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Author Topic: FW: The Last Time America Lost a City
Snaggy

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Icon 3 posted September 15, 2005 08:22      Profile for Snaggy   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
The Last Time America Lost a City

The government's reaction the last time an American city was destroyed - San Francisco, April 18, 1906.

The earthquake struck at 5:13 AM.

By 7 AM federal troops had reported to the mayor.

By 8 AM they were patrolling the entire downtown area and searching for survivors.

The second quake struck at 8:14 AM.

By 10:05 AM the USS Chicago was on its way from San Diego to San Francisco; by 10:30 the USS Preble had landed a medical team and set up an emergency hospital.

By 11 AM large parts of the city were on fire; troops continued to arrive throughout the day, evacuating people from the areas threatened by fire to emergency shelters and Golden Gate Park.

St. Mary's hospital was destroyed by the fire at 1 PM, with no loss of life, the staff and patients having already been evacuated across the bay to Oakland.

By 3 PM troops had shot several looters, and dynamited buildings to make a firebreak; by five they had buried dozens of corpses, the morgue and the police pistol range being unable to hold any more.

At 8:40 PM General Funston requested emergency housing -tents and shelters - from the War Department in Washington; all of the tents in the U.S. Army were on their way to San Francisco by 4:55 AM the next morning.

Prisoners were evacuated to Alcatraz, and by April 20 (two days after the earthquake) the USS Chicago had reached San Francisco, where it evacuated 20,000 refugees.

Of course, the technology of the day was fairly primitive, (no phones, few cars, and no CNN) and the U.S. was a much poorer country. No doubt we could move more quickly today.

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David Rogers
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Icon 1 posted September 15, 2005 09:17      Profile for David Rogers     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Not to quibble, but wasn't the last time America lost a city, Anchorage Alaska in 1964? Yes there were fewer deaths, but the entire city had to be rebuilt, at least according to what I was told when I visited Anchorage in 1996.
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David Rogers
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Icon 3 posted September 15, 2005 11:09      Profile for David Rogers     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Back on topic though, this was about 70 years before the beuracracy of FEMA was created. I am not familiar with the timeline involved so I cannot comment on its accuracy, though if these figures are accurate then good for them.

A couple of obserations. In the intervening time communications have become faster, more reliable, and increased in range. The federal government has grown into a giant beuracratic beast in the same intervening time.

One thing that this means is that what was a good trait in a federal employee back then is now a bad trait. That trait of course being the ability to think on ones feet and take the initiative. Back then, communications across the continent could still take a long time and people were expected to be able to cope without being told what to do. Today, those federal employees are expected to phone into the home office and await confirmation in paperwork from the beuracracy, before they can take a bathroom break, much less do anything usefull. Okay, so I am exagerating a little, but not much.

Also, I am not certain when the Posse Commitatus (spelling?) Act was passed. If it was not in effect yet then a major obstacle to federal troop usage hadn't been errcted yet.

Obviously my opinion is that the beuracracy needs to be cut back and streamlined, while at the same time we need to delagate a bit more authority to the federal employees in the field to allow them to act without requesting permission and guidance. Of course with increaed authority comes increased responsability so we would need to screen candidates for key positions for basic competence at the very least. I am a bit hesitant to suggest loosening the restrictions on when federal troops can be used, but the restrictions should be examined to see if there is a way to at least streamline the process of authorizing the use of and mobilizing federal troops in natural disaster situations without subverting the purpose of the restrictions on federal troop use.

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GMx

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Icon 1 posted September 15, 2005 12:55      Profile for GMx     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
An interesting program from This American Life gives some detailed observations from the people who lived through the horror of the flood. The Governor called a state of emergency a day before the hurricane hit and President Bush signed an executive order the next day. Under the Homeland security act, the government has broad powers to call an emergency situation. So yes, it was the federal government's fault.

Listen to the program in streaming audio here(After the Flood). RealAudio.

What really gets me is when people were trying to cross the bridge to get out of New Orleans to dry land, a bunch of cops were there and they started firing on them! [Eek!] (In the air, but still..) When you listen to this it makes you sad that there are still ignorant hateful people out there.

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Sxeptomaniac

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Icon 1 posted September 15, 2005 13:04      Profile for Sxeptomaniac   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by Snaggy:

By 3 PM troops had shot several looters, and dynamited buildings to make a firebreak;

They were trying to create firebreaks that day, but they used black powder and low-grade dynamite, and spread the fire more quickly, rather than isolating it. It burned for 3 days before they got the right kind of dynamite and made effective firebreaks.

http://www.sfmuseum.org/conflag/cod.html

Sometimes acting quickly doesn't do much good if the people don't know what they're doing.

Edit:
quote:
Originally posted by GMx:
So yes, it was the federal government's fault.

You won't find me denying that part. The thing that bugs me is when people ignore the State and Local Governments' failings. Their "Good Samaritan" evacuation strikes me as the epitome of careless planning. I half suspect they handed things over to the Federal Government so quickly because they knew that this could happen and it would help them dodge blame later.

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Rhonwyyn

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Icon 1 posted September 15, 2005 14:44      Profile for Rhonwyyn   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by GMx:

What really gets me is when people were trying to cross the bridge to get out of New Orleans to dry land, a bunch of cops were there and they started firing on them! [Eek!] (In the air, but still..) When you listen to this it makes you sad that there are still ignorant hateful people out there.

The ignorant people in that situation weren't the police officers; they were the people who got to dry land first and started looting and setting fires in the buildings. As a result, the cops held back the people on the bridge 'cause neither place was safe for them. It was a lot more effective for the officers to head them off at the bridge than trying to space themselves along a safe route through the city where they didn't have enough manpower to keep people headed in the right direction.

I hope they're prosecuting those people who started the fires and the looting. That's totally unconscionable!

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David Rogers
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Icon 1 posted September 15, 2005 14:56      Profile for David Rogers     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
I was watching the coverage all day on Sunday, the day before Katarina hit and all of the channels that I watched, CNN, MSNBC, FOX News, The Weather Channel, and the occasional snippet from the networks, talked about how President Bush had already signed an order declaring a national emergency and ordering FEMA into action. This doesn't seem to jive with your timeline GMx. Were all of these news agencies wrong?

I have a lot of problems with how FEMA works and how this situation was handled by FEMA, but I think that as much blame as FEMA deserves, the Governor of LA and the Mayor of New Orleans each deserve a triple helping of the same. Mayor Nagin was asked to declare a mandatory evacuation on Saturday, but he decided to declare a voluntary evacuation instead and waited 24 hours while he consulted with lawyers about his liability if he declared a mandatory evacuation. What's more, he didn't utelize the resources that he had available to evacuate those that didn't have vehicles or otherwise couldn't evacuate themselves. By the way, the use of those buses for such evacuations was an integral part of the evacuation plan posted on the cities website. The Governor had all kinds of problems coordinating with local and federal agencies that none of the Govenors of the other affected states had. Considering how much worse the coordination between local, state, and federal agencies in LA was compared to the coordination of local, state, and fedral agencies in the other affected states I lay the lions share of the blame on the Governor of LA.

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GMx

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Icon 1 posted September 15, 2005 15:23      Profile for GMx     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Yeah, it was before the hurricane hit. I was a day off.

Rhonnie, if you had listened to the program, you would have found out that across the bridge was the town of Greta. No fires were started or any looting done. Those "police officers" thought that anyone that was poor and had a black face was a criminal and a looter and was not welcome in their community.

As for looting, more power to those that looted to help people survive. I suppose that was what most of it was. Something had to be done because the government wasn't helping.

It seems that most posting have not listened to the program. Listen to it, and I think your opinions might change.

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Rhonwyyn

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Icon 1 posted September 15, 2005 15:39      Profile for Rhonwyyn   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
GMx, you have to understand that many of us who have posted don't have the capabilities to listen to a program. (For instance, I'm at work where downloading something like that isn't allowed.) However, I do feel qualified to share my story of what happened because I got it from someone who was there. I forget the name of the town (I don't think it was Greta), but it was a similar situation. Yes, it's sad that the situation was okay in Greta and yet people weren't allowed into it. However, to blanketly call the police officers ignorant is a travesty.

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ASM65816
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Icon 5 posted September 15, 2005 17:33      Profile for ASM65816   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Could someone post a non-leftist link for an article about the people being forced back into New Orleans?

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Sxeptomaniac

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Icon 1 posted September 15, 2005 17:37      Profile for Sxeptomaniac   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by GMx:

Rhonnie, if you had listened to the program, you would have found out that across the bridge was the town of Greta. No fires were started or any looting done. Those "police officers" thought that anyone that was poor and had a black face was a criminal and a looter and was not welcome in their community.

As for looting, more power to those that looted to help people survive. I suppose that was what most of it was. Something had to be done because the government wasn't helping.

It seems that most posting have not listened to the program. Listen to it, and I think your opinions might change.

I also am not in a position to listen to an audio broadcast here.

From what I've read and seen, "looting" has generally not referred to people desperate for food and other survival necessities. It referred to people stealing whatever they wanted, because they could. The news footage I've seen didn't show many people breaking into grocery stores; they were walking away with high-end electronics, expensive clothing, and alcohol (OK, maybe I'll give them the benefit of the doubt and chalk the last one up to the lack of clean water).

On the other hand, the tendency to automatically see poor ethnic minorities as criminals is something I've seen first-hand. For police in an upscale community to have overreacted is not difficult for me to believe.

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The Famous Druid

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Icon 1 posted September 15, 2005 18:02      Profile for The Famous Druid     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
For those who can't/don't-want-to listen to the link above, The New York Times has a written account of police closing the bridge. Brief highlights...
quote:
Police agencies to the south of New Orleans were so fearful of the crowds trying to leave the city after Hurricane Katrina that they sealed a crucial bridge over the Mississippi River and turned back hundreds of desperate evacuees, two paramedics who were in the crowd said.

The paramedics and two other witnesses said officers sometimes shot guns over the heads of fleeing people, who, instead of complying immediately with orders to leave the bridge, pleaded to be let through, the paramedics and two other witnesses said. The witnesses said they had been told by the New Orleans police to cross that same bridge because buses were waiting for them there.

Instead, a suburban police officer angrily ordered about 200 people to abandon an encampment between the highways near the bridge. The officer then confiscated their food and water, the four witnesses said. The incidents took place in the first days after the storm last week, they said.

"The police kept saying, 'We don't want another Superdome,' and 'This isn't New Orleans,' " said Larry Bradshaw, a San Francisco paramedic who was among those fleeing.

Arthur Lawson, chief of the Gretna, La., Police Department, confirmed that his officers, along with those from the Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office and the Crescent City Connection Police, sealed the bridge.

"There was no place for them to come on our side," Mr. Lawson said.

quote:
Originally posted by Sxeptomaniac:
From what I've read and seen, "looting" has generally not referred to people desperate for food and other survival necessities. It referred to people stealing whatever they wanted, because they could. The news footage I've seen didn't show many people breaking into grocery stores; they were walking away with high-end electronics, expensive clothing, and alcohol

On the other hand, the tendency to automatically see poor ethnic minorities as criminals is something I've seen first-hand.

Interesting article in the local paper last week, examining the coverage of 2 similar pictures..

One showed a black guy wading through the water, holding a bag above the water, several bottles of water could be seen in the bag. The caption in the US press described him as a looter.

A very similar picture of 2 white guys, also wading through water holding bags over their heads, was described as "survivors gathering supplies".

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Sxeptomaniac

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Icon 1 posted September 15, 2005 19:12      Profile for Sxeptomaniac   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Funny story (kinda):

Several years back, our security department at the college here received a frantic call from a upper-middle-class white female staff member that a hispanic man was stealing hubcaps in our parking lot. Our security guards rushed to the area, but didn't see anyone suspicious. Upon locating the caller and asking for a description, she pointed to one of our nearby groundskeepers and said "It's him!" Here's the punchline: he was in full uniform (the same kind of uniform all of our maintenance workers had worn for years)!

It turns out he had found a stray hubcap in the lot as he was working, so he picked it up and put it in the nearby cart he was using. Is there anything that might look suspicious about him? I don't think so. He's middle-aged, has no tattoos or piercings, and actually looks quite a bit like my Dad, IMO (nice guy, too. His English is poor and my Spanish is worse, but I've never seen him without a smile).

So, is racism still alive and well in the USA (and probably in other areas of the world)? Without a doubt. We've made improvements in the last several decades, but we aren't done yet. [Frown]

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Icon 1 posted September 15, 2005 20:31      Profile for sumnchai     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
And in the quake of 1906, 3000+ (conservative estimate) died. Some put it as high as 6000. In a city of 400,000. Compare that to something like 400 deaths (so far) in New Orleans (a city of millions.) Even one death is horrible - but the San Francisco quake of 1906 is hardly a shining example.

1906 quake (Wikipedia)

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Xanthine

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Icon 1 posted September 15, 2005 20:36      Profile for Xanthine     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Some of those deaths may have been averted if medical care back then was up to today's standards. That's not the point though. The point is, 100 years ago, government officials were able to respond much faster to a city that got knocked onto its knees by a natural disaster.

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Rhonwyyn

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Icon 1 posted September 15, 2005 20:48      Profile for Rhonwyyn   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Which is ironic considering mass and long distance communication back then was much slower than it is today.

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I find it useless to compare events from different times to what's happening now. Technology, Government, and even thought processes are different now. There is no way we can handle every disaster like the one before, just not gonna happen.

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Sxeptomaniac

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Icon 1 posted September 15, 2005 22:18      Profile for Sxeptomaniac   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by alfrin:
I find it useless to compare events from different times to what's happening now. Technology, Government, and even thought processes are different now. There is no way we can handle every disaster like the one before, just not gonna happen.

Not completely useless, but it is important to note what worked and what didn't. Sure, the government could move faster back then, as there was a greater reliance on local government for decisions. However, as noted in the report I linked to above, there were problems with corruption in the local government, insufficient resources, and lack of needed skills. Like New Orleans, there was also a lack of planning. Though they didn't know much about earthquakes at the time, they did know that a fire could be very bad with all the unplanned, poorly built structures that had been put up all over the city.

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Also, I suspect the loss of electricity supply was less of a problem back then...

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The Famous Druid

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Icon 1 posted September 16, 2005 16:27      Profile for The Famous Druid     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by Sxeptomaniac:
From what I've read and seen, "looting" has generally not referred to people desperate for food and other survival necessities.

Sadly, the police seem to disagree. [Frown]

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Sxeptomaniac

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quote:
Originally posted by The Famous Druid:
quote:
Originally posted by Sxeptomaniac:
From what I've read and seen, "looting" has generally not referred to people desperate for food and other survival necessities.

Sadly, the police seem to disagree. [Frown]
It reads more like a wrongful arrest to me. From what they family says, she paid for all of her food earlier, and was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. I'm not even going to try and guess what was going on in the minds of the cops that arrested her. [Roll Eyes]

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quote:
Originally posted by The Famous Druid:
]Interesting article in the local paper last week, examining the coverage of 2 similar pictures..

One showed a black guy wading through the water, holding a bag above the water, several bottles of water could be seen in the bag. The caption in the US press described him as a looter.

A very similar picture of 2 white guys, also wading through water holding bags over their heads, was described as "survivors gathering supplies".

I think I know the picture you're talking about.

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quote:
Originally posted by Sxeptomaniac:
quote:
Originally posted by The Famous Druid:
quote:
Originally posted by Sxeptomaniac:
From what I've read and seen, "looting" has generally not referred to people desperate for food and other survival necessities.

Sadly, the police seem to disagree. [Frown]
It reads more like a wrongful arrest to me. From what they family says, she paid for all of her food earlier, and was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. I'm not even going to try and guess what was going on in the minds of the cops that arrested her. [Roll Eyes]
I read about that case. She was grilling meat she already owned and she got arrested for looting a deli several witnesses report she never went near. The deli owner herself has refused to press charges and asked that the woman be let go, which she finally was once someone made a big stink to the courts. She's a church deaconess and, get this, they were holding her on $50000 bail. The really sick thing is there's still a few mindless fucks in the city government who want to prosecute. [Roll Eyes]

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The odd thing about the SF Quake - Teddy Roosevelt never ordered troops to go in. The local Camp C.O., Brig. Gen. Frederick Funston lived in SF and ordered the troops in. They were in the area and available.

Also note that Victor H. Metcalf, President Roosevelt's secretary of labor and commerce had this to say about local Govt.

quote:
The efforts of the Mayor and municipal officials of the Citizens' Committee, and of the regular army and the State Guard of California have been practically as efficient as though the separate authorities were under one head. Neither friction nor reflections have at any time appeared, and the work of relief has proceeded harmoniously, continuously and efficiently.
So why weren't federal troops stationed in New Orleans? As far as I know the closest Army base is Fort Polk - about 250 miles away. How long do you think it takes to drive 250 miles when you have trees and other debris blocking the way? And do you just drive past the homeless and distraught along the way?

What could have been done was done. People just should not have been in the soup bowl when the pot got turned over.

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 -

EDIT: Some buildings in the US are designed to withstand a hurricane.....

Dupont and Katrina: The Category 5 Dome
September 13, 2005
by Freda Parker
http://www.monolithicdome.com/domenews/2005/dupont-katrina.html

For many days after Katrina, I tried reaching someone in charge at the Dupont plant in Delisle, Mississippi, where last year we had built a 50' x 18' Monolithic Dome specifically as a hurricane shelter.

This morning I finally got through to Dupont's engineer, Jack Seybold. He told me that Katrina did more than $100 million of damage to their facility and that this Category 5 hurricane nearly totaled their plant.

Through it all, 30 of Dupont's Hurricane Crew -- professionals who assess damage as quickly as possible after a hurricane -- sat secure and comfortable in the Monolithic Dome they originally called the "Hurricane Shelter."
That dome now has a new name: The Category 5 Shelter. According to Mr. Seybold, the renaming came about because Katrina convinced the crew that their dome can stand against anything.

DeLisle experienced Katrina as a Category 5 hurricane, with embedded tornadoes and a water surge 27 feet high. Water rushed over the dykes and came within 150 feet of the dome. Debris, including uprooted trees, pummeled the dome shell.

Mr. Seybold said that, through it all, their Monolithic Dome performed admirably. He said the people inside felt so safe that, several times, they opened the dome's door to get fresh air. He concluded by telling me that early in 2006, Dupont will ask Monolithic to do a presentation for their civil engineers.

Other Related Articles & Info
http://www.monolithicdome.com/gallery/industrial/dupont/index.html
http://www.domeofahome.com/

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Once a proud programmer of Apple II's, he now spends his days and nights in cheap dives fraternizing with exotic dancers....

Posts: 1035 | From: Third rock from sun. | Registered: Mar 2001  |  IP: Logged


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