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Vanessa Edward Foster's Hurricane Rita Blog
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Entry 8
September 23, 2005 8:52:05 PM EDT
My Hurricane Rita Blog: Fri 9/23 7PM

Seven o'clock and all is well -- at least for Houston it is. For folks in southwest and now south central Louisiana, it's looking more grim. The latest movements have show how inaccurate these hurricane forecasts can be as they're predicting the eye to pass directly over the Texas-Louisiana border, with the eye going directly over Beaumont. In addition, the storm's eye is getting more ragged. That indicates it's not organizing well and will lose strength. Basically, it's looking more like we worried over nothing -- which to me is still good. I'll take it, definitely. Underscoring this, we had a gorgeous rainbow arched over the city just a half hour ago. A sign.

The thing that concerns me is all of the folks in mid-Louisiana who were only under a watch, not a warning, are now sitting there with a hurricane coming right up their gut and ready to make landfall overnight. Three days of preparation, evacuation and media hype in Texas and Louisiana's unprepared residents are going to bear the brunt of this.

What strikes me is how easily we act in group-panic mode in this world, post-Katrina and really post-9/11. It's hard not to do when you know the consequences can be so devastating. But from my perspective, this is all turning out to be very much like the War of the Worlds hoax with Orson Welles -- OrsonWellesian. Lots of flash news, and lots of fizzle. Not much else.

We're only right now getting our first light little sprinkles.

For the past few years, people have been losing faith in our media. We knew they were just scared little employees, all wanting to hold onto their jobs and willing to do whatever to save them -- even reporting fabrication spewed from on high by our political leaders. Now this storm, and even Katrina wasn't the same context: not mere spin from politicians but real storms that bore watching. On the first instance, people fell for the "we dodged a bullet" routine in New Orleans. This time, everyone fell for the "killer, monster storm bearing down on Houston." Both cases are turning out to be woefully missing the mark.

Sure, the news crews can recover, relocate to where the real action is and play up some more ratings hype. But the bottom line for those of us at ground level is that they come across as being nothing more than a harbinger of false information, whether it's hope, scare, paranoia. I really worry that we will be lulled into a mode of not listening to media any more, tuning them out. In a sense that's fine, but in the sense that media can and should be most effective -- getting out the information that's needed, or that's critical to save others' lives -- I feel they may have just eroded some of their own credibility.

Now we're sitting here watching a storm that may well miss most all of the Texas coast, with literally over a million people leaving the entire Texas coastline, and all that resulted was a run on gasoline and other essentials, a number of stranded vehicles and motorists in some of them sitting alongside a highway for two days, two days worth of lost productivity in the marketplace, lots of profit for those desperation items that flew off shelves, and a number of deaths from heat exhaustion, natural causes brought on by the heat and stress of this exercise, and two dozen people burned alive in a heart-rending scene south of Dallas.

We also got to see how inadequate this whole evacuation process is on a large scale. We've had a report of a busload of evacuees from Galveston who left Thurs. morning making it to Dallas, where they said the shelters were full, and someone ordered the buses return to Houston! The bus dropped them off in Humble at their civic center, a suburb just north of Houston, this evening. Their civic center is not set up to be a shelter, but they have 700 people there now, some with medical problems, many elderly, and all stranded there. That civic center has no generator, so when the lights go out, there's nothing. Additionally, the entire front of the civic center is glass, so they have to move the evacuees away from the only light source if the lights were to go out. There are some folks out north of here who still haven't found shelter because the small towns they ran out of gas in have no facilities to house them. Something just sounds way too haphazard in all of this.

What will really be horrible is that we expended this much energy, loss in money and most especially loss in LIVES to accomplish ... what? Getting folks out of what turns out is not going to be harm's way ... and leaving others flatfooted with their own impromptu emergency. Stranding a bunch of folks miles away from home with no money and no gasoline, and prospect of a much higher prices when they can get gas later.

I'm not saying I would never evacuate, but I certainly have good reason to wait until I personally can ensure I'm making a good decision in doing so.

Myself, I'm lucky ... and I dodged the bullet this time. But I certainly don't feel so great about it.

Will send at least one more update, or more if needed.

Ness ....