Tuesday, September 02, 2008

More Gustav Miscellanea

Man, if you are somehow dependent on the national media for information relative to the situation in New Orleans regarding local conditions and re-entry information, you would be experiencing a twilight-zone sense of surrealism. First of all, the national media, once Gustav made landfall and the "excitement" of tragedy dissipated, they moved to the next possible crisis storms: Hanna and Ike. Secondly, all media are making me feel insignificantly invisible. Now I have a newfound appreciation for this:

Let me move on to some more reflection on the I-59 traffic situation during our evacuation. As I said previously, I simply could not believe how the media and the authorities would outright lie about the situation. If they weren't saying how wonderful the contraflow was working and how smoothly things went, they were downplaying the significance of the traffic jam. It took me 10 hours to go from my home in uptown to Hattiesburg, Mississippi. No matter how you try to spin it, a 10 hour experience for what is normally a 1-and-a-half hour trip is NOT -- I repeat, NOT -- a sign of ANY kind of success. But what really rubbed me raw the most was that they couldn't even bring themselves to tell folks the honest truth. It was extremely irresponsible of them to do this. If they had done this, at least people could have tried to look for alternative routes and taken the backroads. They didn't do this. Instead, their rosy picture of the wonderful success of contraflow made it seem to motorists that using the interstate system would be smooth, if sometimes bumpy, sailing. Let me assure you, it was anything but.

What was irresponsible about it was not only that it unnecessarily damaged our future trust in media and public officials regarding evacuation traffic updates, but also that the deception placed peoples lives in danger. People, thinking that contraflow was successful, might have figured they could have easily left later and with maybe a half tank of gas, to evacuate. I can only imagine families with pets stranded on the interstate with a fast moving storm bearing down on them. Talk about a frightening scenario.

If only, if only, if only the media and the public officials would have been honest with us. If they had told us, contraflow is NOT easing traffic on I-59 and to expect a 10 hour delay before reaching Hattiesburg, Mississippi, then at least motorists could have tried to do something else. At least we could have made extraordinary efforts to conserve gas. At least we could have planned driving shift strategies so as to avoid exhaustion on the road. I am very disappointed, not to mention still very angry, that I was deceived in such a stressful and anxious situation. The media and the public officials responsible for advising motorists honestly about evacuation conditions should be ashamed of themselves.

The lesson I learned from this experience and from the dishonesty of the media and the public authorities on this is the following: Next time, do not evacuate.

And this lesson has been compounded by the completely out-of-the blue re-entry strategy. Who knew of this tiered system of re-entry? I sure didn't! Why was this never communicated until even after the storm. As soon as they ordered the mandatory evacuation, they should have informed us at the same time what the re-entry scenarios would look like, including the "tier" system.

For all the accolades that the authorities might be due for a successful warning and evacuation system (though I think it was over-sensationalized, if you want to know the truth), they have significantly botched the afterwards. I didn't even feel this marginalized and helpless and uninformed after Hurricane Katrina.

It is absurd that they will not permit people to return home. They should let anyone who wants to return the opportunity to do so. It is not up to the authorities to save me from myself, only from the hurricane. And now that the hurricane is passed, they ought to get out of the way.

So upchucketh the Huck.


Eric said...

Hey Huck, glad to hear you guys are all safe and sound. Hope everything is good at your home when you finally return.

It sounds like it was chaos, but I can't imagine how you can evacuate an entire city without a lot of chaos. I agree with you, the people of New Orleans should have received an honest accounting of what to expect when they got on the road. Evacuation was still the smart thing to do, and anyone who didn't do it was acting foolishly, but there was no reason to lie about the travel condiditons. I'm sure some politician somewhere up the chain was thinking, "Just lie to them... whatever it takes to get people out of the city." In a post-Katrina political world, I can understand the rationale, but it is still woefully dishonest and misguided.

disgruntled Uptown resident said...

(1) I'm not so sure that evacuating was the smart thing to do. It is a game of minimizing your risk. Personally, I thought I took on greater risk evacuating than I would have by staying. Should we evacuate every time it rains? Of course not. People who live on the high ground in New Orleans should not rush to evacuate without good cause. Driving an automobile for 10 hours is not necessarily the safest option.

I also felt duped by a group of media and authority figures who were speaking in hysterical terms-- w/o remaining calm and rational.

(2) The contraflow made NO sense. The contraflow effectively widened the highway to 4 lanes, yet then funneled it back into 2 lanes, without allowing anyone to exit along the way. This does NOTHING to speed up traffic; it just shifts where the cars are siting-- absolutely idiotic!

(3) The suggestion that you couldn't return to your high-ground residence was an outrageous power play-- and definitely a reason not to evacuate again.