going home

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had a good night's sleep last night. i am about to check out of the hotel and head home. tv appears to have gone back to normal programming. i think for the most part they finally gave up on getting much excitement out of rita. i'm sure as they find areas where there was exceptional wind or water damage they'll play it up. as of last night, there was one known death from the weather itself, and that was a tornado in mississippi if i recall. i'm not going to say nothing at all happened, because it did, but considering the froth on the mouths of the reporters - especially here in houston - the fable of the boy crying wolf comes to mind. (i hear raj already made a similar comment on his blog...i haven't checked other sites yet.) i'm so glad i don't normally watch tv...i'm not sure i could mentally take it.

9 Comments

"Boy crying wolf" is a little harsh. To me it seems that the hyper media coverage of this thing was just overscaled. I think that everything we saw on ALL local media, everything that was shown on CNN, etc...I think that what they were doing was appropriate IF they would have some how managed to just keep it localized to Galveston...and then, on the last day, Lake Charles and Beaumont. It is not like their extreme response was entirely unwarranted, but rather that it was being delivered to a much broader audience than it applied to.

When a 175 mph hurricane is headed straight for your house and you live on the beach, that is certainly something to get hysterical about. If that had happened in Galveston, and let's remember that it VERY easily could have, my father and step mom would currently be homeless and without ~98% of every personal possession that they ever owned in their entire lives. When they locked up the house to drive up here, they said good-bye to their house, entirely aware of the possibility that they may never see it and all of their stuff inside again. They also said good-bye to their neighbors and said that they truly hoped they'd see each other again.
It was very sobering and sad hearing them talk about all of their feelings and concerns. They did not feel this way because of over-exaggerated media coverage, their feeling like that was entirely justifiable due to the uncontrollable weather situation.
They are currently on their way back down to see what happened. At this point they will happily greet any looting that occured to their home as well as any minor flood and/or wind type damage that their house withstood. The fact that there is still a house there is cause for major celebration to them.

So like I said, I believe that the hysteria was warranted for Galveston and the other truly coastal locations. The entire city of Houston though? No, not necessary.They broadened the scale way too much and made it seem like EVERYONE all the way up to the Woodlands was in for what my dad was potentially in for.

Also boys crying wolf - doesn't that kind of imply an element of control? Weathmen and media spokes-freaks can't control the weather. They weren't fabricating a danger that wasn't there, like that real wolf-cryer boy did.

I'm just happy to be able to go back to my regualrly scheduled no t.v. watching. ::happy sigh::

people who live on the coast know the risks. at least i hope they do. not to downplay the sinking feeling and difficult emotions that must come from the knowledge that your house and possessions may actually really disappear, but if you live on the coast you should understand that is a real possibility. if you don't acknowledge that, you're really putting yourself in position for a possible rude awakening. again, i'm not trying to make light of the emotions, and i'm not saying that even if you mentally know it's a possibility that it isn't difficult to deal with when it really starts to seem possible or even probable. but there are quantifiable risks with building a house right on the coast.

the problem is the media and gov't (and the recent experience of katrina) freaked out everyone. the news folk were trying their best to scare the bejeezus out of everyone in their viewing area. the gov't and media contributed to controlled chaos. and this was *four* days before the storm was supposed to hit. yes, the coastal areas need to plan in advance. but the entire city was flipping out *four* days in advance. there was no way to know what the storm was going to do, and there was no reason for the whole city to freak out. i could have evacuated over 150 miles with the gas in my tank the day before the storm hit, if necessary (and if the roads weren't parking lots). but it wasn't. i certainly didn't need to leave three days early. (the storm downgraded and shifted two days before, at least.) folk on the coast? sure. that's what the zones were for. that's a good idea. it makes sense. i think the plan they had was sound. some parts didn't go right, they learned some things, and worst of all they let (and contributed to, imo) the rest of houston go crazy.

the "boy crying wolf" thing is in reference to the actual reporting techniques leading up to and during the storm - not the providing of valuable info about the status and projected path of the storm. i watched tv to get status info. unfortunately, i also got a lot of b.s. make-believe worst-case-scenario crap, where even after the facts showed little was going to happen in the houston area they kept playing up possibilities and imnsho fabricating live on-the-scene weather reports via blatently sensationalistic techniques.

i guess maybe the american people have no one to blame but themselves. most people eat up this kind of news...that's why it gets high ratings. "going downtown? you might get KILLED!" "do you know what you're eating and how it might KILL you?" "where are your children!?" "is your house really safe?!" etc.

to lift from public enemy: "don't believe the hype."

Of course they new the risks - no one said that they didn't. What I am saying is that it was not like there wasn't anything to freak out about, which is what you seem to think. There was definitely something for some people to get very anxious about and there was definitely a need to know about it that far in advance. Who cares what *you* could do in a day? We are talking about a large number of people that might need to get out of the way which could not have been accomplished in a day.

Right. 4 days in advance for people up all the way up to the Woodlands was unnecessary. A mention to the Galveston locals during regular news intervals that day would have probably sufficed nicely. Although I am not going to pretend that I know how to get that many people out of harms way when 1) I am not sure of the exact boundaries of "harms way" and 2) I have no idea how to calculate and evenly space the traffic that would go along with the hard-to-define group of people ultimately deemed to be in "harms way".

"a lot of b.s. make-believe worst-case-scenario crap" is still not a case for any boys crying wolf. It was still based on actual info and a truly potential threat. Yes, it definitely decreased in likelihood and Yes, they continued to go on about it to an unjustifiable degree, but it was still based on fact and not some made up fantasy pulled out of thin blue air. Maybe you need to brush up on your nursery rhymes. ::running and hiding::

Public Enemy was defintiely right about hype - I guess I am just trying to show that there were elements of this situaiton that were not hype, some of it was valid, and some of it was ok to believe.

But after all is said and done, please just know having to endure all of these media yahoos over several days was very trying on me as well. The people on the Weather Channel actually almost made me violent.
And this is me saying it as nicely as possible.

While the media did put on their pretty reporters in windy conditions/people's faces/etc, I agree with Jamie (it wasn't nothing). Being from Illinois quite a while ago, I have not had the threat of a hurricane looming. And considering 2 dogs and an expectant wife, I don't feel too bad about being pretty concerned about having to figure out how to pack up my life into the back of my Tacoma. I wish that I hadn't gotten so reeled into the news. However, while you seem rather flaunting about the situation, how would *you* have evacuated a million or so people in a short time frame? I am at least glad that hopefully there were enough tired/mad people stranded without gas/water/food that better plans will be made in the future. I think the project management of all this seems pretty interesting in integrating everything together. And it gave me a chance to see what is important (and to shred some old paperwork I should have gotten rid of a while ago).

Trueblade was here...

Funny. Rita also ended up being an opportunity for me to get rid of some piled up old paperwork as well.
....gee, come to think of it, what this world needs is MORE hurricane hype.

Then we would all be neater.

it reads like y'all didn't even read most of what i wrote. grr. i've already stated all of this (and rather plainly, imo) but i'll do it again:

there was nothing for the whole city to freak out about four or five days out. there was a possible risk, it was days away. there was reason to be concerned, there was reason to pay attention and see what develops. that does not justify freaking out, even if a bunch of people did it. i explicitly said people on coastal areas needed more time. (go back and reread my comments. while you're at it, show me where i said the hurricane itself was "nothing", not ever a possible threat, or anything of the sort.)

my personal one day example was to show that people *NOT* near coastal areas (like all three of us) did *NOT* need four days to evacuate. in fact, people in areas not near the coast freaking out and evacuating caused a lot of evacuation problems, from what i saw. i never said OR implied this was true for everyone in houston, and i actually explicitly said it *wasn't* true for everyone.

as far as both of your questions about how to evacuate people: i already answered that too. the gov't already spent money and time coming up with a plan, and imo it was sound. they had zones for the people that really needed to evacuate, a timeframe, routes, etc. no, it wasn't perfect. it didn't get enacted exactly like it was supposed to either. but the media whipping everyone in the whole area into a frenzy and then the mayor calling for a voluntary evacuation of the whole town fscked up the plan worse.

another thing to take note of is that infrastructure (roads, gas, water, cell phones, phones, non-perishable food, etc) will always be inadequate in emergency situations. most economies can't afford to have 200% to 400% infrastructure sitting around unused for exceptional circumstances. are the taxpayers going to approve paying for infrastructure that is 25% used day-to-day? are consumers going to pay the rates/fees/costs necessary for companies to have infrastructure which is unused almost all of the time?

and as for the boy crying wolf example...it's accurate. it's not perfect, but for the parallels i'm trying to draw it works great. i doubt you're ever going to buy it because you've fixated on a perceived flaw and you will split hairs finer and finer, but the fact is it works. it doesn't matter if in the original story the boy was lieing about seeing a wolf. the point is the boy manipulated people based on a realistic fear they had, and when a real threat came the citizens didn't act. actually...the media *did* lie about what they saw. they said they saw a cat 5 hurricane destroying the city. they scared the citizens. it didn't happen.

or how about this... a bunch of people are at a theater and there is a truck barreling down the road, five miles away, and it might hit the theater. the management asks everyone to leave from front to back, using a reasonable plan, but the ushers start describing the horrors of being crushed by a semi, talking about how this is on a collision course with the theater, and how everyone should get out NOW! everyone freaks and they overload the aisles and people are getting smothered and crushed, the bad situation building on itself. meanwhile, two miles up the road the truck has managed to slow down and is veering down another road. afterward, the ushers are all congratulating themselves on how they informed the people and saved the day.

was there a real possible risk? yes, it was possible. was it handled correctly? no. should the ushers get to pat themselves on the back? no.

using "better safe than sorry" as a mantra shouldn't justify poor choices and actions. even when emotions are involved. especially when the actions taken to be "safe" are based on emotion and scare tactics more than facts. the fact is no big hurricane hit houston and the problems experienced starting four days out weren't necessary and shouldn't have happened. it is my opinion the media exacerbated the situation.

my refugee...er...evacuee (dave) made me clean up my house some. but i personally don't care to watch the city fall apart and see news reporters make up dramatic stories just so i can get off my lazy butt and clean up some. if that's what y'all need, perhaps you can just take recordings of the rita coverage and play it every now and then. :)

The view from afar:

Seems like there was a good plan (3 evacuation zones) in place and it was well and properly advertised without hype by the print media. I guess panic was induced which led to a stampede out of town, but I did not watch much TV news.

Assuming that the local TV media hasn't changed much from my time years ago in Houston. Terry's comments about frothing reporters seems to be believable. Given the national media's desire for viewers, I would not be surprised at intense hype there either.

However, at one point Rita rated among the top 3 most intense storms in the Atlantic, as measured by its central barometric pressure. Had Rita neither weakened nor turned east, the story would have been much different for Houston. As much as 10 inches of rain fell from Rita in some places along the state line, which would have had a pretty big impact on those areas not prone to coastal flooding. San Felipe near Voss goes under water with just a normal thunderstorm, so extrapolate from there. This danger was never advertised as the evacuation plan focused on the lowest areas of Houston near the bay.

Mostly I agree with Terry that evacuations outside of Zones 1 and 2 were not necessary early. It is certain that many others outside of those areas did not have to leave so early. However, if I had witnessed the mayor panicking (as Terry opines) I may have lost a good deal of confidence in local authorities assuring my safety should events turn catastrophic.

Boy crying wolf? I can't comment as my observations were 90% from on-line info, which seemed to be relatively sane.

I'm happy all are well among my family and friends. My brother is busy out restoring power. He says there are lots and lots of small outages that need to be fixed.

i can't speak much about print media. i was watching tv, not reading papers or online news sites. the danger due to flooding from rain (and wind) was definitely advertised on tv. in fact, it was said over and over and over, even after everything was moving away. because they just couldn't seem to stop pitching disaster. you are correct though, it wasn't part of the evacuation plan as far as i'm aware -- that was based on storm surge flooding and major damage impact areas.

i still am firmly of the opinion that the tv media's coverage/handling and the call for a voluntary evacuation by the mayor and other gov't figures exacerbated *greatly* what would have already been issues with aspects of the evactuation plan.

i'm not saying my lackadaisical approach to the whole thing is always the best or how everyone should approach it -- it worked out for me this time around. but i think there is a place between me and what happened that is a reasonable position.

the roads on friday were pretty much wide open, from what i recall. that means an extra 24 hours to 36 hours worth of evacuation was shoved into those previous two days. and since we watched the hurricane go to the east, that's 24 to 36 hours worth that didn't actually need to happen at all.

I made the same observation as Terry about Friday, but stopped just short of the same conclusion since (a) by that time officials had said it was better to stay in place and (b) it was becoming increasingly obvious that Rita was heading further east and weakening as well.

Other than the media just being the publicity whores that they are, another factor in the mass panic/evacuation is that politicians were being who they are and covering their a**es in the light of the backlash from the poor disaster response in NO. No mayor wanted to be Ray Nagin all over again, and I'm sure that same mindset was followed at all levels. Typical government -- underresponse creates backlash, followed by overresponse and its backlash. Now hopefully we can find some sanity in the middle!

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