I’m at the airport as I write this, looking at a line of maybe one hundred persons to get to the gate. Ordinarily this would be strange, however over the last twenty-four hours there have been several such lines. I left at 6AM to beat traffic, (hours before my flight time), and my not-so-secret route out of town, AKA the wormhole, was nearly empty. However as I approached the airport, things were very different; parking in particular was difficult to come by.
I recall watching Nash Roberts on Fox 8 news last night with a sinking feeling in my stomach. For those who don’t know, Nash is the semi-mythical meteorologist they bring out of retirement when the shit hits the fan, hurricane-wise. An ex-girlfriend admitted to me once that just seeing Nash on TV scared her. Roberts seemed to think we are likely to be OK; he predicts that the storm will head westward. I hope he’s right.
With Gustav headed towards the Gulf on the south side of Cuba as a Category 1 Hurricane as of this morning, someone, somewhere, is going to have hell to pay. I’m not sure it will be us, but no-one I know is taking any chances.
The level of general panic yesterday was high. I went to the bank in the afternoon and the ATM was out of money; inside was a line of perhaps fifty people. I recall seeing music critic and Jazz-Industrial complex darling Alison Fensterstock in that line. The look on her face was not good, (or was that her everyday scowl?). Others I spoke to reported the same thing at pharmacy counters, and other businesses; generally ATMs are out of cash. I had business at a notary public, and the experience was identical; there had been a rush on auto titles. In the grocery store, it was all canned food and bottled water in the checkout lines.
Some of you reading this may say that this is all silly and out-of-proportion. Well, fuck you.
Here’s why: the Army Corps(e) of Engineers refuses to guarantee our levees, saying at best that they have been returned to “pre-Katrina levels”. Are you kidding me?
At the end of the day, the only thing that I can say is that we should not have to live like this. It is an uncertain universe. Natural disasters happen. But in the richest country in the world, the failure to protect the citizens of a major city is totally pathetic. This would never happen in Connecticut.
And don’t give me that “they shouldn’t have built a city there” or “New Orleans is below sea level” bullshit. First off, have you heard of Port of New Orleans? Second, half the city is at or above sea level. Third, there are plenty of cities in America that are protected by levees, and plenty of large cities around the world at or below sea level. Iowa floods, anyone?
I blog about a lot of other things; education, public housing, race and class, etc. But this is the biggest issue here – that the government has totally failed to protect us. And I for one am convinced that it has everything to do with race, class and regional bias. There is no reason why New Orleans cannot have adequate storm protection starting with levees that would protect us from a category five storm except a lack of political will.
We cannot survive as a city evacuating like this every time a hurricane comes to the gulf. I don’t know what it is going to take, but in order to survive, we need a political re-alignment that will get us the basic infrastructure that we need.