Thursday, September 22, 2005

Rita Update: Poor Stuck, Drivers Stuck, Flooding Dangers

Yet again, the poor of a major US metropolis are being left behind.

"I done called for a shelter, I done called for help. There ain't none. No one answers," she said, standing in blistering heat outside a check-cashing store that had just run out of its main commodity. "Everyone just says, 'Get out, get out.' I've got no way of getting out. And now I've got no money."

Houston, in all fairness, stopped its municipal bus service at 2pm today so that the buses could be used for evacuations. It remains to be seen if it is enough and in time.

And even if you had the money and the transport to leave, plans for evacuation routes and gas resupply now seem to have been woefully inadequate.

What else can go wrong?

Well, how about the reports that Rita may stall over East Texas once it gets inland, dumping up to 2 feet of rain on the area, including Dallas and Houston? Texas leads the nation every year in flood related deaths - the arid conditions and a layer of clay combine to let water just slide off in flash-floods instead of soaking into the ground. Here is an excellent website with all kinds of information on Texas' flash flooding dangers. Yet a FEMA spokeswoman said "I don't think we're doing anything differently than we would for a (Category 5 storm) anywhere else."

Or the fact that FEMA's idea of prepositioning is to sit every single big-rig with all their water, ice, MRE's and other supplies - Forty-five truckloads of water, 45 truckloads of ice, and eight truckloads of MREs - in a flat floodplain field at Fort Sam Houston here in San Antonio.

And let's all pity the poor folks who will ride out Rita and any consequent flooding in their vehicles in interstate tailbacks.

Here in San Antonio we have been lucky. The hurricane's projected track has veered well away from our area and we are unlikely now to experience extremely high winds although we could still be in for enough rain to overwhelm flood control systems. We will probably see some stormy skies and some power outages. Still, I am very aware that our luck is some other areas misfortune.

Tomorrow should see things really begin to happen. Let us all hope we get off lightly.