Sunday, September 14, 2008

A Dry, Clear Sunday

Today I woke up late after condemning Jamie to wake up and feed the dogs.

We cleaned up the house a bit more to accommodate my dad, who was driving in from Ike-damaged Spring, TX to take part in our electricity and air conditioning. His office in Houston apparently has power, but water is still iffy. The house I lived in back in high school has water, but no power. And no power for the foreseeable future. So I'm discouraging him from going home, but The Admiral is not one who believes in the creature comforts. He's been using a kerosene lamp for his light.

We met up off 2222 and headed out to Steiner Ranch to go see the progress on Rancho Relaxo, my folks' soon-to-be house. I have to say, if you're going to build a house for my folks, Rancho Relaxo really fits the bill. Lot of space for them to spread out, big windows, a lovely (unobstructed) view of a preserve. And The Admiral has included a workshop area, which he has, unfortunately, dubbed "Daddy's Playhouse", which was deemed creepy by all.

I am a bit at a loss as to what I should be doing, as per helping out in the wake of Ike. With Katrina, I was pretty far away, and so I sent money. Well, with my recent employment status, I am not exactly Rich Uncle Pennybags, and I'm pretty close to Houston... so after The Admiral leaves and I'm done putting my my token evacuee... I need to figure out some way in which I can help.

I've been pondering Austin's identity as the go-to destination for evacuees.

Austin is 1/5th the size of Houston. It raises a lot of questions about the assumed ability of the city to absorb and support over a sustained period (Houston could be without power for up to two weeks, provided it DOESN'T get hit with any more hurricanes). Hospitals, etc... get stretched to their limit during these emergencies... and one wonders what can be done to make these resources more expandable. (I heard a story of someone being turned away from receiving medical help at the ER because Ike evacuees meant that the ER was beyond capacity. Understandable, but... where do you go when the ER is full and you need help?)

All of that said, I hope we Austinites CAN be the sort of people we hope we are, and that we can continue to be the default place for evacuations in years to come.

We might need to rethink some our practices to make it work. We're using schools as shelters can't mean disruption of school... looks like we got that one figured out by Monday this time. Other resources, like the Austin Food pantry, are being quickly drained to serve the evacuees, rather than serving its normal purpose. Which is a great resource, but what happens when the evacuees go home and the pantry is bare?

There are a million little things that will, no doubt, be brought up in the wake of Ike. But I give credit to the Red Cross for their response, Austin, San Antonio, etc... for opening their doors. FEMA has responded much, much better than during Katrina and Rita. And it seems whatever plans were put into place since Katrina are working to the extent that people will follow instructions and leave when told "you will otherwise die".

Do evacuees have anywhere to return to? What will happen in the weeks and months ahead? Can the evacuation destination cities sustain themselves as evacuation destinations?

I do not envy Chertoff or whomever replaced Brownie as head of FEMA. Because I have no idea how to answer these questions without coming to some uncomfortable conclusions.

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