Sunday, September 18, 2005

Some more ramblings

Some more ramblings

How are things going on the coast?

I was asked on a local discussion forum to elaborate on some of the things I posted here ... I replied there, but I have decided to post the same stuff here.

"When you mention the "negative press" can you provide more info on the subject? On what news? On what subjects?"

Hmmm - where do you want me to start? What little tv we had seen by that time was spending most of the time trying to point the finger of blame at whoever was responsible for the slow response to the storm. At that point the same was true of the radio coverage we were hearing and the newspapers we saw - at least until a day or so before I posted the message you read. From then on the local radio and newspaper coverage became noticably more positive about the current situation and the outlook for the future.

New Orleans has since taken most of the national coverage. At the time NO news was about evenly split between finger-pointing and terrible stories of the flood and the criminal activity, from looting to shooting at aid convoys and helicoptors to little children being raped and murdered. These were mentioned everywhere - CNN on the web and on the tv, public radio, newspapers.

Since then the national coverage I have seen has concentrated almost wholly on New Orleans, as the Mayor tries desperately to blame everyone but himself (it seems) for mistakes made, and poor preparation.

Meantime in Mississippi the local radio stations, local tv and local newspapers (do you get the emphasis on LOCAL? ) have almost completely stopped pointing the finger at anyone for any mistakes or lack of preparation.

Here's the score so far as I understand it (and I think most people here see the same thing) -

The storm was terrible - bigger and more devastating than anyone imagined possible. Aid was totally unable to get through to the Mississippi coast for at least 2 days because the main arterial road (hightway 49) to bring that aid was blocked by thousands of fallen trees. Much of the aid was held up at Camp Shelby (maybe 10 miles south of Hattisburg, about 60 miles north of the coast) while a route was cut through the debris.

Once the roads were cleared, aid came through thick and fast. when I drove back down to the coast from Jackson on the Friday (or Saturday) after the storm it was evident that 49 had essentially been impassable from Jackson onwards ... thats 150 miles of 4-way highway blocked in both directions!! As I drove down that road I was stunned not only by the devastation that steadily worsened the further south I drove, but at the scale of the work that had to be done to clear it.

When I got to Gulfport that day there were traffic jams caused by the volume of aid traffic flooding into the city. I have no doubt that the same was true along the rest of the coast. Sadly many smaller communities remained inaccessible for a long time after then, but any lack of aid to them is likely to have been caused by logistical problems - blocked and or destroyed roads and bridges - rather than any lack of willing or ability to send aid to them.

All through this, the contrast between Governor Haley Barbour and the mayor of New Orleans has been striking. G. Barbour has maintained a "let's fix it and be better for it" attitude, with huge volumes of thanks to the (quite incredible!) work of the electric repair crews and aid helpers and volunteers, while it appears that the mayor of NO has concentrated of whining, finger pointing and demanding assistance. These attitudes have clearly affected the populations each man has responsability to, and the media coverage devoted to them.

As I said in my blog, the general attitude down here on the coast is very positive, in spite of the fact that whole cities have been washed away - and I am sure that the leadership of G Barbour and others has helped to maintain that posiive attitude.

Sure they are not cities the size of New Orleans, but if you have not seen the pictures, the sight of streets of houses scoured clean leaving only empty slabs and mountains of debris is heart-rending!

Check out this image of Bay St Louis

Here's where you can see more pictures of the devastation all along the coast:-


"Please give more information on your personal opinion. Here in Florida where we were almot hit by infamous Katrina, Fidelity who holds most Flood Ins. does not want to pay either. I don't know why we need flood insurance in a floor area if they won't pay when it gets flooded? It sounds like a riddle, right?"

Hmm - my earlier information seems to have been contradicted. Public radio announcements suggested early on that the insurance companies were instructed to play fair, but the Attorney General of Mississippi took 5 insurance companies to court this week to get them to quit trying to wriggle out of their responsabilitis by saying their insured customers had no flood insurance. He says there is no specific exclusion for Storm Surge so they have to pay up. I look forward to seeing the outcome of that.

Some people had specific Hurricane insurance, so they expected to be insured for hurricanes ... yet the insurance companies are saying they lost their homes or were damaged by flood. How was that flood caused? Wind-driven storm surge, not a river bursting its banks, or a flash flood or a burst water main!

No comments: