don't know where they're going to go next."
But there was perhaps no clearer illustration of the disconnect between how emergency officials view the situation at a distance, and how it is viewed by those actually living it on the ground, than Brown's comments to CNN's Wolf Blitzer Thursday evening about the evacuation of hospitals in the city.
"I've just learned today that we ... are in the process of completing the evacuations of the hospitals, that those are going very well," he said.
Shortly after he made those comments, Dr. Michael Bellew, a resident at Charity Hospital, where more than 200 patients were still waiting to be evacuated, described desperate conditions. The hospital had no power, no water, food was running out and nurses were bagging patients by hand because ventilators didn't work.
Earlier in the day, the evacuation from Charity had to be suspended for a time after a sniper opened fire on rescuers.
At another local hospital, Memorial Medical Center, a small fleet of helicopters was brought in to evacuate patients and staff after hospital officials were told "by officials on the ground to take the matter into our own hands," said Trevor Fetter, president of Tenet HealthCare Corp., the hospital's owner.
The mayor of New Orleans had an interesting bit to say. He's hopping mad and rightfully so about this whole incident.
It's amazing to read the stories of what's going on out there and how quickly people have reverted to rather uncivilized practices in the name of survival. Reading accounts of what has happened at the Superdome (http://www.bugmenot.com can find you a free login) are simply incredible.
Now that they're moving people out to Texas and better prepared shelters, I wonder what they're going to do with the Superdome. It's become a monument to the disaster that poor planning has made of an already bad case.
I was somewhat pleased to hear Brown (the director of FEMA) place responsibility for their fates on those who didn't evacuate. It's rare to hear an official speak an unpopular truth like that. The reactions I've seen have been complaints that many in the area are too poor to afford a car. Had they walked a mere 20 miles North (in the space of at least the two days before landfall), they'd have their lives at the least. It was precisely what people said about those in Asia who suffered through the tsunami. Many of the tsunami victims would have escaped with their lives had they walked a mere 20 to 30 minutes away from the coast. I suspect that an aggregate 8 hours of walking (assuming a pace of 2.5 miles an hour) would have saved many of the victims in Louisiana.
Now there's reports of an oil leak. I'm not horribly surprised given the number of refineries that were hit by this. My understanding is that Gulfport, LA was the only harbor on that coast which could unload a so-called "supertanker". Make no mistake: this will have an effect on the already growing oil crisis, but I think that the impact and fears are out of proportion at the moment. Bush immediately opened the federal oil reserves, so it's difficult for me to see the current gas prices as anything but reactions to hysterical paranoia and not an indication of current supply. Filling up for near $2.50 a gallon was already bad enough. Here's an interesting site graphing gas prices from 1978 until now.
I wish I'd had the foresight to list gas prices in this journal when I first began it. There are two gas stations in the immediate area of the apartment. There's a block difference between the two and most of the time the farther of the two is the cheaper one (usually by 10 cents or so). The farther of the two was up to 3.09 last night. I took a few gallons at one down Soquel to keep myself just this side of empty last night at $3.09. I noticed a cheaper station a bit later which was at $2.79. This morning, that station was the cheapest gas I could find, easily the most crowded (someone nearly ran down a pedestrian that I paused for to slip behind my van as I tried to back into a space), and up to $2.89.
The time may be nigh when public transit (and the drastically increased time associated with it) to work becomes less expensive than my vehicle. I get approximately 18mi to the gallon. It's 40.4 miles to work, according to google, though slightly shorter with my route. That puts the cost of one way travel to $6.49 (including that pesky 9/10s of a cent on all gas prices). I believe it was $10 when relsqui took public transit up here. This is up from approximately $5.59 per trip at the $2.49 cost of gasoline.