Friday, September 23, 2005
Having said that, this whole situation in Houston surrounding Hurricane Rita just makes me sick. How is it possible for a city that faces the distinct possibility of being hit by a hurricane every year to not have a reasonable and actionable plan to evacuate the city? Why is it taking 12 hours to get to Austin, which is normally a 2.5 hour drive. (Break that down, that means that you are doing 12.5 miles/hour, essentially the speed of top marathoners.) For example, the city didn’t have a concrete plan for opening up the inbound lanes to outbound traffic. This is especially shameful regarding Highway 290, one of the major routes to higher ground, because the design of the freeway in Brenham makes it impossible to ever reverse the inbound lanes. That is practically criminal in its negligence.
Furthermore, low-lying areas to the south of the city had to evacuate all the way through Houston in order to get out. Not only did the authorities fail to request that the urban population stay put while those in the most danger evacuate first, but they failed to induce any order in the evacuation at all. Something as practical as asking physically capable people without dependants to stay while those with children and in need of assistance go first probably would have eased the congestion for everyone.
Don’t even get me started on the incident involving the bus that caught fire and killed at least 24 evacuating seniors. Those deaths are on the heads of the people who didn’t see fit to organize or have a plan for evacuation, whether that be the prior administration of Mayor Lee Brown (a.k.a. Out-of-town Brown), the Texas DOT, current Mayor Bill White, or Mr. Mediocre, Governor Rick Perry. It should come as no surprise to any intelligent human being that bad things will happen when cars, trucks, and buses are stuck in stop and go traffic in 90+ heat for over 12 hours!
Mayor White, whom I supported previously, made a remarkably dumb comment on the news about how it was good that the roads were jammed because that meant people were evacuating. Tell me, genius, just how many people will now ride out the storm in Houston because they won’t endure the obscene traffic that is a result of the incompetent and untested scheme to get 4 million people out of the city?
I have always been very proud to be from Texas, and from Houston in particular. I love almost everything about the city, and went so far as to choose to move back to Houston even with a post-undergrad offer in Austin. I understand that evacuating a city the size of Houston is a monumental endeavor, but in the age of terrorist threats and in a city that has known the risk of hurricanes since at least 1900, there should have been a better plan. I am embarrassed by the lack of planning and coordination.