Bravo to The New York Times for taking on the issue of the comparisons that are being made between the "well-coordinated evacuation effort" during the California wildfires and "the chaotic memories of Hurricane Katrina" in this article. I have been hearing a lot of buzz re this issue from citizens of Louisiana as well as folks writing about in the blogosphere. The comparisons that are being made are inflaming people here and reopening wounds that have never quite healed to begin with.
Politics aside, here are some facts :
1,875 homes destroyed by the California wildfires vs. 300,000 homes were destroyed or rendered uninhabitable by the storm.
In California, fires consumed roughly 475,000 acres; more than 52 million acres were affected in the Gulf Coast.
Early estimates for the California fires are about 2% of the damage wrought by hurricanes Katrina and Rita - 91 billion vs. 2 billion!
Death toll - 2, 000 for Katrina, 11 for the California fires
I think many around the nation (press and politicians included) still aren't able to wrap their minds around the magnitude, scope, scale and breadth of the Katrina disaster.
Sally Forman press secretary to Mayor Nagin told the NYT “I think you’re comparing a paper cut to an amputation. ” hmmm...well put!
My bottom line - The response to Hurricane Katrina was a failure at local, state, and federal levels and the issues were/are systemic. The sheer magnitude of the disaster - an entire region was impacted afterall - was a major factor and it overwhelmed the infrastructure of every public agency involved. Two years post-Katrina I find that I continue to be annoyed at the ongoing blame game. Political squabbles do nothing to coordinate a unified effort to move rebuilding forward. The call now is to heed the lessons of the past and take action to ensure that this nation is prepared for the next large scale disaster which is surely coming down the pike.
Here are some of the reactions around the blogosphere:
Compassionate Conservatism - using suffering for bi-partisan advantage (People Get Ready)
Tale of Two Cities (Man Sized Target)