Tag Archives: Hurricane Irene

Ron Paul Demonstrates Idiocy over FEMA Opposition

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Hurricane Irene

Hurricane Irene as it swept into New England. Ron Paul told people in the path of the hurricane to support his efforts to abolish the federal agency that had helped them prepare for the storm.

Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas and a contender (once more) for the Republican nomination for president, took occasion on Friday to tell folks that he didn’t care for the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

To be clear, this was Friday, Aug. 26 – the day before Hurricane Irene made landfall, battered much of the East Coast and claimed at least 20 lives.

Before Irene hit, FEMA deployed, organizing resources across multiple state and municipal jurisdictions – an extremely daunting task. Towns often disagree with one another, as do states. Even communities within those towns disagree. For FEMA, that means getting through the bureaucracy to make sure that Americans have food, water, shelter and other necessities when pounded with disaster (usually natural, sometimes industrial or otherwise).

Ron Paul

Ron Paul. Sing along, everybody! "C'mon, babe! Follow me! I'm the pied pipper, follow me..."

Paul told people in New Hampshire – where Irene would blow in two days later – that in Texas, folks from FEMA “only come in and tell you what you can and can’t do.” And if there’s one thing Texans can’t stand, it’s somebody telling them what they can and can’t do.

Paul’s comments also come almost six years to the day that Hurricane Katrina made landfall, destroying about three-quarters of all the housing units in the city of New Orleans. Three-quarters. That’s 75 percent. That means that only every third housing unit was left standing.

FEMA failed, badly, in its preparation and response to Katrina. They told folks to leave, but did little to help them get out of Katrina’s way. After the hurricane wrecked the city, FEMA – under the direction of then-Administrator, who was a lawyer whose highest-level appointment before running FEMA was as the Judges and Stewards Commissioner for the International Arabian Horse Association – FEMA invested almost $3 billion to purchase about 145,000 trailers to house 770,000 displaced people (trailers that were later determined to have levels of formaldehyde so high that people could not safely live in them).

In 2006, a congressional report illustrated the utter failure of FEMA’s preparation and reaction to the storm.

However, we must realize that the FEMA of 2005 was not like the FEMA of any time past or present. As Irene began to swirl up the New England coast, states and communities were ready. Evacuations had been put in place, shelters were open, and the recovery from the storm is already in motion.

Texas is an exception to many rules. We don’t think of Texas as a costal state, but it consumes quite a bit of coastline along the Gulf Coast. So much so, in fact, that state agencies are often able to coordinate storm preparedness and response without much federal oversight. Where you need federal assistance is in places where multiple states will be impacted – like Florida, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana along the coast, or the great many states in the Northeast that have been struck by Irene.

Of course, Paul in a unilateralist when it comes to the federal government. That is, if it’s government, it’s bad. Despite the fact that he completely lacks credibility when it comes to national politics due to his fundamentalist philosophy, people still listen to his rants. To sell people in the path of a hurricane that the very agency tasked with their protection is a waste at worst and superfluous at best is almost evil. You know what? Strike that. It’s evil.

Paul tried to make political gumbo on the back of an agency that had worked around the clock to save American lives and preserve communities. Rather than taking the opportunity to play pied piper to people in harm’s way, he would have been better served asking folks to heed FEMA’s warnings and – in line with his philosophy of self-determination – do what they could to be ready independent of FEMA.

In the months to come, we’re going to hear a lot about government waste and federal agencies that ought to be dissolved. It’s true, there is waste, and there is overlap between agencies that can be made more efficient. But to completely remove government from areas where government is the only thing standing between ourselves and ruin is idiocy. The problem with Ron Paul is that Ron Paul is too stupid to know better.

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Disaster Preparedness and Paranoia: Ready for This?

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Winslow Homer's "Gulf Stream"

Winslow Homer's "Gulf Stream." Don't be ill-prepared.

This is a dangerous world. There are people, animals and elements out there that would do us harm. There are risks that we can mitigate, and risks that we cannot. Still, I am a two-fisted snake-handling believer in doing what can be done to prepare for the worst possible outcome.

It was born in me. Why does my family have land and tractors? Why, for the next Great Depression, of course. I come from a people who stockpiled not only toilet paper, but ketchup as well. Losing everything, as my grandfather did, surely changes a man. And going to his extremes is not an option; for one thing, it’s wasteful, and for another my wife will not allow it.

It appeared, only days ago, that we were going to get our due with Hurricane Irene. Many were ready to welcome the relatively-weak tropical storm, heralding the bump that some heavy rainfall might give to our fields and reservoirs. But things have changed, and that storm has gotten, well, mean.

But it’s not just hurricanes we have to worry about. Where I sit, way up here in in-land Georgia, north of the Fall Line, hurricanes are damned near one of the last things I worry about. Until this week, I didn’t fret too much about earthquakes, either, but the quake that jarred Virginia shook my confidence, too.

See, I have a list in my mind of things I ought to worry about that can occur beyond my control.

First is harm from people. In a previous post, I described my experience with a series of break-ins at my home. There are steps I’ve taken to mitigate this risk, as best as I can and within the bounds set by both the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office and my abiding wife. As my home was built, I encouraged the builder to provide enough space around the house that I could see the approach of a stranger from the trees. So, I have a bit of a “killing field” that improves the odds of my getting the drop on an intruder. Further, my house is tall – the bedrooms are on the third floor – so no one can step foot through my bedroom window without taking a great deal of pain to get up there.

I’ve a very reliable, very loud and very robust security system that relies on a number of different detection methods that I need not divulge here, except suffice to say, I’ll know someone’s there. And I have a layout to my home that allows me the option of, in a worst case scenario, putting my back to a corner and blasting the hell out of anything that comes through a door. We’re talking 12-gauge here, friends. Magnum slugs. Big, big holes.

Peachtree Road

This is the cover art for Elton John's album 'Peachtree Road.' The crossing depicted here is right down the road from my house. It's rural, poorly marked and a reason why I'm scared of the railroad.

My second fear – the one for which I’ve not sufficiently prepared – is of the railroad. Not that they’ll come take my land or seek to run track in a way that would split my ranch in two the way others feared the railroad, but that trains will wreck. It’s happened close by before. And our area of the county includes a number of rural crossings – the kinds that have nothing more than a sign that says there’s a railroad there, without crossing arms or flashing lights and bells – and several factories and at least one large truck transit station. Further, trains run very close to the end of my street – the sound lulls us to sleep on many a night – and we’re well within the evacuation zone should a derailment necessitate a mandatory evacuation. We also are rather close to an interstate – also a factor that might cause us to have to flee – as well as the fact that our house is surrounded by woods that, in dry weather, becomes crisp kindling ready for a forest fire.

I would very much like to prepare an “oh, shit” box. I picture something by Rubbermade, with a lid that covers the top in such a way that rain water would not leak in. Inside, some food and water, blankets, flashlights and perhaps even a change of clothes and some sparse toiletries. It would be kept by the back door in the basement – the one leading to the garage – and could be grabbed on my way out the door.

Having the ManVan – a Town and Country minivan – provides some peace of mind because, in a pinch, it’s not as bad a place to spend the night as would be, say, a Mini Cooper. The back seat folds down into a sort-of bed, there’s room to move around a little, and it has a DVD player to boot. That my wife and I both have BlackBerry’s is nice as well, since we have multiple ways of communicating (cell phone, text, BlackBerry Messenger, Facebook, Twitter) should the shit hit the fan.

As was my grandfather’s wont, I also keep my ManVan reasonably full of gas – at least at half-a-tank or better – so I could drive some distance without stopping. After all, if a disaster is big enough, as I’ve seen before, electricity might be hard to come by, and those gas pumps need it if you’re going to get fuel from them. A GPS system also helps, since I’m rather directionally-challenged and with the tap of a screen, I can get step-by-step directions to somewhere presumably safer than where I might be.

My third fear is weather, such that it would make travel impossible. Whether facing a winter storm as we did in February or something along the lines of a hurricane that can spawn tornadoes, flooding, downed trees, washed-out roads and generally making travel difficult (or impossible).

For this, I’m far better ready for winter disasters than summer ones, and to lose power than I am to lose water. In winter, I’ve a ventless gas fireplace that does a very good job of heating our home, and food can always be placed outside the door onto the porch to help prevent spoilage. A propane grill with a gas burner is in the garage for cooking and heating water, if necessary. I also have some canned goods – not a ton, but enough that should keep us alive if used sparingly. In summer, however, outside of being able to cook on the grill, there’s not much I can do. The fridge will go warm, the house will get hot and I’ll just be damned miserable. But I’m often like that anyway.

We take for granted that tomorrow largely will be like today. Philosophically, tomorrow is promise to no one. Just because the sun has risen every day that you’ve been alive is absolutely no guarantee that it will do so again tomorrow. There is a responsibility that we owe to ourselves to assume nothing.

Taking this too far, of course – as my grandfather did – edges in on mental illness. Knowing how to forage for food in the woods is a useful trick, perhaps, but so is knowing better than to go getting lost in the woods in the first place. I’m also no advocate for keeping large sums of cash on hand or converting your assets to gold; I do think that our financial system is adequately prepared to do what it must to enable you to make a purchase even in desperate times, because that system realizes that its survival, too, depends on your transactions.

Should the sun turn into a red giant or our economic system utterly collapse or a meteorite cast the planet into something like an atomic winter, then we’re boned and survival becomes a means only of prolonging our suffering. But we can be ready to, in the very least, grab our shit and get out of Dodge for a few days or, if someone busts through our window, do something about it.

So, are you ready?