The Longest Now


Persimmon forecast : Rita locally a Category 0
Saturday September 24th 2005, 3:27 pm
Filed under: null

Our persimmons in Houston
are heavy, and fall off in the slightest gust of wind. Any serious
storm is enough to ruin the year’s crop. None fell off this morning; it
was just like a strong thunderstorm
Elsewhere : sporadic trees and branches were down elsewhere in the
city, with a localized gust of 70mph; one high-rise lost a few windows; 300,000
are without electricity.

Galveston,
too, was largely untouched.  East Texas had it worst; but Beaumont
escaped destruction.  No towns were flattened, or even mauled;
though some houses lost roofs and some buildings suffered heavy damage.

On the other hand, there was extensive highway gridlock,
with people on the roads for over 24 hours; some deaths from
heatstroke, many people running out of gas b/c of the stalled traffic
and leaving on their A/C in the 100-degree heat. I wonder if people used up the breakdown lanes…  Yesterday at
6pm, there were still people stranded on the road w/o gas, despite many
locals (in addition to official FEMA efforts) making sorties to bring gas and food to those poor souls.  Here is a typical evac experience from Dwight.

The
unofficial evacuation orders were too broad (‘everyone in the hundred
year flood plain!’), too thorough (‘everyone get out of the city’
rather than ‘everyone get to higher ground’), and too individualist
(‘everyone to his/her own car!’).

The standard evac orders were fine — here is the canonical Galveston/Houston evacuation map.
Note that even the “C” evacuation zones, for Category 4/5 hurricanes,
only come into Houston as far as the East 610 Loop (to which point the
ship channel extends).  However,

  • The orders were also amazingly persistent :  ‘ALTHOUGH
    TRAFFIC HAS BEEN HEAVY AS THE TRAFFIC MANAGEMENT PLAN HAS BEEN
    IMPLEMENTED…TRAFFIC MOVEMENT SHOULD ACCELERATE. DO NOT LET THE
    TRAFFIC DELAYS HALT YOUR EFFORTS TO EVACUATE.’ was repeated a few
    times, even after the originally hoped-for acceleration didn’t happen.
  • Complementary orders were not given (if you are in the following safe zones, STAY OFF THE HIGHWAY)
  • “Evacuation” was not well-defined.  Do you have to drive 3
    hours out of the city?  Is it enough to get to places within city
    limits, where there is much more highway space?
  • Extra mandatory evacuation orders were made up on the fly. 
    Whoops!  The mayor has tried to write it off as a slip of the
    tongue, but many officials made it.   “If you live in a
    flood-prone area…” — Houston, Pearland, and others issued such
    warnings.  Since the 2001 flood affected many areas that had never
    flooded before, this worried many people who had nothing to fear from
    flooding thanks to Rita… the city had been parched for two weeks, and
    its bayous were empty.

When you tell people to stop trusting their own judgment and to
trust yours, you suddenly have an enormously greater responsibility to
care for them…


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