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Interesting Contrast....

I was a bit shocked to come across this article on Boing Boing earlier.

As if they needed it, now there's one more reason why the U.S. government is going to hate Castro. Apparently, Cuba knows how to deal with hurricanes
Hurricanes Isidore and Lili battered the whole country, especially the tobacco-growing province of Pinar del Río and the nearby Isla de la Juventud, causing widespread devastation.

Cristina Estrada, a regional spokeswoman for the Red Cross, told BBC News Online that only the country's prompt and well-organised evacuation procedures ensured no-one was killed.

They got slammed by two hurricanes in as many weeks and yet they're somehow managing to keep things from devolving into lawlessness and chaos. It's interesting to see what a government does when it doesn't presume that it can just throw money at a problem. Cuba's been on the receiving end of a major trade embargo for decades and yet they were still able to put together a system that works.

I've been completely floored by what's going on in NOLA this week and reading this just leaves me dumbstruck. As a civil engineer I'm fascinated to see how a city functions (or in this case doesn't), but given the resources we have available, I'm still amazed that we can't seem to figure out what to do. Until I read about how Cuba handles similar disasters I kept going around the whole situation but ultimately always thinking, "Oh man, this is horribl, but what can you do? It's an 'act of god' and they call it that for a reason...", but now....

It is possible to be more prepared and to help people in need and it doesn't take wads of cash or high tech gadgets.

Apparently, all it takes is a little respect for mother nature, and an awareness that we aren't invincible.

Funny how those traits are sorely lacking in our leaders... and let's face it, they're lacking in us (as a country) as well. Suddenly it's not so shocking that the land of the Hummer and the home of the "War on Terror" wouldn't know what to do when faced with a disaster of these proportions.

I feel terrible for the people who got caught up in this and I'm increasingly angry that the people who are supposed to make sure things like this don't happen were caught with their pants down.

Damn it. It didn't have to be this bad.


i'm pissed, too. i'm also motivated to put together an emergency kit for myself, because it's painfully obvious that you're on your own... and it's not like we don't get battered by hurricanes either. we get them all the time in florida, and after the hurricanes of last year and andrew before that, i can't believe the folks in charge could have been sooo... complacent. it's totally ridiculous.
My neighbor works in the city department that handles emergency response and he strongly suggested having one too. I've been thinking about doing an emergency kit a lot lately.

Any idea what an emergency kit is supposed to have? Being in EP the only really obvious thing that comes to mind is water lots and lots of water... and TP ;), beyond that though I'm a bit stumped (although I suspect I probably have a bunch of the stuff already, but I should make sure and organize it before the fit hits the shan).

the red cross actually sell disaster kits! $49.95 64.95

i was thinking more along the lines of camping gear since we've filled up all our holes there after our trips. to the red cross stuff, i'd add cliff bars, a water purifier/iodine tablets. maybe a bottle of pepper spray... which alok says might be good for bears, too. hmm, i don't have a battery powered radio or plastic water containers yet. maybe i'll get one of those 4L bladders. they store well, and i can use it if people keep convincing me to go hiking and stuff.
You might be interested in this thread, in which a Guam resident speculates about how (before the hurricane made landfall) this will probably be "quickly forgotten" and discusses hurricane preparedness in Guam.

It's not like people didn't think about improving the levees.

Ironically, Governor Haley Barbour was partly responsible for the US' decision not to sign on to the Kyoto Protocol ... it's ironic because global warming makes hurricanes worse.
Yeah, wow, this has been an interesting wake up call (at least for me).

I've known about various elements of all this, but wow, we totally had no clue how to handle an emergency. I wonder what'll happen if CA ever gets hit with "the Big One" will the government be as slow to respond then? Or will they conveniently "learn from our mistakes" and respond more quickly when people with money are in danger....

This has been a sobering week.
> all it takes is a little respect for mother nature, and an awareness that we aren't invincible.

two cheers for this one! seriously, the u.s.a. is like a rebellious teenager. we can do whatever we want and nothing will happen to us. and if somethiing DOES, daddy's checkbook will fix everything. right on. we have such a childish mentality, it pisses me off. god forbid anyone could know better than we. to follow an example would be to relinquish our self-proclaimed uberstatus.


I'm also starting to see just how clueless a lot of people are, Even a former first lady seems like a complete idiot when she's talking about the poor being better off now than they were before.

I can't help but wonder what the effects of this whole disaster are going to be, "down the road" now that people have seen just how disconnected our leaders and even many of us are (I don't think a lot of middle class people even remotely understood what it means to be truly poor, especially in a crisis like this).
I’m dumbstruck at the thought that this actually happened and it really upsets me to hear of all the crime that is taking place. But the differences between 2002 and now is that when Isidore and Lili hit landfall, they were categorized as topical storms and category 2 respectively. Katrina was downgraded from category 5 status to 4 just hours away from hitting landfall. That is a huge difference. Also, Katrina pretty much hit right into New Orleans which is below sea level. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist or a civil engineer (believe me, cuz I’m neither of the two) to figure out that something bad is going to happen. But you’re right though, it’s our perception that weakens us. Americans (including myself) as a whole think that they are invincible. This really has to change and soon!
Also there had been several proposals to improve the levy and pump systems but all were shot down by the Bush administration, although, if approved, the new system would not have been complete when Katrina hit. I remember hearing that one of the proposals would have cost some 10 million. Now it looks like we might spend 20 billion. I mean this has been an issue for some 100 years and we/they (New Orleans) still just poked our/their noses. What also gets me is the death toll. I think right now its at 120 and rising. Why the hell didn’t everyone get out! I remember watching CNN on Sunday and seeing people still walking their dogs in the park, people still going to the bars. People didn’t have to die but I guess some just don’t have that respect that you were talking about.
So now, what do you do? Do you rebuild, which would mean literally rebuilding the entire city. Or do you move on?
I appolize for this being so long...
No worries about long comments, I enjoy reading whatever thoughts folks care to share with me.

As far as the situation in NOLA, I didn't mean to imply that I, as a civil engineer, had some great understanding of what was going on. Ultimatley I've always seen myself as a lifelong student and this disaster fits frighteningly well into a class I'm taking on infrastructure management. New Orleans had some unique elements of infrastructure, but the complete and total collapse of the city came largely as a result of the collapse of it's infrastructure (this includes everything, water, sewer, electricity, pumps, levees), the collaps of it's infrastructure (as you point out) came as a result of not investing money back into it and that's something a _lot _ of cities in the world do.

Blaming NOLA for not fixing their levees is offensive given how we as a country and as a world often don't take care of the systems that carve our cities and our comfortable lives out of the swamps, deserts, and forests of the planet. The situation in NOLA is fascinating because it's probably the most stunning modern example of just how precarious our hold on the planet can be. We usually see our citis as immovable, indestructable examples of our dominion over the Earth and yet if you look back on history, there are countless cities that have been swallowed up by our very planet (Pompeii would be a good example of this).

So yeah, I think I have some more thinking to do about the mistakes that lead up to this disaster (espcially given that those mistakes were made over and over again for the last 20 years and through at least 4 different presidencies).

What also gets me is the death toll. I think right now its at 120 and rising. Why the hell didn’t everyone get out!

It's simple really, New Orleans is one of the poorest cities in the country, Lousiana is one of the poorest states. The number of poor and poverty line people there is astonishing and quite frankly, a lot of them didn't have anywhere to go and they couldn't get there even if they had. A lot of families in the area had no one outside of the area to go to and for people existing from paycheck to paycheck, the prospect of picking up and going somewhere is as farfeteched as picking up and going to the moon. Sure, that wasn't everyone, but it was a lot of people. Factor in others who stayed to care for people who couldn't go (e.g. wheelchair bound, old and frail, sick, etc...) and those who stayed to try and protect what little they had and it's not hard to see that just telling people to go isn't nearly enough.
Well, effective disaster management is often one of the (few) benefits of living in a totalitarian state. Cuba has a great record managing AIDS, too, but if you ask me it's a high price to pay for civil rights. I'd be uncomfortable turning to Cuba as a model for anything.

That being said, the question of whether one of the richest countries in the world could have better managed this disaster is a good one. I agree that the evacuation procedure (which seemed to be to tell people to get out of town if they have the means) fell far short of the requirement. Spending more money ahead of time on evacuation buses would have saved a lot in helicoptering people out one at a time afterward. And I would agree with anyone who argues that mass organization like that is the kind of thing people should expect from a centralised government, since only a federal body has the resources and the authority to make that happen.
Eh, I don't know that I agree with labeling Cuba as a "totalitarian state" (at least not so long as we're buddy buddy with China, Saudi Arabia, etc... an certainly not with our own President creating "free speech zones" where people can "demonstrate" far away from anyone who might see them). They are communist, but I've always gotten the impression that Cuba does as well as it does with communism because of our embargo. We're punishing them for not doing what we say they should do and we've forced them to work together to survive and even prosper and their hurricane planning seems to be a clear example of that.

You don't have a few ultra rich people screwing over the general population for the sake of their bottom line (like so many of our corporations and sundry PACs like the RIAA, MPAA, NRA, etc...), you pretty much have a poor government that knows it has extremely limited resources planning and doing it's best to take care of the people because it's pretty much them vs the world and people are the only real resource they have. Out of that you end up with an amazingly good education and public health system that really puts ours to shame, particularly coming from such a poor country and particularly coming from a political system that we (or at least our leaders) often ridicule and belittle.

Honestly, I don't think communism is _the_ answer and I don't think Cuba's form of government is "the way", but I can't help but look at our country, our schools, our health care system, and yes our hurricane relief efforts and ask myself how can they do it so well and we seem to be running around like headless chickens. No government is perfect and theirs may do some terrible things (unlike ours which would never torture innocent people or imprison them without trials, etc...) but I think their government has kept sight of what it's job ultimately is a lot better than ours has.