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Hurricane Harvey; Was The Disaster Response Adequate?

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Sep 14 in Politics & Government ✌ by Virginia (4,092 points)

What I will write below is VERY cynical, and a year ago I would never even have considered it might be true.

But, the Internet is now filled with discussion of whether officials made the correct decisions on their advisories about evacuation. Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said "no, stay home." The mayor was thinking of the gridlock as two-plus million people went onto the highways, and that facing down the storm at home was actually safer...but Governor Greg Abbot told people, “Even if an evacuation order hasn’t been issued by your local official, you need to strongly consider evacuating.”

Here is the cynical part: One economist I tend to admire suggests that a city like Houston, near the stormy gulf on flat low ground, needs to have an evacuation strategy in place BEFORE storms like Harvey arrive. AND the reason Houston did not do that was that our economy is so deeply based on profit now that building the infrastructure for evacuation was not profitable enough! 

...because the developers and corporations essentially 'own' the government now through their campaign contributions and such, so their desires prevail (profit-oriented and death-dealing).

I wish someone could assure me all this is NOT true, and that my sources are mistaken. My professional life was in health care, totally oriented toward saving lives no matter the cost, absolute first priority save lives.

http://amp.charlotteobserver.com/news/nation-world/national/article169667992.html

3 Answers

TheOtherTink Sep 14

It seems to me that some companies could turn a very nice profit from an evacuation plan.

Let's say, for example, you needed to evacuate a million people from Houston to higher ground, say an hour away from the city. This could be done with one or two days notice by about 2,000 buses. These could be existing school buses and other buses used for public transportation. Private automobiles would be banned from the evacuation routes while the buses were being used for evacuation. And if there aren't enough existing buses, more could be built (at a nice profit) for standby emergency use.

Then there would have to be enough storm-proof and flood-proof buildings erected to temporarily house the million people.  Here's where the real money would come in, and of course, since public money would be used, the cost overruns would be enormous and would yield correspondingly enormous profits.

O'Tink, as I was assembling this question I was thinking along the same lines...buses, trains...maybe arranging with nearby communities for shelter of some kind. 

Smaller communities, with freeway systems that could handle the traffic, DID specify mandatory evacuation.

But the point where I would differ with your comments, is that I don't think we should look for ways to make disaster relief profitable - I am thinking the profit motive has gotten WAY out of hand, and should never take precedence over human life. So if TX did not prepare adequately because of profit, they need to re-think their priorities!

O'Tink, I looked back at your answer when I came for Marianne's post...and I do see that you are being just a bit sarcastic humour...:D  ...and my heart is more and more broken, to see the profit priorities...

What (I think) you are pointing out is the shift to digging into public coffers; which, my sources suggest, is just another way of transferring wealth from the middle and working classes over to the very wealthy, since it is those same middle and working classes who bear more and more of the tax burden!

And I forgot to mention the overly concreting practices in urban, rural, industrial, residential and other places and areas, which are interfering with the natural functions of whole ecosystems - like flooding areas, or wetlands, for instance.


@ Virginia,

Yes, I was pointing out that there would be plenty of potential profits to be made, if the governments that would be in charge of preparing such a plan are as much in the pockets of big corporations as we fear.


Marianne Sep 15
Gatorblu Sep 19

Evacuating a huge number of people is a nightmare, and I don't think anyone expected the storm to stall and dump the amount of rain that it did. Many people have been injured or died in the past because they were stuck on the road trying to evacuate. 

I am a Florida girl and I have been through more hurricanes that I can remember. Evacuation has to be done in stages and not everyone wants to leave when told. I lived in the Tampa Bay area in 2004 and they had an evacuation plan that works as well as any I have seen. Coastal residents are first and they are told to go a few days ahead of the storm. Next is those in the low lying areas a bit more inland. They also evacuate nursing homes and medical facilities with the first wave. I believe there are 4 evacuation zones in all. It helps to prevent the gridlock by not having everyone leave at once. Getting back after a storm was always worse then evacuating.

I don't think I have ever heard of any other place using such a plan. I hope Houston has learned where their problem areas are by now, as they did have flooding last year as well, just not to the same extent. I would hope they can develop a zoned evacuation plan and implement it in the future.

And even if you evacuate, you still may not be safe. I have an RV and evacuated ahead of Irma. The storm shifted and where I had planned to wait out the storm was now in the path. I moved to another campground and was still in the path. I moved again. (I swear that storm was stalking me.) I finally ended up in TN at a relative's house and waited it out. By the time it got to me it was just a rain event, but now I was much farther from home than I wanted to be. I waited an extra day before coming home because I knew there would be gridlock and the gas supply would still be low. 

Virginia Gatorblu Sep 19

Gatorblu, what an experience for you! I am VERY glad to know you ended up safe...and to tell us your adventures.

The zoned evacuation does make so much sense! Somehow, Houston seems caught off guard; to leave so many in harm's way, with no better plan than just telling them to batten down at home. Maybe indeed, I do hope, that Texas will now get busy on a pre-emptive plan to keep people safer.

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