Re: Mayor Nagin is pissed, so am I

After work I decided to check on Irish Trojan again. I wasn't surprised to see yet another post blaming NOLA Mayor Nagin for screwing up the evacuation process last weekend.

He pointed to this page on JunkYardBlog which puts it pretty plainly... there were hundreds of buses available in New Orleans to evacuate people over the weekend.

So I'm about to post that link on my weblog when I noticed Brian Carnell had replied to my previous post saying essentially the same thing. Maybe he saw the same story I just did?

I totally agree that those buses could have and should have been used. But I think the logistics planning for an event like this was so poor that it wasn't even in the cards. Imagine Mayor Nagin says on Saturday morning or Saturday evening, "anyone who doesn't have a way out of town should make their way to the Superdome or the Convention Center or (INSERT THE NAMES OF A DOZEN PLACES PICKUPS COULD HAVE HAPPENED HERE)".

How many people would have come? How many people would have gotten that message? (If they had planned for it there would have been police or other officials in the city bullhorning the message in every neighbourhood) If people did respond en masse, would their have been chaos? Would it have affected the people trying to evacuate on their own? I think it would have been quite a challenge. Don't forget the roads out of New Orleans were already extremely congested.

I think cities need to have these things thought through and ready, and the public (including kids via their schools) need to be educated about these procedures. Like fire drills, but without actually going through with the packing of people on buses and taking them out of town. This way the populous will gradually learn where their evacuation assembly location is, and what to expect when they get there, and people who aren't using those services know how to avoid the crowds there.

How is it that a city in New Orlean's situation didn't have a plan like that ready? What was the plan? Obviously they knew they had a massive amount of people who had no way out. What was their plan for hospital residents? For the prisons? Everything has seemed rather ad-hoc. But is Mayor Nagin to blame for all of this? Surely some, as are lots of people, and that blame is going to be passed around for a long, long time. Mayor Nagin was elected in May 2002. Even if he'd made it his first priority from day one I'm not sure they could have done enough. I've read money tagged to improve the levees was diverted to funding the war in Iraq (but admittedly I have no concrete source for that, can someone confirm that?), so it's not like he wouldn't have been fighting an uphill battle.

Here in Victoria, it's popular belief that if the "Big One" hits (ie: a massive earthquake very close to Victoria), Victoria will be underwater from tsunami flooding. I don't know what the city's plan is for dealing with that, so even if they do have a plan they obviously aren't communicating it well enough.

Written on September 3, 2005