Galveston

The last major hurricane made a direct hit on Galveston Island and the Metropolitan Houston area on August 18, 1983. I remember it because I was living in Galveston at the time, working at the University of Texas Medical Branch and living in an apartment two blocks from the Seawall and the Gulf of Mexico. On weekends, I commuted to Houston, where my then-wife was going to graduate school. I still know folks down there. I hope they’re safe. The images of destruction coming out of Southeast Texas today are breaking my heart.

In 1983, during Hurricane Alicia, I evacuated to Houston and spent a long night hunkered down with my wife and a neighbor friend who was bedridden with a bad back. The storm wound up taking 22 lives, causing $2 billion in damage (in 1983 dollars), and leaving me with a profound respect for the havoc our planet can bring.

Alicia was bad. Today, a bullet was dodged when the worst of Ike’s storm surge went east of Galveston and obliterated the sparsely populated Bolivar Peninsula (a sand spit that’s basically at sea level and spent last night on the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico). But Ike is still far, far worse than Alicia. Early estimates are that the storm will cost insurers $18 billion. Some 4.5 million people have no electricity; many will remain without power for weeks. Lots of folks also have limited water. And especially in Galveston, though it didn’t get hit with the 20-foot wall of water forecasters feared, rescuers are surely going to find bodies. Perhaps lots of them.

I mention all this because one of the most notable aspects of this storm is the large number of people who refused to evacuate – even though the National Weather Service issued an unusually dire warning yesterday that those in the storm surge zones who live in one- or two-story buildings faced “certain death.” Over a third of the people living in those zones – some 100,000 fools – stayed behind anyway.

In 2005, just after the devastation of Katrina, nearly 100% of folks evacuated for Hurricane Rita. The evacuation turned into a gridlocked fiasco, and more people died from it than from the storm (which then veered east and mostly missed the area). Listening to Houston radio last night, caller after caller cited the Rita experience, and distrust of government, as the reason they chose to stay behind. Hopefully, with the diminished storm surge, it wasn’t a fatal decision.

Which brings us to Seattle. We don’t get hurricanes, but we are more than vulnerable to a major earthquake or the lesser chances of, say, a terrorist bioattack or Mount Rainier erupting. Evacuation from Seattle, with only three major roads out of the area (I-90 and I-5 north and south), any of which could be badly damaged in a big quake, is a serious issue. So is the probability that without the sobering local experience of a Katrina in mind to encourage compliance, a lot of people wouldn’t leave. Plus, in a real-time event, you have folks who’d first want to get their kids from school or loved ones from work, folks who’d refuse to go without their pets, and the usual subset of people who fear looters more than a government warning of “certain death.”

What is Seattle’s disaster evacuation plan? Does anyone (outside a few planners at FEMA and City Hall and the King County Courthouse) even know? Would folks leave? What would you do?

As grim images emerge from my old home town of Galveston this weekend, now is a good time to consider what Seattle would, and should, do in a similar event.

Comments

  1. 1

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    I can tell you what Seattle’s disaster plan won’t be if we get hit by a big earthquake: Evacuating people by light rail.

    A light rail tunnel is the last place you’ll want to be when the ground begins shaking, and after the shaking stops nothing will move underground.

    Buses, on the other hand, can be steered around debris and routed onto streets that are still open.

    I’m just sayin’ …

  2. 2

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    The fact is, no American city has the infrastructure to evacuate all of its population on short notice.

    Suppose President Palin decides to lob tactical nukes at Russian troops pouring into Georgia in response to the latter’s next provocation … and the Russkies pop the lids off their silos and sling a bunch of ICBMs at the good ol’ late, great, US of A … and then you’ve got 30 minutes’ warning to get the hell out of Seattle. Whaddya gonna do?

    You might as well walk out into the middle of the street, bend over, stick your head between your legs, and kiss your ass goodbye because you’re gonna die, that’s what you’re gonna do.

  3. 3

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    Announcer: Ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one …

    [visual and audio of nuclear blast]

    Voice Over: These are the stakes!

    [fade out]

  4. 4

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    Greenspan Attacks McCain’s Tax Plan

    Alan Greenspan today criticized John McSame’s tax plan, saying it’ll push the federal government $3.3 trillion farther into the red.

    McSame has promised to offset his proposed tax breaks for big corporations by ending earmark spending, but Greenspan pointed out that McLiar’s math doesn’t work because earmarks amount to only $17 billion a year.

    A McLiar spokesliar complained that Greenspan is counting the cost of extending Bush’s tax cuts and countered that McPander’s tax breaks only cost $600 billion on top of those.

    So, we’re supposed to add $600 billion to Bush’s deficits to pander to corporations. We’ll call it McInflation.

    Actually, it’s hard to see how McDummy can give any tax breaks to big corporations because two thirds of them don’t pay any taxes now.

  5. 5

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    Inflation is not a natural disaster like a hurricane or earthquake. It’s strictly a man-made phenomenon, and in modern times, it usually occurs under Republican presidents and congresses as a result of their borrow-and-spend policies.

    There’s no such thing as free money, and when politicians try to cut taxes by borrowing money, you end up paying an Inflation Tax.

    The Inflation Tax is especially pernicious because it drives up federal spending. When a politician like McSame panders to voters by promising things he can’t deliver, and then runs the Deficit Printing Press, the resulting Inflation drives up the cost of everything the federal government has to pay for, such as fuel, spare parts, rents, wages, and health care.

    Not only that, but many federal spending programs are indexed to the CPI and automatically go up with Deficit Inflation, such as Social Security benefits. Other costs, although not directly tied to the CPI, also rise with Inflation — especially Medicare and Medicaid.

    So, you can’t get from here to there by cutting corporate taxes, John. All it’s gonna get you is ruinous inflation, followed by an ugly recession to wring the inflation out of the economy.

  6. 6

    The Real Puddybud spews:

    Of course Geov, Goldy and gang allow HAs legal cretin@3,4 to pollute any and all threads.

    Geov, why not have a link for cash donations for Galveston/Houston? Don’t HA lefties have a heart?

  7. 8

    David B. spews:

    It’s worse than you think. A moderate earthquake would eliminate water pressure and start fires. Fire crews couldn’t reach the fires anyway because the roads would be blocked.

    You really, really need to have at least 3 days (and preferably 2 weeks) worth of water, food, medications, and supplies in your home, plus a smaller kit in your car.

    You can read the official scenario here.

  8. 9

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @6 Why should Hurricane Ike victims be forced to depend on private donations? Didn’t they pay enough taxes to expect their government to respond to major disasters? That’s what government is for! Yes, the American people responded magnificently to appeals for donations to help 9/11 victims — after the fact. Yes, private donors gave millions to the American Red Cross and other private charities to help Katrina victims — after the fact. But only government has the resources and ability to respond to a major disaster when it happens. Amid the chaos of Katrina, Republicans did a pathetic job of managing federal disaster response. It’s time for a change of management! When you experience a failure as profound as that one, you fire the incompetents and hire people who know what they’re doing. Get rid of the Republicans and put grownups in charge!

  9. 10

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @6 re @3: This thread is about disasters, isn’t it? What could be more disastrous than nuclear war? How can you talk about disaster without talking about President Palin’s stated intention of going to war with Russia over Georgia (the country, not the state)?! Seems to me that’s pretty damn relevant in any discussion of disasters! Maybe you don’t care if Palin turns Seattle into a smoking atomic ruin, but some of us do!! How would you like to eat radioactive grass? Do you have any idea what that stuff tastes like! Eeew – bleccch!!! I think Geov should have used a vid of the Daisy ad is the lead-in for this thread.

  10. 11

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @6 re @4: The economic hurricane that McSame’s Spend-O-Nomics will create is just as bad as Ike, Katrina, or any Gulf hurricane! This thread is about disasters, isn’t it? Well, McSame’s economic policies would be a disaster, too! Do you think losing your job, your health care, and your pension is any less disastrous than a basement full of water? You can get away from Ike by driving inland a few miles, but if McCain is elected, you’ll have to move to Canada or France to get away from his economic policies! And if President Palin starts a war against Russia, no place on this planet will be safe for you.

  11. 12

    Jane Balough's Dog spews:

    This thread is about disasters, isn’t it? What could be more disastrous than nuclear war?

    Obama’s presidential campaign. Da democratic ship be sinking.

  12. 13

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    Speaking of President Palin, the media has been digging into her record up in Alaska, and what they’ve found out this weekend is that she fired Wasilli’s police chief because he was against letting people carry guns in bars and schools, and that pissed off the NRA.

    (Source: Newsweek)

  13. 14

    michael spews:

    @9

    @6 Why should Hurricane Ike victims be forced to depend on private donations? Didn’t they pay enough taxes to expect their government to respond to major disasters? That’s what government is for!

    Even the libertarians are with ya on that one.

  14. 16

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @12 “Da democratic ship be sinking.”

    It certainly appears that way. My law office is doing a special promo on estate planning services this month, dog, in case you want to update your will. You know, in case Palin becomes president and pushes the button.

  15. 17

    michael spews:

    Seriously, if you had a line of cars snaking its way out of western WA. I could probably bike out faster than you could drive it.

  16. 18

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @16 re @12: Ten, nine, eight, seven, six … oops, I already did that one in this thread. Well, better to warn people too much than not enough. … five, four, three, two, one, BOOOMM!!!

  17. 19

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @17 You can see a pretty good simulation of a mass evacuation of Seattle anywhere on I-90 between here and Cle Elum on any summer weekend.

  18. 20

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    Speaking of disasters, that’s what the next 4 years will be if McShallow succeeds in lying his way into the White House.

    “Dishonest and dishonorable. And that’s not the kind of campaign that one expected from John McCain. … And one hopes that he is not going to trade his self-respect for political victory, because I will tell you, it will be ashes if he does win that way. It will be ashes. There will be no chance of bipartisanship. … It will be awful in 2009.” — Mark Shields to Jim Lehrer on the News Hour.

    Roger Rabbit Commentary: McCain is not possibly so ill-informed or thick as to not understand this. Which makes me think he’s not in control of his campaign. Which makes me think he won’t be in control of his presidency, either — he’ll merely be a puppet dancing on a neocon string. Maverick, shmaverick … if you vote for McCain, that’s what you’ll really get.

    (Quoted from Time under fair use.)

  19. 21

    Marvin Stamn spews:

    6. The Real Puddybud spews:
    Geov, why not have a link for cash donations for Galveston/Houston? Don’t HA lefties have a heart?

      
    If any money is going to be raised on this board it’s going to that marcy darcy lady or goldy. Not some people that live in a state that voted for bush.

  20. 22

    Marvin Stamn spews:

    7. michael spews:
    You might start by looking here
    http://www.seattle.gov/emergen cy/

      

    Most voluntary and faith-based organizations are asking for financial donations that are unrestricted, which allows them to purchase supplies in the exact quantities needed to fulfill their mission in assisting the victims.

       
    This is a little disturbing. The city is advocating giving donations to faith based charities.
      
    I’m impressed the truth that private organizations are able to buy the exact quantities instead of over buying to make a political donator a pocket full of $$ at taxpayer expense is being made public.

  21. 23

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    Anyone Know If This Guy Is A Republican?

    Jeff Hawn, president and CEO of privately-held Seattle-based software company Attachmate, has been arrested on criminal charges stemming from the slaughter of 32 buffalo owned by a neighboring rancher on his Colorado property.

    Hawn had previously threatened to kill the buffalo if they wandered onto land, and sent out letters inviting hunters to his property to kill buffalo.

    Under Colorado’s “open range” laws, livestock are allowed to roam. Although both the owner of the buffalo and Hawn fenced their property, buffalo can easily knock down the standard 3-strand barbed wire fences used to contain cattle.

    Hawn is charged with theft and 32 counts of aggravated animal cruelty.

    (Source: Time magazine.)

    Roger Rabbit Commentary: I don’t know if this guy is a Republican, but if he is, I think I know who President Palin will pick as her vice president after the old guy kicks the bucket or has a stroke.

  22. 24

    Marvin Stamn spews:

    10. Roger Rabbit spews:
    without talking about President Palin’s stated intention

      
    Aren’t you getting ahead of yourself a few years?
      
    The next 4 years mcsame will be president. After that will be the 8 years of the palin presidency.

  23. 25

    Marvin Stamn spews:

    12. Jane Balough’s Dog spews:
    Obama’s presidential campaign. Da democratic ship be sinking.

      
    John edward, the medium, was channeling some of the guests on the titanic and they said they would rather take their chances on the titanic again than taking a risk on the sinking ship called obama.

  24. 26

    Bananaphone spews:

    Some things I’d like to mention:

    1. Most of us who have pets know that, if you have to be evacuated by say the National Guard, you won’t be allowed to take your pets. Also, if you have to stay in a shelter, the shelter will not allow you to keep your pets with you (something about them having to follow the same rules as restaurants since they also provide food). As a result, if evacuation orders come too late, many pet owners without dependent children choose to stay behind. A plan for keeping owners and their pets together is crucial for any populated area: think what you want about our sentimentality, but without a plan, any city is going to face a lot of needless deaths.

    2. I’m glad that Washington pushed the “3 days, 3 ways” plan to keep residents thinking about disasters, but those of us out in the more rural areas were told bluntly by our local fire departments that 7-10 days was a more accurate assessment of how long it would take for help and supplies to get to us. The infamous power outage two winters ago proved that: many of our residents had to wait 10 days for the lines to be fixed and power to be restored. I don’t know what the fix for this issue is, but it should be something that our state is thinking about.

  25. 27

    spews:

    What would I do? Unless I thought my house was going to be destroyed, I would stay. Why? #1, because history has shown the the authorities are slow to let people back in their homes, and I’m not going to let anyone tell me I can’t go into my own neighborhood or house. So if I don’t leave my home, I can’t be prevented from coming back to it. #2, I don’t trust the people who are left behind. The cops, firefighters, and low lifes. I think all three groups will probably loot my place, and that’s also probably one of the reasons why the authorities delay letting people back into their neighborhoods, so they can spend more time quietly looting people’s homes.

    But basically I am going to rely on myself as much as I can, instead of waiting for government to help me. If they can help me better than I can help myself, I’ll take their help, but I’m not going to depend on it.

  26. 28

    Jane Balough's Dog spews:

    The next 4 years mcsame will be president. After that will be the 8 years of the palin presidency.

    Iam thinking 8 years McCain/Palin and then 8 year Palin/Steele and then 8 years Steele/You pick Marvin.

  27. 29

    kirk91 spews:

    The ‘3 days’ is a joke. After the windstorm of a couple years ago, my power was out for a week. Right in the heart of Bellevue.

    There is no plan. There were cars backed up for 5+ miles on 148th street trying to get on 520. No police, or police cadets, or National Guard MPs to direct traffic. Oblivious Microsoft people not realizing the Eastside was in the dark. Folks leaving their cars everywhere when they ran out of gas (for the 3rd time that winter I think), and shelves on the Fred Meyer picked clean of essentials like potato chips.
    At least in the Seattle area we still have local radio. I’m not sure what would happen in the rural areas as far as folks getting information.

    An interesting take on why and how we respond to disasters:

    http://www.amazon.com/Unthinka.....038;sr=8-1

  28. 30

    spews:

    @6 & 21 – Puddy & Marvin, it’s a good idea, but I don’t have the administrative privileges to do that on HA. The American Red Cross, for all its faults, is an obvious place to start, though.

    @7 – My point wasn’t that the local emergency plans don’t exist (how adequate they are is a different issue), but that I would wager that most households aren’t aware of them and don’t have a clear personal plan in the event of a disaster. “Pray and hope for the best” isn’t a plan, it’s denial. And the windstorm kirk91 cites in @29 was a perfect example of that.

  29. 32

    michael spews:

    @29,30

    My power was out for 4 days in that windstorm. I heated my place with wood, cooked on a Coleman propane stove, made it to work every day and got along just fine. I’ve never read a single disaster plan.

    We knew the windstorm was coming, there were plenty of warnings in the media to be prepared for it. Yet, people chose to ignore the warning. Government can’t make you fill up your car with gas, government can’t make you think about how far you live from work and so on. We have a major storm around here that knocks things sky ways and crooked about every three years and yet people fail to take commonsense measures like buying a camping stove and having a propane canister for it. Government can’t do everything and in a disaster the last thing government should have to do is take care of perfectly able bodied people.

  30. 34

    michael spews:

    @29

    There were cars backed up for 5+ miles on 148th street trying to get on 520. No police, or police cadets, or National Guard MPs to direct traffic. Oblivious Microsoft people not realizing the Eastside was in the dark.

    Hopefully large employers like Microsoft are now telling their employees to stay home for a day after a major event like that windstorm.*

    *I work in a health care related field and have to be at work come hell or high water.

  31. 35

    Jane Balough's Dog spews:

    We repubs need to focus more on the eleciton of Rossi to make sure KC doesn’t steal another one for the queen. We need to contain their corruption.

  32. 36

    The Real Puddybud spews:

    Thanks Geov. After reading the bile from HAs legal cretin, it was refreshing to read your post.

    Regarding private donations Marvin@22: It’s well know that ADRA, Red Cross, CC and other sites are way more efficient than the government!

  33. 37

    The Real Puddybud spews:

    “No police, or police cadets, or National Guard MPs to direct traffic.”

    R U telling us Greg I Gots My Two Rubbin Nickels, Ron Tax To The Max Sims, and Christine No Blacks in My Sorority Gregoire don’t have a plan?

    Why do Donkey trust these Donkey in power?

  34. 39

    K spews:

    One of the challenges local government faces in disaster preparedness is that it requires the stockpiling of resources you may or may not use. It requires that you take employees away from their normal assigned duties and train them for hypothetical circumstances.

    In a real emergency many agencies move away from their normal duties to other assignments. In Texas, wildlife agents were providing some security. In King County, Parks is responsible for mass shelter. And parks budgets have been slashed.

    If agencies are managed as tightly as some who post here want, resources for secondary duties, such as emergency response, are limited.

  35. 40

    K spews:

    And Pud at 37- eat shit my friend. There is indeed a plan. Many of us, myself included, carry 800 MHZ radios and are expected to respond at any time in an emergency. There is a fully functional emergency center with full communications capability. We have in our respective agencies plans, to the best of our abilities with the resources we have, to protect your sorry ass.

    In the wake of the Nisqually Quake, I was proud to report with many long timers to do our duty.

  36. 41

    EvergreenRailfan spews:

    Tunnels actually have held pretty good in some earthquakes. The Great Northern Tunnel under Downtown Seattle, is 100 years old, and I am sure there have been several quakes in those 100 years. The recent Earthquake in LA, LAMTA put the trains into reduced speed for a precautionary measure, but as soon as the tracks and tunnels were inspected, they were back up to full speed.(LAMTA is a different agency than Metrolink, by the way)

    Now as for Galveston, I have an Uncle that lives in Texas, thought he might be affected but he lives in a town near College Station, that is pretty far inland. In fact, that was where TxDOT was staging crews for disaster relief.

    For Hurricane Gustav, Amtrak did a good job doing their part with what they had in the area. The Crescent and City of New Orleans were annulled and they ran two trains using the rolling stock available at the time. Last year the plan was for special trains with equipment on stand-by, but this year, there was not any spare cars to put into use, the regularly scheduled trains had to step up.

  37. 44

    The Real Puddybud spews:

    K- Unlike most Donkey here, We have an emergency plan. You were taught to plan for emergencies in Boy Scouts, well at least on the east coast.

  38. 46

    K spews:

    And @42- You, my friend, are a beacon of articulate expression.

    Fm 37 “Why do Donkey trust these Donkey in power?”

  39. 49

    The Real Puddybud spews:

    K – Maybe I don’t know what all the plans are but your “know-it-all” emergency plans attitude is telling…

    Maybe I have a friend or two in guvmint? I’m not telling hahahahahaha

  40. 50

    K spews:

    Its getting late for me, pud so I don’t have enough time to educate you.

    The expectation, set by FEMA itself, is that in major disasters FEMA will respond within the three day window. This thread has, admittedly, wandered between major disasters and somewhat minor ones. A fundamental assumption is that in a major emergency local resources will be overwhelmed. Hence the three day preparedness while the Feds, or other partner agencies, will assist.

  41. 52

    The Real Puddybud spews:

    Well K, amazingly this wasn’t discussed at all when Katrina hit. It was all FEMAs fault when Ray School Bus Nagin failed to do his actions for the first three days while FEMA mobilized.

  42. 53

    K spews:

    And I do not have a “know it all” attitude. You said “don’t have a plan” @ 37. I will agree, there is no perfect plan. There are plans.

  43. 55

    The Real Puddybud spews:

    I’ll ask again like I did in #37: Why do Donkey trust these Donkey in power?

    Didn’t Goldy write about some park being removed by Nickels and Sims and how they let him down? I wrote sumtin similar back then “You get what you voted for.” So, why do Donkey trust these Donkey in power?

  44. 56

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @24 “The next 4 years mcsame will be president.”

    How do you know? Have you heard him speak lately? He stumbles over words like an old fart with early-stage Alzheimers. He can’t remember how many houses he owns. He can’t remember that he’s straight shootin’ and straight talkin’ John McCain the Maverick Reformer. I give him 6 weeks in office, then his wife will be de facto president, like Mrs. Wilson and Mrs. Reagan were, for another 6 weeks, and then they won’t be able to hide it anymore and the hockey rink hick will be sworn him by May 1. After that, it’s anyone’s guess how long it’ll take her to start a war with Russian, but you’ll probably be dead by the end of August. Then we rabbits are gonna run this place.

  45. 59

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @46 Maybe he’s got a point about failing schools; at least, the one he attended …

  46. 60

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @55 “You get what you voted for.”

    Yeah, I would say so; so, quit your bellyaching.

  47. 61

    kirk91 spews:

    The point about disaster plans is that citizens need to be informed about them. Many Americans are living in a bubble thinking that nothing bad can ever happen. 90% of the folks I see don’t dress for the weather. Don’t know how that will change barring a series of major disasters. Especially when our ‘leaders’ are reluctant to tell folks any sort of bad news, ever.

  48. 62

    SeattleJew spews:

    One thing I beleive would happen …

    our healthcare system would poof.

    The current system has evolved to follow an industrial model based on maximum utilization, the same just in time model we hear about for cars.

    Problem is, this means we run VERY HIGH occupancies. In an emergency, say a flu epidemic or the sort of disruption of a water supply that leads to cholera epidemics or a major radiation disaster, Seattle would not have hospital beds or surplus ER capacity.

    This is one more example of the problem of taxation without personal impact. Time after time, folks show they are happy to pay taxes that impact themselves in the here and now. Put up a lvey to pay for Medic 1, a new football stadium, roads YOU use, zoos, … these thngs pass. Put up a levy for schools for poor kids or hospital beds for some future emergency, nahhhhh.

    Let them eat bread.

  49. 63

    Crusader spews:

    Ah Roger Rabbit is fine form today! But hey I like the sound of “President Palin”. Warms my insides very well, sir!