When Katrina hit, I was working for the Navy and the medical center here in San Diego was on alert to take people from the disaster zone. Except they never came. They could not get out.
I remember the iconic photo of all the school buses lined up in a flooded service yard, and people demanded to know why these buses hadn't been used to get people out of the city. My buddy Fergus said at the time that people didn't understand logistics. Once the people were on the buses, what then? Where would they go? Were they just to be carted out of town and dumped at the side of the road? Where was the food, water, shelter, and medical attention for these people going to come from, provided by what agency and for how long?
This time around, there has been great emphasis on how quickly and thoroughly people have been moved out of New Orleans. This is providing the Republicans with great photo ops - see, we're not going to let people drown this time! Before anyone snarks, I am very, very glad that people are evacuating. They need to. Even if Gustav is "only" a Category 3 hurricane, that is one savage storm.
Before we all get too teary eyed about the great humanitarian effort, however, read this article posted in the New York Times: A Long and Weary Bus Ride to Anywhere. People are, of necessity, being driven very long ways away from NOLA with no idea of where they are going and not very good conditions when they get there. At this point, it could work out OK or it could become simply wretched for the people off in this or that corner of another state. Sure as hell beats drowning or dying of exposure on some overpass, but the logistics are still not in place to handle a mass exodus from NOLA.
And, probably, to be fair, there may not ever be a way to be "ready" for such a thing. But what strikes me here is that we have the makings of a decentralized disaster far away from the cameras and the short attention news cycles, and that the Republicans will get congratulated for a heckuva job because we don't see bodies and people breaking into stores for water.
I think blogs need to be canvassing news outside of NOLA and the MSM, such as in Birmingham, the end point for the patient travelers in the story, to see how the evacuees are actually being cared for over the period that they must remain away. Are there enough provisions? Are they kept informed of what is happening? How will they get home? What will happen if there is (please, let it not be so) terrible damage once again to New Orleans?
In short, let's keep the people in charge accountable.