Wednesday, September 17, 2008

After Ike - Lessons from Rita don't work

Galveston Mayor Lyda Ann Thomas announced in a press conference yesterday that the island would implement the “Look and Leave” policy beginning at noon. Three hours later the policy was rescinded. Why? Three lanes of traffic lined up 15 miles, trying to get onto the island. The backup delayed emergency crews working to restore power to the crippled island. According to Texas’ oldest newspaper, The Galveston County Daily News, police had their hands full dealing with irate drivers trying to return to the island.

More concerning to me is the rumor that most of these people had no intention of honoring the “Look and Leave” provisions. Most intended to stay in their homes – without sanitation, water, or power. Dr. David Lakey, state health commissioner, has declared the island a health hazard, and warns of water-borne illness, food-borne illness, and the lack of health care on the island. UTMB is the state’s oldest medical school, and most residents have no concept of life on the island without nearby medical care.

Evidence of this was borne out today, when the Kroger grocery store opened. The Kroger suffered no flood damage, and only minor roof damage. They imported workers from neighboring workers, and brought in 16 dump trucks to carry out food spoilage. They were given clearance to sell packaged/dry goods and any remaining fruits and vegetables. They also opened the pharmacy, saying they would fill any existing prescriptions with a 72 hour supply. They also promised to honor new prescriptions, unless for narcotics, with a 72 hours supply. They declined to fulfill any narcotic prescriptions.

Guess what happened? Needing new or replacement prescriptions, people lined up to be seen in the emergency department. The emergency department, and indeed the entire medical facility, is closed. The DMAT teams are treating minor injuries and transferring serious injuries to mainland facilities.

My sources are in disagreement about what happened next, but the crowd eventually dispersed, upset and angry.

I am not in the middle of this maelstrom, but I ask these questions:

If the island is unlivable, why are people being allowed to live there?

If the island is a health hazard, why are people being allowed to live there?

If there is no medical care, no sanitation, no water, no electricity, and a grave health

threat to the remaining population, why are people being allowed to stay?

In a policy developed as a result of Hurricane Rita, residents were supposed to be allowed to come to the island between 6 AM and 6 PM to view their property. However, with 3500 people still living on the island 24/7, it is difficult to rationalize the 12-hour-only policy. What seemed so practical in 2005 has proven to be unworkable in 2008. Ah, well, another lesson learned. I feel certain that more are to follow.

For those of you with morbid curiosity, you may view the island by relatively recent satellite image at The views were sufficient for me to tell that a corner of my roof collapsed, but the main structure is still standing. And, as I still maintain, it’s only stuff.


Anonymous said...

I can't believe that people would want to return in the face of such great hardships. FEMA now is issuing vouchers for people to stay in hotels in Houston. Why don't the rugged individualists in Galveston take advantage of that?

Anonymous said...

I got it. I'd be there with my shotgun to keep out looters. Better to risk getting sick than to leave your home open to the scum that would scavenge it.

Anonymous said...

I checked my place today. Nobody has touched it after a week. The place is trashed. I took what I wanted before the storm. If somebody needs wet trash, I'd be happy if they carried it out of there. Less work for me! I would not sit in that hellhole with a shotgun to blow 'em away. Knock yourself out!