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Continued 'random acts of preparedness'


Part 4

The administration ultimately acknowledged that "Katrina exposed serious deficiencies at all levels of government, despite the administration's much-touted National Response Plan [which] spelled out how agencies were to respond to major natural disasters or terrorist attacks."

Consider the departure from plan for Rita in Texas: Evacuees fleeing from Hurricane Rita depleted gasoline stocks. Areas and cities outside the struck areas experienced spot shortages as stocks were drawn into the path of the exodus. Houston's best-case scenario for replenishment of gasoline stocks was 25 Sept but if power to gas stations and storage tanks is slow to restore or if refinery and pipeline damage is substantial, the scarcity will extend.

State officials have not decided whether the government would be willing to refuel cars coming into Houston as they did for those stranded on their way out of town, saying that scenario is too hypothetical.

Only government can say "hypothetical" with a straight face. In contrast, commercial fuel suppliers were scrambling to plan replenishment even before Rita made landfall on Saturday morning. Exxon Mobil was moving tanker trucks in from across the nation. Chevron stockpiled generators for its stations without power. Journalists were using simple techniques to gauge recovery of gas stocks:

Phone calls placed to convenience stores and service stations in the metropolitan area and suburbs along major evacuation routes - including Katy and Huntsville - went largely unanswered late Saturday morning.

Plans were no match for humanity with its mind made up. While Houston and Galveston Texas escaped serious damage, Rita left 575,000 without power, with service disruptions most widespread in Southeast Texas. Evacuees were willing to listen to the Texas governor say, "Be patient. Stay put. If you are in a safe place with food, water and bedding, you are better remaining there for the time being" up until it became clear that many of the evacuees' homes were untouched as Rita shifted eastward.

Despite the fact that as early as Saturday the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) said that it did "not intend to convert any lanes to contraflow traffic for returning Hurricane Rita evacuees [to] break a potentially deadly gridlock," that there would be an announced "phased process for returning residents to the Houston area [in] an orderly fashion," that returnees should expect " extensive delays and fuel shortages" and no electricity, over 2.5 million evacuees began their journey home.

A phased three day return for Sunday, Monday and Tuesday (map) was ignored as many wanted to be back for start dates for schools. Announcements of deferred start dates were too late and too ineffective. By Saturday afternoon large traffic jams reformed and fuel and food were again in demand.

We still have much to learn in realistic disaster planning. One wonders if it will appear in TOPOFF 4.

Part 6

Topoff 4 to take place in Portland, Phoenix
By Alice Lipowicz
PostNewsweek Tech Media

Thousands getting jump on three-day plan for return
Houston Chronicle
Sept. 24, 2005, 6:32PM

State Sets Staggered Schedule For Return Of Rita Evacuees
POSTED: 8:10 am CDT September 24, 2005
UPDATED: 7:07 pm CDT September 24, 2005

In Plans to Evacuate U.S. Cities, Chance for Havoc
New York Times
September 25, 2005

No contraflow plans for way back
The Road Home (blog)
September 24, 2005

Evacuated Residents Should 'Stay Put, Be Patient'
Perry Mobilizes Teams To Assess Rita's Damage
POSTED: 8:10 am CDT September 24, 2005
UPDATED: 12:31 pm CDT September 24, 2005

Looking for gasoline? Good luck
Houston Chronicle
Sept. 24, 2005, 12:31PM

575,000 without power in Houston
Entergy reports significant outages in Southeast Texas
Houston Chronicle
Sept. 24, 2005, 1:26PM

Texans Leave Houston and Coast as Hurricane Rita Moves Closer
New York Times
September 22, 2005

Conflicting accounts from top on Katrina response
By Adam Entous
Sep 15, 2005

Gordon Housworth

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