Tag Archives: hurricane

It’s a hard rain’s gonna fall

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Hurricane Gustav begins to strike at New Orleans

For the 2nd time in three years, the City of New Orleans prepares this morning to be blasted by a powerful hurricane.

The devastation wrought back in 2005 by Hurricane Katrina is now legendary, but a great deal of that horror was not a creation of God, or Mother Nature, or any kind of natural or supernatural being or event. The devastation was brought on man by man.

For at least decades, the governments, both local and regional, and the people of the Gulf region were warned that this was going to happen, it was just a matter of time.

It is not the responsibility of the federal government to build giant walls and roofs so that men can be protected from every possible disaster. Men need at some point to take responsibility for their own actions and lives.

When you purposefully and intentionally make the decision that you and your family are going to live in an area that is historically prone to certain natural events, then you have chosen to take on certain risks and have the responsibility to ensure that you and yours can survive and recover when those events occur.

And the key word in that entire statement is ‘when’, because this is not an ‘if’ scenario. Hurricanes barrel through the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico every single year. They have done so for all of recorded history, and they will continue to do so into the future.

In the U.S., this means that coastal states such as Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas and the Carolinas are always going to be vulnerable to these types of events. Anyone who moves into or remains living in those states near the coastlines makes the choice that the beauty of everyday life there is worth the trade-off in having to evacuate or baton down when these strong storms hit.

When they do hit, those who have made those decisions, along with their local and state governments, should be responsible for any recovery and rebuilding.

It is not as if these events are a surprise, a sudden calamity that could not have been forecast. While any particular storm cannot be foreseen, the fact that there will be storms year after year, and that some of these will be of the devastating variety, means that people who live in these areas are rolling the dice.

When we gamble and win, it is considered being ‘lucky’, it is not usually considered smart. When you gamble and lose, it should not be my responsibility to bail you out and put you back on your feet.

Do people need help out of the goodness of others hearts? Sure, that is the point of charity and volunteerism. But for the federal government to continue to take hundreds of millions of dollars in hits because of the continued and repetitive gambling of some of our citizens is ridiculous.

Every time that a natural disaster hits, the first question is “What is the federal government going to do about this?” The fact is that members of local governments have made the choice to be citizens of those communities, and they need to be responsible. They need to educate their fellow community members, prepare for responding to these incidents, and prepare for recovery from these incidents.

The local governments and businesses and citizens of New Orleans and the surrounding parishes were told that a Katrina-like event was going to happen. They chose to make other decisions over the years and decades in their spending that did not address the issues of basic protections against such a storm. Instead, the federal government was expected to protect them from their choice to live in that area, and bail them out in recovery when the event actually happened.

And this is not the only example of this type of thinking and lack of preparation. For decades, the people in the San Francisco and Oakland areas, and many other communities in southern California, have been warned that a major earthquake of a devastating magnitude is going to strike at some point. Not some point hundreds of years in the future, but likely at some point in the next few years or decades.

It is going to happen: buildings, bridges, roads, homes will topple and hundreds if not thousands or more of people are going to die. It is a fact of the future that every one of those people has been warned about. But they have chosen to live in those areas anyway because there are many benefits on a day-to-day basis.

I respect and acknowledge the right of those folks to live in those areas. But they have chosen to live there in a known disaster-waiting-to-happen neighborhood, and when it happens, likely in my lifetime, it should not be my responsibility to bail them out and help them rebuild right there so that it can all happen again someday.

Sudden, unexpected events are one thing. Predicted and expected events are another. One results in a tragedy, the other results in a bad choice coming home to roost.

It appears that Hurricane Gustav, which will slam into Louisiana today, will not be nearly as bad as Katrina was, but it will be a strong storm that will beat down an area already beaten badly. The fact is that a hard rain is going to fall, and the further fact is that it won’t be the last time.

Jersey cops and Alabama Hooters

A story broke today of the disbandment of the Hoboken, New Jersey SWAT team after a controversial incident.

Apparently the officers of the unit stopped by a Hooters restaurant in order to enjoy some of those great wings. Someone snapped some racy photos of the cops posing with the Hooters girls. So what, right? Boys will be boys, after all.

Problem is, the boys in these photos were in SWAT garb, had gone to the location in their fully-equiped SWAT van, and let the girls play and pose with their equipment. Pun fully intended.

The actual incident happened about two years ago. The SWAT team had gone on a road trip to help the victims of Hurricane Katrina, and stopped by the restaurant in Alabama while on their travels.

As you can see by viewing the photos available through some of the links supplied here, the Southern Belles seemed more than happy to meet these Yankee heroes.

The story was broken earlier this week by a local investigative news reporter, and Hoboken responded by naming a new Public Safety Director who was formerly the Chief of the Hoboken Fire Department.

After being sworn in on Friday, the Director immediately disbanded the unit. He also called home the unit’s head, a Lieutenant who had been away on vacation.

At his sit-down with the Director, the LT is reported to have claimed that the unit was off-duty at the time of the Hooters visit and photos, and that all of the weapons shown were privately owned. He claims that no city time or equipment was used in relation to the incident, and that the photos were going to be used as part of a calendar.

Of course this really isn’t the point, even if it is true, which strains credulity. A number of issues come into question here, but perhaps the most important is the integrity and intelligence of the unit members and it’s command.

Posing with scantily clad women while in your gear and traveling in your work van, and allowing those women to handle high-powered weapons is juvenile at least, dangerous at worst. Allowing yourselves to be photographed while doing so is just plain dumb.

Great looking young women handling high-powered weaponry in photos is nothing new. Cops and soldiers, and many others like both their guns and beautiful women. The combination of the two in photography has gone on forever.

But when a police unit is traveling representing their department and their community as a whole, this type of activity cannot take place. The leadership of the unit should be ensuring that it doesn’t take place, rather than participating in it themselves.

Want to make a calendar with Hooters gals? Be unquestionably off-duty, wear generic police garb without any reference to your community, and have documentation that the weapons were personally owned.

Here is to hoping that none of the guys represented in the photos is married, because that is going to open up an entirely different can of worms for those fellas and their families.

Innocent men’s road trip stuff? Perhaps. But try selling that to a wife who was left home handling the house and kids while you were away. I can tell you right now “that dog won’t hunt“.

I am not trying to play the prude here, having been around the block myself a time or two now, and having experienced similar events over the course of my own police career.

However, there is no legitimate argument that this is anything but a bad decision on the part of the cops involved. Every police officer at any level in any jurisdiction needs to really think about the intelligence of participating in anything like this during their career.

Wilma !

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Over a decade ago, my dad moved down to Florida, to the small town of Spring Hill, which lies just north of Tampa.

During that time he has been blasted by a number of hurricanes, most notably last summer when four different storms roared over Florida within a one month period. 

However, his town has not yet felt the brunt of any direct hits. They have been skirted past and brushed by, feeling some effects of wind and rain, taking some minor roof damage, but escaping any large-scale or lasting effects. 

Now here comes what likely will be the final tropical storm of what has been one of the most memorable in history, what with the destruction wrought on the Gulf region by Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita respectively. 

Hurricane Wilma (I can’t help it, I keep picturing old Hanna-Barbera cartoon character Fred Flintstone’s red-headed wife, and Fred yelling “Wilma!“) suddenly formed in the Caribbean, exploded quickly into the strongest Category 5 in recorded history, and is poised to slash across Florida over the coming weekend. 

As of right now, the entire state is in the potential path, though that will narrow over the coming 48 hours. I will be saying yet another prayer for those folks, especially my dad and his wife, but someone is gonna get hit by this thing. 

Oh, and just as a parting gift to the season from the tropical storm gods, the storm may ride up the east coast and come visit me next week. As Fred would say…”Wilma!

The train derailed: Nightmare in New Orleans

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The Superdome in New Orleans is a refuge for some, part of the Katrina nightmare for others


I keep hearing Arlo Guthrie singing in my head: “I’m the train they call the City of New Orleans…

For the second straight day this single line from this old song just keeps on running through my mind.

The train is derailed, nearly obliterated, certainly damaged beyond recognition by what in many ways will go down as the worst natural disaster in American history, a behemoth of a hurricane named Katrina.

The last time that a Katrina hit New Orleans, everyone was “Walking on Sunshine” as the one-hit wonder band, Katrina & the Waves, brought their bouncy, upbeat, sunny song to the Bayou in June 1985.

Today, even when the sun is shining, few people are singing, and even fewer can even utter the name of Katrina without prefacing it with the worst of profanities.

There are many innocent victims. Many folks who, for a variety of reasons, simply could not get out of the way of this monster. For a couple of days preceding the landfall of this massive killer, the danger that she was bringing with her was both predicted and more than adequately warned.

But some had family members that were immobile. Some had no way to get out. They had no car, or inadequate finances for what rapidly became few ways out via public transportation. They had little choice but to hunker down in their homes, or in the New Orleans Superdome, and hope for the best, pray for a reprieve.

Unfortunately there were many, many more who stayed because they just simply didn’t believe. They knew the possibility for decades. Folks have been warned about the situation that the City of New Orleans was in, surrounded by water and laying below sea level. The type of hurricane that was finally realized on Monday, August 29th, 2005 was discussed as an inevitability for the past half century.

But many stayed anyway. They had lived through numerous false alarms in the past. Storms that looked deadly for awhile usually turned away in the last days or hours, or weakened to the point of some wind and rain, but certainly nothing of a biblical level.

They felt that they could ride it out, go out in the morning, and begin the cleanup process. Maybe stock up a little food, and be without things like regular phone service, cable TV, even electricity for a few days.

There were many, many of these types, and how wrong they were. This one was different, and they were told early on and all along that it would be different.

I watched the buildup of this storm on Friday and Saturday, and saw every major news outlet reporting that this was going to be a storm of unprecedented damage in the New Orleans area. It was, in fact, widely predicted to do tremendous damage throughout the entire Gulf area.

I saw the warnings, and saw the folks fleeing by the hundreds of thousands. Unfortunately, thousands more did not heed these dire warnings.

Now, the City of New Orleans is virtually destroyed. Sure, most of the buildings are still standing. That world famous Superdome sports facility still stands.

But the levees which were designed to help protect the city from the surrounding water, particularly the waters of the large Lake Pontchartrain, finally broke, weakened by the power of the storm and the force of the waters. Those waters came flowing into the bowl that makes up the basic shape of the “Big Easy.”

The images that are coming more fast and furious from the news media as the days go by paint a picture of an America that we have rarely seen in the past, never on such a massive scale.

American citizens are now refugees, fleeing a major American city that has been devastated and is no longer viable. They have no food, no water, no money, no job to go to, no place to live, no medicine, no sure means of communication.

And the looting is ridiculous. No, not the taking of abandoned bottles of water, abandoned containers of food, abandoned dry clothing, abandoned medications. Not a single police officer or law enforcement official at any rank from any organization, under those conditions, would be stopping anyone from taking these things.

In fact, help in getting these items into the hands of those who need them, which is basically everyone at this point, is justified and called for. But I have seen folks carrying out televisions, music CD’s, DVD’s, etc. Ridiculous, callous, even stupid. There is, after all, no electricity, and there may not be for months.

It is hard to believe that I am going to say this in my lifetime, but in many ways this is worse than the results of the attacks of 9/11.

That was a traumatic shock that shook many of us to our individual cores. America was attacked on our own soil by a foreign enemy, symbols of our previous invincibility were destroyed, thousands of our citizens were killed and wounded.

The massive cleanup efforts in Manhattan took months, and even today, four years later, things are not yet rebuilt and back to some semblance of normalcy.

But the fact is, that was one corner of one section of a city, albeit the largest and most visible city in the world. This is an entire city, and in not just that city, but many of the surrounding communities as well.

Nearly every usable inch of New Orleans is under water. Buildings, homes, businesses are now literally inside a lake. The entire city is being evacuated, martial law has been declared, and there is even talk that they may simply choose not to rebuild the city at all.

No crawfish and seafood gumbo? No Mardi Gras or Saints football? No Bourbon Street or French Quarter? No Crescent City? No Big Easy?

No New Orleans, Louisiana? Is that really even a possible outcome here?

How not only this region, but this entire country, reacts to and attacks this disaster will tell us much about who we are going to be as a people into the future.

This is not just a local and regional problem, this is a national problem. We all need to decide that we are going to help these people to recover and rebuild their lives in some way.

Donate money, donate time. Listen to television and radio for opportunities to help, they will be there.

One could write all day about his disaster, and many of us probably will over the coming months. For now, I’ll simply end this with the final two verses of Guthrie’s classic ditty:

But all the towns and people seem to fade into a bad dream
And the steel rail still ain’t heard the news
The conductor sings his songs again
“The passengers will please refrain:
This train got the disappearin’ railroad blues
Good night America, how are you?
Say don’t you know me? I’m your native son!
I’m the train they call the City of New Orleans.
I’ll be gone 500 miles when the day is done.