Friday, March 17, 2006

Images of Cameron Parish, LA after Hurricane Rita

After the 2005 U.S. hurricane season, I had a work assignment on the west side of Louisiana. I was much, much closer to Texas than to New Orleans. My focus was through out Cameron Parish. The eye of Hurricane Rita passed over the area I was working, meaning it essentially got hit twice. The pictures here include aerial shots of the debris line and damage from Hurricane Rita.





This video is of Holly Beach, a residential area located right on the Gulf Of Mexico. Hundreds of homes wiped out.



Here is a great site that has before and after satellite imagery of Holly Beach.

I've wanted to post these pictures for quite some time. They date from September-November 2005. I would like to thank my friends and colleagues, who requested to remain anonymous, for sharing some of their photos with me.

While working down there, I had the great joy of meeting and working with people from Louisiana who were greatly affected by the disasters. Many people I met from Louisiana were flat out disgusted with the mainstream media's covereage of the hurricane disasters. The vast majority of coverage was on New Orleans with snippets of Trent Lott; there were other cities that were flooded that had their levees broken. There were other cities outside of Louisiana that were devestated. The true damage of what happened down there is unimaginable and to see first hand how the gov't handled the emergency response and to now see how the gov't is still handling the situation half a year later is beyond less than impressive.

There are still huge debris lines. There are still rotting animal carcasses. There are still people who have not recieved FEMA aid. I'm not as worried about FEMA cheats who claim to be hurricane victims as I am about shady gov't contracts, wasteful spending, and irresponsible pork projects. In my experience, too many people who had the authority to make decisions down there wanted to be the hero and not enough people wanted to do the work. Maybe this accounts for the "communication breakdowns?" I believe this is why you saw many first responders side-lined or simply sent back to their home states while America watched people suffer and the devastation on TV.

There needs to be a definite chain of command in situations like this. While the lower echelon was eager and willing to lend their hands and backs, the higher echelon seemd to not see beyond the edge of their desk to carry out an effective plan. What looks good on paper does not always work in the real world. Sometimes you just need to get your hands dirty and work. The biggest problem in Emergency Response is that despite all your pre-planning, sometimes your eyes on the site need to make snap decisions and adjust plans. There's your communication breakdown.

12 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

all of your points spot on. from someone else who was there and watched.

it still would have helped if people could have communicated and that was a disgrace in this year, 2006. the technologies were and are all commonly available but none in the hands of the people that needed, when they needed.

current efforts to correct that are peacemeal and they are not the integrated solution that will get everyone talking to each other and effective.

it will be a repeat commotion again next time, my opinion.

Sat Mar 18, 09:34:00 PM 2006  
Blogger Steve said...

I'd like to think that those involved have learned a thing or two from last years ordeals. I know I've learned a good deal in my field.

This scenario reminds of a sign the computer lab at my university would put out around finals time at their Help Desk. "Procrastination on your part does not necessitate emergency on our part." That's all and well funny when it comes down to a printing problem with a term paper, but it does not fly when it comes to peoples' lives and wellbeing. Preparation, readiness, mobility, and adaptation are key in emergency situations. Until those in charge of making the decisions are ready to use the tools available to them, i.e. the first responders and those on the ground, everyone is in line for a mess.

And as for technologies: I had the pleasure of talking with a computer shop owner on a number of occasions in Louisiana. He had put a bid in to set up a telecomm station with satellite support for FEMA but he lost his bid to a competitor/former employee. I know it sounds one-sided, but to hear his proposal and costs compared to the company that won the bid and to see their proposal that actually went into effect made me think hard about the situation.

I know people are planning for this year's hurricane season. I also know contractors are drooling at the mouth for this year's hurricane season too.

Sun Mar 19, 01:17:00 AM 2006  
Blogger Josh said...

It is just sad to see what happened. Also sad that they threw around the "race-card". In my opinion this lack of communication and suffering would have happened either way, black or white.

That satellite before and after image struck me hard, it's as if little boy or fat man was just dropped on that area. Very sad.

I think there was MUCH more Bush could've done besides lying about the whole situation. Seems everytime he lies he gets caught up in it. Should be a sign to start be truthful but that's obviously not the case. Although maybe Michael Brown should have a little blame, but ultimatley the blame for the lack of effort falls on George W. Bush and Michael Chertoff.

Sun Mar 19, 02:32:00 AM 2006  
Blogger Steve said...

I couldn't agree more on the Chertoff blame. I bet only a handful of people realize that the Coast Guard was sanctioned under the DOT before the Patriot Act. Not that their role greatly changed, but thier managemenet greatly changed.

I think the grand majority of people that recognize the cronyism in the Bush admin and the rankings that follow have voiced thier concerns from the beginning. The problem is getting those that believe they did the best for U
SA by voting fot the Bush admin to recognize the folly of thier ways.

Sun Mar 19, 03:27:00 AM 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You're thoughts and your pictures are right on the mark. Too bad the folks who view this can't feel the heat, humidity and the smells of Cameron Parish.

It was awfull. There were dead and rotting animals everywhere. The whole of Cameron Parish smelled real bad after Rita and for months afterwards.

FEMA did right by some, but not for the majority. Through no bid contracts, they paid many times what a trailer would cost you or me.....they let tens of thousands of them sit up in Arkansas. Many of the victims of this storm slept on the ground, with the snakes. Most of the contracts went to Texas companies.

The folks on the ground did a great job, within their limitations. There were too many FEMA roadblocks.

But, I was in Camreon Parish as late as New Years and the area was still under evacuation.

I sure hope that FEMA makes some changes, and plans ahead for this years hurricane season. "Heck of a job" Brownie made a nice scapegoat. The blame lies at the top. GW was partying it up a few miles away in Crawford during the disaster. He popped in for the photo ops. That was about it.

Remember that on election day.

Thu Apr 13, 04:36:00 PM 2006  
Blogger Steve said...

I was there right until the December holidays also. And you're so right about the smells. The smell of 3-4 month old rotting cow carcass isn't one I'll forget anytime soon.

Thu Apr 13, 10:17:00 PM 2006  
Anonymous WAYNE said...

THE FEDERAL GOVT.CAN NOT REACT UNTILL THE STATE REQUESTS IT. HAD NAGAN ASKED THE BUSH ADMIN. FOR HELP, HE WOULD HAVE GOTTEN IT. IT WAS REPORTED ONLY ONCE THAT NAGAN WAS IN DALLAS, TEXAS BUYING A HOUSE. NAGAN DIDNT WANT THE PRESIDENT TO OUT SHINE HIM AND IT BIT HIM IN THE ASS. THE STATE OF LOUISIANA HAD BETTER WAKE UP AND REALISE THAT MOST OF THE FOLKS IN HOLLYBEACH PROVIDE A LOT OF REVENUE TO THE STATE, ALONG WITH THE FISHING INDUSTRY. NAGAN AND BLANCO IS NOT GOING TO ANYTHING FOR HB AND CAMERON BECAUSE THEY DONT NEED OUR VOTES BUT THEY GET 90 PLUS PER SENT OF THE NEW ORLEANS. ITS HARD NOT TO SHOW ONES BIAS BUT THIS IS A REALITY

Tue May 02, 05:41:00 PM 2006  
Blogger Steve said...

You're not telling the entire story Wayne. Media Matters has the report that although Nagin bought a house in Dallas for his family, much like many in the hurricane/flood affected areas, Nagin himself STAYED in New Orleans. You can't blame the man for buying property and taking care of his family.

Seeing as how Nagin is Mayor of New Orleans, I really don't see how he could possibly get any votes out of Holly Beach or Cameron. As for timelines when Blanco asked for a Federal Response, check here. I think you'll see that although not at the appropriate time, the request for Federal intervention was well before Nagin bought his house in Texas.

There's no way I can or will defend the actions of Nagin and/or Blanco because they fumbled the responsibility and preperation ball in this situation, however, the response on the Federal level was grossly disasterous and showed the great incompitence and horrid structuring of DHS, FEMA, and a host of other federal agencies.

Wed May 03, 12:18:00 AM 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was in Cameron Parish as of May 6th and it still looks as tho Rita has just hit. Minimal restoration has taken place and it makes me sick to my stomach when there is no real recognition of the magnitude of this disaster. If cameron was as populated as New Orleans Katrina would have looked like a tropical wave. Cameron may not bring in the revenue that New Orleans does but it's still about our coastal preservation and our culutral roots. These people have lost everything and have no real hope of things returning to normal for quite some time. I would really like to see some non profit efforts raise funds for the restoration of this parish.

Wed May 10, 11:46:00 AM 2006  
Blogger Steve said...

That's really disappointing to hear. Not suprising, but still disappointing. The work I was involved with seemed like it was only scratching the surface and I'm sure that's all it did. It was frustrating. I know my company is out of that area. Another company moved in after us and I've heard some incredulous stories about their employees actions that I hope were isolated. I highly doubt that company is still operating there.

This year's hurricane season is what concerns me now. With those Gulf communities still in utter ruin, even the mildest tropical storms and weakest hurricanes are going to cause major problems.

It's a massive problem and I can't fathom those communities trying to repair it all right away. Compound that with potential new storm damage and it will take years for the situation to get back to "normal".

Fri May 12, 12:41:00 AM 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's really saddening and the goverment is still sitting on it's rear and not getting the resoures into cameron parish and all the surrounding commuitties rebuilt. i'm from lake charles and even though we didn't hit that hard, my heart and prayers goes out to those that have lost everything. louisiana is my home and my heart. we will rebuild! and screaw nagan, blanco, and the president. we the people need to come together and rebuild and show that our spirit is still alive and well. god bless louisiana.

Mon Sep 03, 12:08:00 AM 2007  
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