I am not a good planner. I rarely have a plan. Knowing this however, I will not run for public office.
City officials knew the predicament New Orleans was and is in. This was not “news” for anyone in New Orleans.
However, as Katrina spun closer to the Crescent City, Mayor Nagin told everyone to leave town and that they would open the Superdome as a shelter of “last resort.” They would send buses around the city to pick up those who relied on public transportation and take them to the Superdome.
The term “last resort” should be used when all other strategies have been exhausted. I do not understand why part of the planning and evacuation strategies did not include a way to actually evacuate the people who had no other way out. There could have been a plan to put thousands of people on trains and buses and send them to Baton Rouge, Shreveport—ANYWHERE ELSE—before having to resort to the Superdome for a very last resort.
Storms turn at the last minute—often—which is a big reason so many people stayed. They were tired after evacuating several times within the past year, spending hours and hours in traffic, spending money on hotel rooms and gas, only to have storms turn and miss New Orleans.
So I understand why there were still so many people in their homes when the storm hit. Many waited to see if it would really come. Then it was either too late to leave (electricity would have been out so they could not fill their tanks at the pumps or get cash from an ATM). Some people even made it through the storm and were glad that they did not waste the time and money to evacuate—until the levees burst. They could not leave as fast as the water was rising.
I really do not blame government officials at any level for what happened to the people who made the decision to stay. My heart aches for those unfortunate people but their situation is not the fault of the president, the governor nor the mayor.
However, in the future, officials need to have plans in place to give people the information and options to get out when they have no other resources.
As my mother mentioned, when Andrew hit south Florida, people only had one way to go—north. When Katrina was heading for New Orleans, people could have gone west or north. Even heading east, which still would have taken them into Katrina’s path, would have gotten them out of the sinking city.
Now I have a plan. I will write the Great American novel. You all buy it. I’ll take the proceeds and buy a fleet of buses and maybe buy out Amtrak too. I’m gonna park ‘em all out in Elysian Fields and the next time there is a storm on the radar, I will personally go down and make sure they load each one with as many people as they can fit into each one.