Hogan's Alley

Thursday, September 01, 2005

New Orleans, The Recriminations Begin

Things are not going well in New Orleans. It seems to be taking an inordinate amount of time to mobilize boats, choppers, trucks, whatever it takes to get to stranded people and move them to safety. The police appear to not have an effective presence and there is as yet no major National Guard involvement.

The cable networks, who yesterday focused on the looting, are now raving about shots being fired at helicopter, hospital staff and police. The probability is that one or two shots were in fact fired and are now ricocheting through the media. It appears, regretibly, that these rumors are impacting the rescue response, providing an excuse for slowing it further.

Why would anyone shoot at a chopper? I can only think of two reasons: madness and fear that the authorities are coming to raid someones cache of looted property. Both seem unlikely and can surely not be widespread.

The political lunatics are poking their heads up the usual suspects (Bush from the left and probably soon Clinton from the right) for the entire mess. As if a category 4 - 5 huricane smacking right into a city of nearly 1 million situated largely below sea level could produce anything but awful results. This has been known since the city of New Orleans was settled by large numbers of people over a century ago. Lets blame it on Millard Fillmore.

David Brooks touches on the truth of this tragedy in today's piece. Those with the mental, physical and financial resources got out. Those without these resources are left to suffer. Sadly, as is all too often the case, those left behind were black and poor.

Lastly, the Astrodome is a very bad idea for a refugee center. No arena has plumbing that can survive the 24/7 onslaught by a small city's worth of people. Long lines and breakdowns are going to be constant.

As for the space, looking at the TV shots of cots spread close together on the floor of the Astrodome, they do not appear to be anywhere near the number needed to sleep tje 25,000 people who are supposedly coming from the Superdome. I was unable to find any reference on the web to the square footage of the Astrodome floor, but if a cot is 3x6 or 18 square feet, then 25,000 would require 450,000 square feet, without allowing for any necessary space for movement, or to allow some minimum space between people. Assuming the floor is a rectangle, which it is not, it is oval, that would be a dimension of about 900 x 500 feet, the length of 3 football fields, not counting end zones. The width would equal the width of almost 10 fields. In fact, the floor only holds one football field and a bit more.

I would guess that the floor space will only accomodate no more than 10,000 - 12,000 people. Probably a good deal less when you consider that people will be living cheek by jowl for months.

Are the authorities in Texas now preparing to forward buses full of refugees to alternate sites. How many are available?
Are the refugees being told what to expect? Is anybody out there looking at the whole picture? Not so's you'd notice.