I lived in Houston for eighteen years so I think I understand the psychology that goes through a person’s head when a hurricane approaches. I rode out quite a few hurricanes. A lot of people view hurricanes as inconvenient until they think they are going lose everything they own or to die by one. You learn by making the big mistake. The people whom live on Galveston island are intimately aware of that fine line between inconvenience and dying. If they do not start evacuating early enough they will find themselves on the only bridge out of town or the Interstate when the hurricane arrives. The 1900 hurricane’s storm surge swept over the island and killed 8,000 people.
In Houston there is a considerable area that is susceptable to flooding from the rains and the storm surge. We knew which areas that were at risk. It seems like every year I lived there, Mother Nature reminded us that we were at risk. It wasn’t just hurricanes. I remember a couple of tropical storms that turned the area into one large lake as far as the eye could see.
I do not know why New Orleans had so many people who stayed. They knew New Orleans was below sea level. They know the city is protected by levees. I like nice engineering but I would have bet my life on the levees holding up. This is the disaster scenario they have been discussing since hurricane Betsy. I would have left. Why take the risk? It seems like such a no-brainer I am amazed at the multitude of people remaining.
It make take a few weeks but I expect to start hearing people say they will leave next time a hurricane comes near. I can still remember hearing people in Houston or Galveston saying those things after a hurricane or tropical storm. In the future when the mayor of New Orleans or whoever claims to be in charge asks people to evacuate he or she will get a much better response. People who have health or special needs will leave when asked the first time. These are all common sense practices. Some people will never return to New Orleans. Those who remain will be a lot smarter.
Tonight I will sign up to help with the collection efforts for Katrina at our church. Ultimately it is not about what I would have done but what can I do now. There are people in need and they need help now. My contribution to the relief effort will be small but it is necessary for them and me because I can help. Sitting at home and watching the disaster unfold on the television is just not an option.