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September 15, 2005

MISSISSIPPI READER HAROLD BRASHEARS WRITES ON KATRINA RESPONSE:

Regular reader who just got internet access in South Mississippi tonight! I hope it does not go out before I finish this email. I live in Gautier, just north of I 10 on the gulf coast. Unlike many, I can plead personal knowledge.

I must disagree with those who appear to have made some kind of holy writ that the response was slow or inadequate. Of course, I cannot speak for New Orleans, which has had such a dysfunctional government
my wife and I have hesitated to visit for almost a year now. We stayed at home during Katrina (at my wife’s insistence, we won’t do that again!), and I must report that I think the emergency response was very fast, considering the size of the storm and the barriers to the response.

This was the biggest storm to hit the US in memory; it stretched from west of New Orleans to east of Mobile in its damage. The storm was a category 2 or 3 as far inland as Hattiesburg and Laurel. This means
prepositioning of supplies would not work, since they would have been destroyed in most cases. As I understand it, there were emergency supplies in the Gulfport/Biloxi area, but they were destroyed by the
strength of the storm.

The barriers to the emergency response are mind boggling. In many cases, emergency personnel and other first responders in the affected area could not be found. In Gulfport, for example, the police station was under water, and was relocated to a school, wading through water to get there. I don’t think anyone has found the Waveland PD, since Waveland is not there any longer. From New Orleans to Mobile there was no phone, no cell phones, no Internet, no
TV, no cable, no electrical power, no gas, no water and no communications of any kind except messenger. This is hard for people in communities far from the disaster to understand, the complete isolation of this communication lack.

North of the gulf coast is an area called the “Pine Belt”. As you may suspect, there are a lot of pine trees there, many of which ended up on the roads after the storm. Just clearing US 49 (a major artery to the coast from the north), took nearly a day. Hattiesburg is the major transportation hub in South Mississippi, and it was actually closed to all traffic for almost a day, due to fallen trees on the city roads. This is incredible, and unprecedented on this scale.

Via Murdoconline

There was literally no way into the area for convoys that did not involve clearing hundreds of miles of roads. The bridge between Mobile and Pascagoula was closed, due to fear that it would collapse. It is still only one lane each way. I 10 was, in places,
under water until Tuesday.

So where did this idea of a slow response originate? I believe it came from fearful local politicians, mostly in Louisiana, eager to deflect blame to anyone else. It was picked up enthusiastically by the media. The Cindy Sheehan story was rapidly fading, so this was simply another attack by the media, beleieving they have finally got Bush. The Plame story, the Rumsfield story, Cindy Sheehan, Abu Graib, etc… etc…

I saw emergency personnel on Tuesday evening, and I was quite happy with the response.

I'm glad the power's on. Here are some photos of damage on the Gulf Coast. And check out these aerial photos showing damage to bridges and roads.