FEMA / evacuation policies

Anonymous

Um yeah, totally serious. My advice is everyone shouldn't have the same destination
Think about it - most of the people fleeing are poor. Many might not have reliable vehicles. They may not have relatives all over the US, or even credit cards to use. You must be out of touch with how things really work in the real world. Funny that i own/run a PC hardware forum that's extremely popular and i will probably never be a member of this site, i found it on a google search about the hurricane- (the only thing i know about weather might be some info on monitoring sats but that's from an older gov. job). Anyway, best of luck to all in the DFW area. [/quote]
 

Geoff Boyle

Um yeah, totally serious. My advice is everyone shouldn't have the same destination
Think about it - most of the people fleeing are poor. Many might not have reliable vehicles. They may not have relatives all over the US, or even credit cards to use. You must be out of touch with how things really work in the real world.
First of all, it would be wise to assume this member is referring to people who are in a financial position to travel to somewhere else in Texas. Personally, I think these people should have been more prepared for this situation. Using your common sense, it isn't hard to predict these problems (gas prices/shortage, traffic jams, and space/shelter issues) before hand.
However, I believe that FEMA should have had a better coordination plan drafted for this type of impending disaster. I also believe that a military unit should have been deployed, or at least preparing for deployment, 48 hours ago.

Second of all, stating that most (at least 2/3) of the resedentual evacuees are poor is a very misguided generalization. Of course, I can understand if you meant that most people couldn’t afford the current gas prices.
 

Anonymous

referring to people who are in a financial position to travel to somewhere else in Texas. Personally, I think these people should have been more prepared for this situation
The majority of people in Houston are poor. Just like NOLA. "These" people? Hmm. Should they have been more prepared? Or shoudl they have been evac'ed in "stages" instead of all at once? As it is now, there will be hundreds of thousands on the freeways. out of gas. Tired. Need to use the bathroom. Hungry. Pissed beyond belief. Some sick. No, i beg to differ with you. The issue here will be "how" they were evacuated. Imagine - 2.? million cars most of them out of gas because they have to move at a snails pace, out on the open stuck on the road. What do you think is going to happen?

... Must be their fault for "not being prepared"?
 

Rob_Davis

However, I believe that FEMA should have had a better coordination plan drafted for this type of impending disaster
Not FEMAs job. It is a local and state responsibility. FEMA only assists with funding and requested administrative resources.

I also believe that a military unit should have been deployed, or at least preparing for deployment, 48 hours ago.
Several were. In fact, military aircraft have been flying in and out of Houston non-stop for over 24 hours evacuating people, especially hospital patients. How many does it take to make you happy? But since you seem to be an expert on these matters, where do you recommend they be deployed? The path of the storm?

This isn't Louisiana. Our state and local leaders actually know wtf they are doing here. Planning is taken care of and is working well. The simple fact is, you cannot put five million people on two highways and expect them to move quickly. No amount of planning, troops, or wishful thinking is going to make it happen.
 

Anonymous

Jeff. Understood. One final comment on this and i'm done here. Back to my own forums.

ou cannot put five million people on two highways and expect them to move quickly
Very true. Which is why from now one evacs will likely start earlier when they see these things developing further out in the gulf, and in stages instead of all at once.. Especially given the possibility of seeing at least two of these every year. That way you would already likely have 1 million down the road before the next stages get ready to get out of town. When you do it all at once like this it will cause an enormous "bog down". But it is ....better than nothing. And better than the possible cluster in-town where water is drowing people and people can't get to anything.

As to the effect here in DFW i would imagine they will be bad as compared to previous bad storms. Very bad. but on the grand scale as compared to what may happen in Houston and certainly Galveston we should be ok. Maybe some of us without power for 1-6 days. Some might lose cars, houses in lower lying areas. Trees and foliage all over the place. Power lines down. Maybe 1-5 foot of running water in places (which will send all cars quickly downstream or scatter them everywhere). The bigger story IMO will not be the weather here in DFW but the people that have to stay here or elsewhere because they have lost their homes. Potentially millions will need to relocate all over the US. There are so many layers of this story to unfold within a week's time. I wish everybody the best.
 
Dec 4, 2003
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(Split this from the Dallas thread)

FWIW, earlier I did think that there was little EM and FEMA could have done to stem the tide fleeing Houston, but after seeing the Transtar cameras this morning with deserted freeways, I do think the EM hierarchy could have done something to foresee what was essentially an 18-hour "hyper rush hour". On the other hand maybe no one anticipated it, but perhaps, still, lessons can be learned.

Tim
 

Anonymous

I agree Tim. I just started a topic on our hardware forums (PC) and it's getting major hits now. Our site is based in Dallas as well. I'm sure as of today there will be massive deployment of help to those highways with traffic. The Bush admin very much can't afford this evac to go to badly after the NOLA debacle. I'm sure they will get some big trucks out there with the gas and water and get these people going. Hopefully panic and any mishaps will be kept in check as best as they can.
 

B Ozanne

EF5
May 3, 2004
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Better to have the traffic jams on Thursday than today. It looks like the places most at risk are traffic free, like Houston. I'm sure there is still traffic, but the gridlock is now a long way from the coast.
 
Apr 16, 2004
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A couple of comments:

1) You can get your military and resources ready for deployment and deploy in ancillary locations, but you don't want to put them in the path of the storm otherwise they will be victims too.

2) I think the concept of forecasting the exact path of a hurricane and actually properly and effectively evacuating 5.1 million people in advance of that "supposed path" presents some very difficult problems.

a) I still don't think forecasting is completely accurate enough - example it was originally going to hit pretty far west of Galveston, and then the Galveston / Houston metro area, and now looks like the TX/LA border.

B) It is hard to conceive of evacuating that many people just because you 'think' it is possible they could be in harms way. Alternatively it is somewhat unconsciable not to. However the time to get that many people out safely is a pretty long period of time, and that may be outside the time window of predicting the accurate forecast path.

c) B (above) means that to be truly safe you would have to evacuate all these people many times - any time there was a hurricane that comes anywhere near close. The result is people would usually evacuate needlessly, inconveniently, and the costs to them and the national, state, and local infrastructure would be immense.

d) But if you don't do C (above) then what happens if you don't evac and it really goes directly toward the people? Then they are really screwed.

I guess my point is...whatever you do - some people are going to look stupid and perhaps unprepared. But when facing mother nature there a actually limits to what our capabilities are in regards to anticipating, reacting, and preparing.

Even now, had the HOU/GAL forecast track verified then most likely there would be thousands/millions stuck on the 100 mile traffic jam toward DFW on the road, and in the direct path of what was a Cat 4 / 5 hurricane. Fortunately for us the storm is weakening and has moved off the major corridors of traffic to the east.
 

Geoff Boyle

But since you seem to be an expert on these matters
I never claimed to be an expert on the matter, especially since I live in a country where these kinds of disasters are handled differently. I was just stating my opinion, which you, as always, seem to take offence at.

Not FEMAs job. It is a local and state responsibility. FEMA only assists with funding and requested administrative resources.
Yes, I forget to consider that. Again, I'm used to things being done differently.

How many does it take to make you happy?
Our state and local leaders actually know wtf they are doing here. Planning is taken care of and is working well. The simple fact is, you cannot put five million people on two highways and expect them to move quickly. No amount of planning, troops, or wishful thinking is going to make it happen.
Considering the shear number of people evacuating, there should be more deployed to assist state and local officials. I say this because I watched those same officials pointing fingers on the Wednesday evening news. Our guest also seems to think that things could have been handled better.

Personally, I think that the gas problem was the only thing that wasn't properly dealt with.

where do you recommend they be deployed? The path of the storm?
Yeah, that's a great idea. :roll:

"These" people? Hmm. Should they have been more prepared? Or should they have been evac'ed in "stages" instead of all at once? As it is now, there will be hundreds of thousands on the freeways. out of gas. Tired. Need to use the bathroom. Hungry. Pissed beyond belief. Some sick. No, i beg to differ with you. The issue here will be "how" they were evacuated. Imagine - 2.? million cars most of them out of gas because they have to move at a snails pace, out on the open stuck on the road. What do you think is going to happen?

... Must be their fault for "not being prepared"?
I think there is plenty of blame to go around; and I do agree that the gas situation should have been handled better.

Though, I have to ask, if you heard that a hurricane would quite possibly show up at your doorstep, and if you had the means to do so, wouldn't it dawn on you to run out before everyone else and fill up your car, a bunch of gas cans, and buy a hefty supply of food and water (if you didn't already have a disaster preparedness kit)?
I mean, as one member already stated, you will eventually use that stuff anyway.

But, of course, that doesn't mean people should be left to fend for themselves (not saying there’s going to be a repeat of that).

One final comment on this and i'm done here. Back to my own forums.
Feel free to stick around, this section was mostly intended to inform the public about the unfolding events.
 
Apr 27, 2005
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You cannot put five million people on two highways and expect them to move quickly
Very true. Which is why from now one evacs will likely start earlier when they see these things developing further out in the gulf, and in stages instead of all at once.. Especially given the possibility of seeing at least two of these every year.
I entirely agree that staged evacuation would seem to make much more sense. In fact, I'm rather amazed that the 4th largest city in the US did not have that in the plan. I can't fathom how they expected the entire city to leave en masse.

However, starting evacuations much earlier than this one started would probably result in much more big-picture harm than good given how difficult it is to accurately predict landfall that far out. Every time emergency officials are perceived as "crying wolf," they will increase the chances that people will disregard evac orders the next time around. That's the nasty knife's edge forecasters and EM folks walk. Call it too early and you risk damaging your credibility and, as a result, long-term pubilc health interests. Wait too long and you risk mass casualties.

Now THAT's pressure
 
Apr 13, 2005
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I never claimed to be an expert on the matter, especially since I live in a country where these kinds of disasters are handled differently.
Exactly how do they handle major hurricanes in Canada :?:
Sorry couldn't resist :p :lol:

So far it wasn't perfect, but it at least the people are getting out of there. South La has had a lot of practice in the past few years with Opal, Georges, Lili, Isadore, Ivan and Katrina. Each storm presented major traffic jams and gas shortages in certain area and each time a commitee was put together to come up with solutions to make everything flow much smoother. During Ivan it was taking the people in NO 15-16 hours to get to Jackon, Ms up I-55 and it wasn't even a total evacuation like Katrina (which it was taking people 4-6 hours for the same trip). Considering the past problems with evacuations, NO actually did a great job of controlling traffic to get people out. They just failed when it came to helping those that could not help themselves. So considering this was the first time Houston has tried to evacuate they have done OK. Houston is much more populated, wasn't nearly as prepared and they are working off the top of their heads since their disaster plans have never anticipated this. To top it off the aftermath of Katrina is so fresh on everyone's mind that Rita has caused a panic instead of an organized evacuation.

I would expect the Houston area to completely rework their existing disaster plans after this storm and do some major studies for future events such as this.

Just my .02 cents.
 

Anonymous

I can't really blame them to much. Evacuating 4.5 million people in 48 hrs is very hard to do when the transportation system isn't designed for such movement.

1. They could have had a little more foresight at least two days in advance that the need for gas would be greater and have moved tankers into place and put out the need before the day of evacuation.

2. The debacle at the airport signifies more training needs to be taken to let employees know what their role is in a Hurricane. Im not sure some of the people that didn't show up didn't know that they were supposed to stay.
 

Anonymous

However, starting evacuations much earlier than this one started would probably result in much more big-picture harm than good given how difficult it is to accurately predict landfall that far out


Good Point. However, if in fact it does appear to be sometihng that happens every year then staged evacs will have to happen - or .... investment in getting the majority of people permanently moved away from coastal areas ... or much better flood protection in those areas. EG: Able to withstand cat 5 canes somehow. It appears that global warming may the the culprit, and if so, this trend may continue.
 

Anonymous

Somehow the quoted part and my text got reversed as i was posting. Reverse those two and you have my post. Sorry about that. :D
 

Rob_Davis

Originally posted by Geoff Boyle
I think there is plenty of blame to go around; and I do agree that the gas situation should have been handled better.
Blame for what? Traffic jams? I just don't get this whole blame game. What's the point? What purpose does it serve other than to intentionally politicize a non-political event? It was the mother of all traffic jams, but everybody got out. So what's the problem? Nobody promised them a smooth and fast ride.

Blaming somebody for 5 million people causing a traffic jam is about as useful as blaming somebody for the hurricane itself. The bottom line is this; there is NO WAY to get 5 million people out of one place on two highways at the same time without a traffic jam! Have you ever been to a professional football or baseball game? Thirty to forty-thousand people causes four solid hours of bumper to bumper traffic for five miles in every direction. Do you really think you can evacuate ANY metropolitan area without it taking a full day or more? You're kidding yourself.

Those who live in hurricane alley KNOW what they are up against when they choose to live there. While I have much compassion for them, I have no bleeding heart sympathy for them having to spend a day in a traffic jam. It's simply a fact of life.
 

Rob_Davis

Originally posted by Andrew Geil
I have to wonder how many people slip off the major interstates and onto county highways and byways?

If I was stuck in major metro gridlock, I'd be hoppin' off the interstate with my trusty gazetteer and flying north on country roads.
Apparently, a lot of people had the same idea. The result was that even the backroads were jam packed. I talked to a friend who evacuated Houston headed towards Austin. He used his GPS to navigate the most obscure backroads available, hoping to avoid the traffic. It took him six hours to make it sixty miles to Schulenberg.

Considering it took people 18 to 20 hours to make it the 250 miles to Dallas, I'd say they made considerably better time on I-45 than the people on the backroads did.

I guess you could try to stagger an evacuation. Cars with even number license plates on day 1 and odds on day 2. Or evens go north and odds go west. But I cannot imagine that actually working. There's no way to enforce it. People would not cooperate. People are going to evactuate when and where their lives allow them to. Some of them can't get off work on the proper day to leave. Others simply won't be told what to do, and you can't stop them. There's no way to enforce it.

From every angle I look, I simply see no way short of building three or four new interstate highways through the countryside, to make the evacuation of millions of people work any better when they only have two directional options. People need to understand and accept that when they live on the coast.
 

Geoff Boyle

Exactly how do they handle major hurricanes in Canada
Sorry couldn't resist
No one remembers Hurricane Juan? Not the most powerful storm in Canadian history, but I remember amateur videos of hurricane spawned Tornadoes ripping apart entire city centers in NS.

Those who live in hurricane alley KNOW what they are up against when they choose to live there.
That was mostly my point.
 
I'm involved in traffic planning and have participated in several focus workshops regarding large-scale emergency evacuation of a large city. Several principles apply, most of which were apparently not adequately implemented in the case of Rita's landfall.

1. Even with ample warning it's not feasible to implement a complicated, tiered evacuation plan, especially when you are unable to mandate destinations of the evacuees.

2. Maintaining laminar traffic flow on the evacuation routes is of highest priority. Anticipating and pre-positioning incident remediation teams is essential to this. Freeway entrance metering is also essential.

3. The public is best served when evacuation plans recognize and plan for the fact that -- with respect to any particular disaster scenario -- there are people who should evacuate and people who should stay put and not evacuate.

4. The problems implicit in displacing large populations and getting them back to their homes and jobs are greater than the problems in evacuating them. As will shortly be seen on the news, the congestion effects arising from a traffic implosion are much worse than the explosion attendant to evacuation. Hardly anybody has planned for that.

FEMA's National Disaster Response Plan clearly delineates primary responsibility for pre- and post-disaster management and coordination to the DHS when a National Emergency is declared. That was done well in advance of both Katrina and Rita for the affected areas. The large-scale screw-ups are Federal screw-ups.
 

Rob_Davis

Originally posted by David Wolfson
The large-scale screw-ups are Federal screw-ups.
Up til this point, it sounded like you were saying there really were no large-scale screw ups. What were they?
 
My comment about screw-ups being mostly Federal responsibility was more intended to apply to the discussion about FEMA in this thread. But with respect to mass evacuations IMO FEMA has the primary responsibility to coordinate, direct, and delegate resources as well.

That's doesn't mean people in FEMA jackets are out there putting out contra-flow cones and driving tow-trucks. But it means a lot more than telling five million people get the hell out of town. Though there was some tiering of the evacuation plan -- a good thing -- a lot of things that could and should have been anticipated and provided for were not IMHO.
 

guestaroo

who cares?

Who cares anyway? This storm turned out to be a joke and it cost millions of people money they didn't have. Forecasting should have been better on this one. No excuses. And for those of you dumb enough to chase this thing, ha ha, glad you're out the gas money. Maybe it'll keep you off the road next time.
 
Dec 9, 2003
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Re: who cares?

Originally posted by guestaroo
Who cares anyway? This storm turned out to be a joke and it cost millions of people money they didn't have. Forecasting should have been better on this one. No excuses. And for those of you dumb enough to chase this thing, ha ha, glad you're out the gas money. Maybe it'll keep you off the road next time.
Please tell me YOU are joking. I will agree, there are a LOT of people who evacuated that didn't have to, but this isn't the fault of government officials or forecasters. Most (or all?) of Houston was NOT under a mandatory evacuation, so those who chose to leave didn't have to leave -- they chose to spend the money to evacuate. It was obvious from 24hr before landfall that the eye was going to pass east of Houston and Galveston. I can't stand listening to the news and hearing "the storm wasn't as strong as expected" or something along those lines. The NHC forecast and discussion called for continual weakening from the time Rita was a Cat 5 hurricane. Not many expected Rita to hit as a Cat 5. Personally, I though she would restrengthen to Cat 4 status if the inner eye could stabilize more than 12 hours before landfall, but that never happened.

The forecast was pretty darn good. Sure, 72 hours out it wasn't exact, but by Friday morning it was apparent that (barring an unexpected turn) Rita was going to hit somewhere along the LA/TX border.

I don't necessarily fault those who sided on the safe side, but you can't blame officials or forecasts for the folks who left areas that weren't under a mandatory evacuation.
 
Feb 8, 2004
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Re: who cares?

Originally posted by guestaroo
Who cares anyway? This storm turned out to be a joke and it cost millions of people money they didn't have. Forecasting should have been better on this one. No excuses. And for those of you dumb enough to chase this thing, ha ha, glad you're out the gas money. Maybe it'll keep you off the road next time.
Well, it's obvious your trolling... Due to your comments, I can very much tell you've never chased before and don't know anything about meteorology. I'd suggest cracking a book and learning something about forecasting... Then come back.
 
....Just walkin' on through.... Trying to avoid the trolls, but I just can't do it...

Seriously, Grillo and Snyder summed that one up pretty good.

Either this guy is messing around, or he's an absolute idiot... I guess he doesn't realize the only joke around here is his stupidity, and the fact that he forgot to pickup a brain before leaving the delivery room...