Blogathon for Pearlington

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Why Weren't People More Prepared?

Aside from all of the questions for FEMA, plenty of people have been asking why individuals didn’t do more to prepare for Katrina. Why didn’t more people evacuate? Why didn’t more people stock up on necessary supplies?

I can give you several reasons. Frances, Charley, Ivan, Jeanne, Emily, and Dennis. As I’m sure you recall 2004 and 2005 were abnormally active hurricane seasons. Over and over, we were told to keep an eye on the Gulf. Over and over, we stocked up, closed schools, evacuated low lying areas, and waited for absolutely nothing to happen. Hurricanes said to be headed for us kept veering off in other directions, and everyone had preparation fatigue. Nobody here really thought Katrina was going to be all that bad; neither did we think she was headed for us.

Here is something I posted to a blog just two days before the storm: “Looks like we might be starting another semester out by taking a hurricane break. Prayers and well wishes to those of you in Katrina's path.”

I didn’t think I was in Katrina’s path even on Saturday. “Here we go again,” I said.

The first I heard that Katrina had turned toward us and gained massive amounts of strength was Sunday morning at church. I was with my parents in Brookhaven, not because I’d evacuated Hattiesburg, but because my nephew was visiting from Virginia. Max got the added benefit of going through a major hurricane thrown into his summer vacation with his grandparents, and I had not done a single thing to stock up on supplies.

By the time we got home that day, my brother was calling asking us to please go farther inland, but by then it was really too late. We were on the New Orleans evacuation route. We couldn’t have gotten very far very fast in the snail’s pace traffic headed north on I-55, and if we’d tried we would have slowed down people who had no choice about evacuating.

That afternoon, my mother and I discussed what we might need. I went to town and got a few drinks and a few bags of ice. And I felt silly doing that. We really thought nothing would happen in Brookhaven. Even in Camille, previously known around here as The Mother of All Hurricanes, Brookhaven had felt very few effects.

I had no way of knowing that I would cry the next time I saw a fresh head of lettuce in a grocery store, or that my parents would spend the whole year gutting out and rebuilding the house we thought was perfectly safe.

People weren’t prepared because no one believed anything like Katrina would happen. Nothing could have prepared us for this. I imagine the next time a hurricane heads our way, there will be quite a frenzy at Wal-Mart in the preceding days, but Katrina broke all patterns of expectation. Before she came along, nothing anyone could have said would have convinced us to fear a storm like that was even possible.


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