Sat Sep 24 2005 12:14:19 ET
Bogged down by monstrous traffic jams and fuel shortages, the mass evacuation prompted by Hurricane Rita has highlighted lingering weaknesses in the US response to disasters.
National Guardsmen were obliged to go car to car filling up the tanks of otherwise stranded evacuees so they could make it to shelters Thursday and Friday before Rita hit the US Gulf Coast early Saturday.
The New York Times was unsparing in its criticism.
I don't have anything about what the actual quotes are in the New York Times, but I'm sure it wasn't anything nice, especially given the slant of their last article involving Houston and the Katrina refugees. The State of Texas and the local cities and counties have done an almost miraculous job. Yes, there have been problems that need addressing. Fuel shortages mostly. People NOT paying attention to the evacuation plan and just leaving whenever they felt like it is another. I don't think they could have put the contra-flow lanes into place any quicker than they did without serious risk of accidents and injuries. As far as laying blame on the evacuation plans for the 24 people from the nursing home that died when their bus caught on fire and exploded, that is simply ludicrous and malicious. Houston mayor Bill White was by no means "outraged" by the fuel shortages. I know, because I've been watching the news and seeing the interviews.
Yes, there were problems that need to be addressed and will be addressed, but no evacuation has ever been done in the country on a scale this massive. Overall, this evacuation and the planning for it were superb and extraordinary and my hat is off to everyone who made this possible, most especially to our Emergency Services people (Police, Fire, Medical).