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Comments by YACCS
Thursday, September 08, 2005

Why didn't they use buses in Mississippi?


Did the poor die here?

This is from the Petrelis Files

MS, AL evacuation plans: Poor? Car-less? Tough Luck.

Let me state at the beginning of this post that I am a registered Green Party voter, so I have no allegiance to either the Democrats or the Republicans and their preparations and responses to the Katrina disaster, or the lack thereof.

Tons of criticism has been heaped on the mayor of New Orleans and governor of Louisiana, both Democrats, for their inadequate evacuation of poor citizens before Katrina struck and caused her catastrophic damage.

Many conservative pundits and GOP leaders, including White House political operatives, play the blame game pointing fingers against the Democrats in Louisiana, especially for their failure to have evacuation plans and to implement them.

While I don't wish to detract in any way from the necessary debate about Louisiana's pre-hurricane preparations, I think there must be some attention paid now to the evacuation plans of the Republican governors of Alabama and Mississippi, especially their plans to move people without cars or the means to leave Katrina's path in the two other hard-hit states.

Looking at Gov. Haley Barbour's Mississippi Emergency Management Agency's news releases and announcements related to Katrina, it's odd that not one release offers detailed plans for evacuations in general and nothing about evacuating citizens who don't drive or own cars.

Here's what MEMA said in its first August 27 release about evacuating: "At this time, no Mississippi local governments have began mandatory evacuations, but voluntary evacuations are recommended for coastal counties."

Nothing there about exactly how to get out, or where to find more information about evacuating, be it voluntary or mandatory.

The MEMA site has a link to a nine-page "Hurricane Evacuation Guide" pamphlet from the state Department of Transportation, but the only information in it about actually evacuating assumes everyone has a car. Absolutely no advice about what to do if you're without an automobile or disabled or at poverty level.

The second MEMA release from August 27 announced, "All three Mississippi Gulf Coast counties are urging residents to evacuate, especially those residents who live in low-lying areas, mobile homes and campgrounds."

Again, no directions on exactly how to evacuate and what to do if you didn't own a car.

This second release is also interesting because of this claim: "Governor Haley Barbour said he has been in personal contact with FEMA Director Michael Brown, Alabama Governor Bob Riley and Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue, who have all offered any assistance that Mississippi may need." (Source for all MEMA releases.)

Nice of Barbour to communicate personally with the dumb head of FEMA, a GOP crony, and two other governors from nearby affected states, who, like Barbour, are Republicans, but what about the Democratic governor from the Bayou State?

Even Stevie Wonder can see that the Louisiana governor, Kathy Blanco, is missing from the list of governors Barbour contacted. This omission clearly shows Barbour and his staff were engaging in politics very early in the blame game.

Compare that MEMA release with what Alabama Governor Bob Riley said in a release from his Emergency Management Agency, also from August 27: "The track from the National Weather Service this morning shows Katrina�s most serious impact will most likely be in Louisiana and Mississippi, so I spoke with Governor Barbour and Governor Blanco to let them know Alabama is prepared to offer any assistance their citizens may need." (Source: Riley's office.)

I'd like to think that Riley put aside party differences and actually was in touch with his Louisiana counterpart, unlike Barbour.

Back to MEMA's announcements about evacuations. On August 28 MEMA advised, "All Mississippi Gulf Coast evacuees are urged to evacuate northbound and use the following highways for evacuation."

I hate to be rude, what the hell were folks without motor vehicles supposed to do? Stand on the side of the road and hitchhike? Hail a passing taxi? Maybe get a lift with the FEMA-rented buses going by?

Alabama's Emergency Management Agency, like MEMA, provided no detailed evacuation information for poor citizens lacking cars or trucks, even its August 28 announcement from the governor declaring an evacuation for two counties. (Source:
AEMA.)

The next time the mainstream media or anyone criticizes New Orleans' and Louisiana's evacuation plans as inadequate, and they were, woefully so, ask the person doing the complaining about Mississippi and Alabama's evacuation efforts, particularly for the car-less and poor.

I wonder how many citizens of Mississippi and Alabama perished because of poor state evacuation organizing.

posted by Steve @ 9:28:00 AM

9:28:00 AM

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