Sep. 4th, 2008

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Frank's in Shreveport, Louisiana, which despite its name is quite a ways inland from the Gulf of Mexico. At the peak, he says, they were sheltering more than 1500 people (the local news said 1600) at Hirsch Coliseum, and more animals -- being the location of the Louisiana State Fair, it has facilities which can be used as an animal shelter ("it's one sixe fits all," he said. "You look at a husky and say that' cage really isn't big enough for you, but that's what there is"). They had to turn people away, which is horrible. Last night they still had over 900, though some parishes were being opened up for return. No water or power in the neighborhoods.

If you look up Hirsch Coliseum in Google News what the newspapers want to tell you about is arrsting people out of the shelters. Apparently the sherrifs of Louisiana had no more urgent work during the height of a natural disaster than the vetting of people's records and arresting people. I can understand the creepiness of having sex offenders* in your shelter with you, but personally I think I'd rather have my publis safety officers bringing people in to the shelters than taking them out. Though every person they put into the jail is another person that can stay in the regular shelter, another person who doesn't get turned away.

The phone he called me on wasn't officially turned on yet, but it was functional. Breaking into a not-quite open phone bank wasn't the only bit of rebellion he participated in last night. Somebody on the day shift had taken it upon himself to lock the supply cabinet and keep the keys to himself, which meant that two nights in a row the night shift ran out of blankets to give to the refugees. So last night the night shift took bolt cutters to the lock and replaced it with a combination lock.

They really needed those blankets, too. Several people had gotten sick with the same symptioms, so the plan was that this morning they would roust people, take their blankets and exchange them for new ones, and disinfect the old ones. He sounded so tired, with that strained, tough-guy intonation you hear from people like him -- people who have to maintain themselves with stolid energy and an air of authority when the skies have opened up and people are roaming the landscape shocked and helpless.

I understand that George Bush is so happy with the management of this event that he's refused to declare it a national emergency. Excuse me, but in California we get a national emergency declared every time we get three inches of rain at a time, let alone high winds. A national emergency doesn't mean "we're helpless and everything is at a standstill --" it means you open up emergency funds and emergency procedures to help people who've been forced out of their homes for days on end and who have suffered hardship because of it. No matter how smooth the response -- and while it was better than the Katrina response this time, it was certainly not smooth -- hundred-mile-an-hour winds and rising waters do cause damage and disruption and people do need economic help afterwards which is only available with an emergency declaration.

And on the other hand, the newspapers are saying that Gustav was a disappointment and that nobody will listen when told to evacuate next time because there was no damage from the storm. 95 people dead is not no damage, okay? It's more than we had die in the 1989 earthquake.

Meanwhile there are three more tropical storms in the queue for this coming week. Hanna killed 17 in Haiti, bringing Haiti's hurricane dead up to over 130 since Fay hit two weeks ago. Hurricane Ike (currently a category four, but probably weaker later)is supposed to hit the Bahamas on Sunday, and Tropical Storm Josephine is still too young to predict much, but it doesn't look like it will be very bad, except that it will be the fifth big storm in a month. And why aren't people more worried about the islands?

In a well-organized world, there would be a generous voluntary relocation program for the Caribbean, get those people set up someplace halfway safe.

On the home front, I've had a couple of days of doing almost nothing, and I think I'm moping another day, and I'll be back at work tomorrow.

Also, I have to do stuff today. Apply for things, die some clothes, do some laundry and dishes, clear out my refrigerator which is full of healthy food I can't bring myself to eat. I have been eating all the wrong things and I have gained ten pounds. In two weeks! I think it may be time to take myself in hand.

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