September 29, 2005
Rebuilding in East Texas

The Rita Blog has some info on how the rebuilding is going in East Texas. It also has information about Red Cross and Salvation Army relief efforts. I haven't seen a whole lot about benefits for Rita victims; if you're aware of anything, please let me know.

Shane Sklar, Democratic candidate for the US House in CD14, is spending some time in Chambers County (which is a part of that district) doing volunteer relief work.

I'm doing this for two primary reasons:

First, and foremost, it would be ridiculous for me to ask these folks to vote for me next November if I had not first helped them out in their time of need.

Second, I want to see firsthand a hurricane's aftermath so I will be better informed about how we can improve hurricane preparedness and enhance homeland security.

I am going to periodically post my experiences here, so you can learn as I learn and reach your own conclusions. So keep an eye out for more "Shane's Rita Relief Reports."

Remember, give whatever you can and as much as you can to help the victims of this storm. Though many are saying we dodged a bullet in Texas, there are a lot of folks over here who are hurting and need our help.

He's got a report of his first day there, so check it out. Lots more on the ground information can be found at KOGT radio out of Orange (link via Rafe Colburn, whose family was evacuated from there).

I had expressed surprise that I hadn't heard of too many automotive fatalities during the Rita evacuation. Sadly, I'm not surprised any more.

A Chronicle survey of Houston-area counties and those along major evacuation routes to the north and west indicates that at least 107 people were killed by last week's hurricane or died in accidents or from health problems associated with the evacuation of 2.5 million people from their homes.

One day before the expected announcement of a state-county-city task force to examine the problems that plagued the exodus, which doubled or tripled the travel time between Houston and other Texas cities, Mayor Bill White conceded, "I don't think the evacuation should be a disaster in itself."

State Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, whose wife spent more than 12 hours in a U.S. 290 traffic jam, called for a careful review of the evacuation. "People are downplaying the fact that people died in the evacuation and that is not right," he said. "Is the chance of dying greater in the movement than in the storm? That's the question we need to consider."

Yes, it is. Tom has plowed this ground before, and while there's commendable talk about ways to reduce congestion in the future, the obvious answer is to figure out how to convince people who are at less risk in their homes to stay. I don't think you can alter how risk averse someone is, but maybe you can at least provide a better picture of what the odds are.

One thing that might help is to get some more clarity on what the true flood zones are. I recall that one of the effects of TS Allison was to expose the fact that out flood-plain maps were out of date. Where does that stand now? We know that Allison demonstrated that under the right conditions, flooding can occur where you don't expect it, so if that storm was a driving factor in people's stay-or-run decisions, better information about who really is in danger is called for. It surely can't hurt, though again, with a sufficiently large storm, all bets are going to be off.

Here's a great story called "Six lessons from online coverage of Hurricane Rita", which takes a critical look at the role blogging played and gives it a high grade. Dwight Silverman gets some well-deserved kudos for his work in setting up various storm-related blogs on the Chron site, as does Laurence Simon, who pays the reporter back with a wonderfully characteristic quote. I will say this, though - the failure to cite Eric Berger's stellar efforts is a grave omission. Link via Metroblogging Houston.

Finally, on a related subject, the George R. Brown is once again a convention center. Congrats to everyone who worked there for a job well done.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on September 29, 2005 to Hurricane Katrina | TrackBack

Re: true flood zones

A presentation was given at Rice 2 days before Rita where the post-Allison floodmaps and surge projections were shown.

It is about 22 min it on the tape.

Posted by: NHL on September 30, 2005 3:33 AM

Berger is one of the best! Period!

Posted by: ttyler5 on September 30, 2005 5:48 AM