Friday, September 03, 2004

Let my people freak: tips for Floridians in Exodus

In Nature, it's a picture perfect day here in Southwest Florida. Blue skies, puffy white clouds, calm waters contrast with the drumbeat of televised fear and trembling heralding the advent of Hurricane Frances. The granulated elongation of hysteria that is the true lifeblood of advertising-driven news media has kicked into high gear.

Yesterday, Gubernador Jeb Bush, emulating his brother's epimethean strategy of "Command First, Plan Never" issued an evacuation order for 2.5 million East Coast residents, many of them elderly. His exact words, as I recall them from Thursday's press conference, were, "The time for planning is over. It's time to act." So 2.5 million people acted. They got on the roads. They ran out of gas. Roads jammed. Cities along their routes ran out of gas. Shelters in counties they headed for were not ready to receive them. Those counties in turn began to run out of gas and lodging.

Now, it's certainly possible that in retrospect the decision to evacuate much of the coast, though a tad premature, might prove to have been a good idea. The storm is vast and strong, and people in its path need to get out of that path, once they know what it is.

But merely telling people to run doesn't qualify as rational emergency management. It's more like shouting "fire!" in a crowded theater. That is to say, no plan accompanied GubJeb's order. He and his FEMA advisors offered no sequence of departure, no strategies for parceling out the masses in exodus -- advising people in Miami, say, to head for Collier County on the Gulf Coast, while directing people from Stuart to head over to Manatee. Bush and FEMA issued no anticipatory orders to the counties up the road, requiring them to open emergency shelters, and to publish lists of available shelters and hotels on local and national radio and TV stations. They did nothing in anticipation of gas shortages. Other than issuing that single panicky command to flee, they had nothing to offer.

There is no actual responsibility for the health, safety and welfare of the public in evidence here. This is a wisp, a semblance of command, a shellacked outer casing of mastery, a bold, clear alternative to actual forethought. Bush Leadership all the way.

Twenty-seven hours after the order to stampede was given, the storm is still lingering over the Bahamas. So perhaps a few tips for Floridians might still be useful:
1. If you have horses, and you worry that a storm might send them far afield, buy paint. Paint your phone number on your horses' asses in bold white paint. That worked for one guy in a previous hurricane.

2. If anyone commands you and 2.5 million other people to immediately all go somewhere, consider that 2.5 million people in motion all at once, concerned by circumstance but terrified by their leaders, might be less safe than a major storm. (Especially the way Floridians drive.)

3. If you plan to vote in the General Election, get an absentee ballot here. Doing so will not only ensure that you are able to vote (many polling places were closed by weather during the Primary, with the predictable result that many winners rode in on less than 20 percent of the voting population), but also that your vote has a paper trail. In the 15 counties that will be using touchscreen voting, your vote will not be recountable in the event of a close election. It will be null.

4. If you see the Guv or any of his FEMA advisors, make sure they're wearing their phone numbers in bold white paint.


Blogger Jeneane Sessum said...


9/05/2004 10:24 AM  
Blogger Buzzmodo said...

Let's meet up with the winds die down and the rubble subsides. I thought you were still being an ex-pat until I saw Doc point to you. I have been getting all kinds of hits, and was interviewed by the St. Pete Times.


9/05/2004 5:59 PM  
Blogger Jeneane Sessum said...

Re: Ivan

Alright. Mexico is looking pretty good these days. I'm sending a moving truck.

9/09/2004 10:43 PM  
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10/01/2005 6:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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10/01/2005 10:12 PM  
Blogger alena said...

Cool Blog, I never really thought about it that way.

I have a Hurricane Katrina blog. It pretty much covers hurricane related stuff.

Thank you - and keep up the thoughts!

10/03/2005 6:34 PM  

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