I know, this Blog really disappeared. I would like to say why, but some extremely personal drama went on and I would really like to just get past it. So, moving on with life and I hope to return to the Disney experiences at some point. In the meantime, some things on Hurricane Katrina.
As someone who has lived in the Gulf Coast most of my life, as someone who has relatives in Louisiana and Mississippi, and as someone who has evacuated from hurricanes four times, I’m mystified by the tone of the coverage of this storm. And as I talk with the people here up north, maybe I can see why they’re confused, as they most certainly are. They can’t see why so many people ended up still in New Orleans after a mandatory evacuation. Either they missed the interviews beforehand with residants that said things like, “I’m not too worried, they’re not going to let New Orleans fall apart,” or they thought that must be the sentiment of a crazy few. (Who is the “they” that man was referring to? The wings of Fate? The government? The taxpayers? The pantheon of Greek gods?) Let me explain the mentality of a Gulf Coaster.
Before every evacuation I ever made, I had some serious doubts about going. People that live on the Gulf know several things: that hurricanes frequently veer into a different course at the last minute, that they are usually several categories weaker than the reports by the time they hit landfall, that they sometimes dissipate completely, and that the news media tends to exaggerate their ferocity for the sake of news. Gulf Coasters receive hurricane warnings several times every summer, and their city will have at least one mandatory evacuation around the beginning of September that many people will ignore. Because of the reasons above. And also because when a mandatory evacuation is announced, the interstates out of the city will be backed up to 20 miles an hour at best. Gulf Coasters are not accustomed to bad traffic and don’t know how to handle any kind of backup. My great-uncle chose to stay in Gulfport solely because he didn’t want to sit in traffic. There is also the problem of where to stay, as the hotels will book up completely for hours out. And the shelters are notorious for being a risk at best, a deathtrap at worst. Outside of Gulfport a large number of people were sheltered in a courthouse that was levelled, their whereabouts may still be unknown. Added to that, a lot of southern minorities don’t trust the government and will ignore mandatory evacuation warnings.
Now national news is focused on all of this and from a non-locals viewpoint it must look pretty strange. And I’m sure it’s very convenient to try to blame this on the Federal Government, but here’s another thing we’re all aware of down there: hurricanes are the local government’s responsibility first. Texas has learned its lesson and has shown a rapid response to its own natural disasters, and welcomed refugees from Lousiana in kind. Living next to the Lousiana border will teach you fast; I’m sorry to have to tell you this, America, but Lousiana is a mess. It has the most corrupt goverment in the Union and it’s not a secret. This is the state that brought us Huey Long and David Duke. Can they handle a natural disaster? They’ve been fortunate that up until now they haven’t had to try. Everyone knows New Orleans is a sinking city, could they put $60 million dollars of state money into flood control? If you know Lousiana at all, you wouldn’t bother asking that question. So their residants with that Gulf Coast need to stay behind did exactly that, and all the Louisiana government can do is sit there.
Meanwhile, Mississippi took the real brunt of the storm and a city that I used to regularly stop in at is literally gone with the wind. Incredibly my Gulfport relative got through the hurricane just fine, but the restaurant I used to go to, the condos I used to drive by and a casino I remember fondly have vanished like so much dust in the breeze. The Holiday Inn is now on top of the President Casino. Pardon me if I take some of the attention off of New Orleans for a moment, but Gulfport was nearly wiped off the face of the earth and it would be nice if I wasn’t the only person that noticed.
Hurricanes, like earthquakes in California and volcanoes in Washington, are a fact of life for the Gulf. My mother tells a story about a bad one in the 50s that my grandfather took so lightly that he drove the family into a flooded area so he could see it better. That probably sounds crazy, but if you grew up there, you would understand. Blaming stronger storms on global warning wouldn’t make much sense to a Gulf Coaster either, as we all know the stories from the category 5 that hit Galveston in 1905, leaving a field of broken timber over 5,000 bodies. Funny how we know that story, and yet still I found myself considering riding out a 4 in our brick home in Beaumont, Texas. Fortunately the storm slackened into nothing more than a tropical storm, hardly an unusual day to us on the Gulf, but that’s what the hurricanes do so often. Inisight into a mindset that still leaves northerners blinking and blaming.