the sometimes senseless ravings (and the occassional rant) of an aspiring marine ecologist who may enjoy killing things a little too much

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Natural Selection in Action?

and the aftermath of hurricane katrina continues... let me tell you, folks, it does not make me feel special to be a part of the biggest natural disaster to ever hit the united states. the damage that hurricane katrina caused here in the mobile area is much worse than the damage caused by hurricane ivan last september. along the coastline and waterways, homes and buildings have been destroyed, including apartment buildings along dog river, tons of houses in bayou la batre (yes, the forrest gump city actually exists, for those who may not be familiar with this area), and approximately 80% of the houses on dauphin island, where i work. fortunately, dauphin island is not entirely a barrier island. the east end of the island, where the dauphin island sea lab is located, is an actual land mass with rocks and soil and forests and all, while the west end, where the majority of the beach houses were located, is just sand. the landscape of the west end has completely changed. most of the houses are just not there anymore. a barrier island is just about the dumbest place you could ever put a house, yet still i feel for the people who lost their homes. downtown mobile was completely flooded by katrina's massive storm surge, and the causeway that runs across mobile bay suffered massive damage, as did the one that runs out to the dauphin island bridge. i'm sure you've seen the pictures of the oil platform that slammed into the cochrane-africatown bridge across the mobile river. trees are down all over the place, including one that fell on the fence around our pool. there are tons of trees on power lines, of course, but chad and i were fortunate enough to have our electricity returned last night around 9:00 after three days and two nights dealing with the heat and humidity. at least our neighbor let us plug in our fridge, a fan, and a tv to his generator. things could have been much worse for us. practically every building in our apartment complex had the vents torn off the roof, so there are all these metal vents strewn everywhere. there are also many shingles missing, but no major damage so i feel very lucky.

outside, there is pandemonium. gasoline is in short supply, and many stations don't have electricity, so very few gas stations are open. this makes for gas lines that stretch for blocks with no guarantees that those in the back of the lines will arrive at the pumps before the gas runs out. the long lines are not limited to gas stations, either. the red cross distribution sites for ice, water, and MRE's (military food) are also drawing huge crowds and long lines. all of this is causing major traffic jams for the many people who have had to return to work (including chad - he had to go back to work this morning) and are just trying to get through, as if the many non-functional traffic lights at major intersections weren't causing enough back-ups. it now takes forever to go even the mile and a half to the centralite office where chad works. many people are losing money because they have not been able to work, so the rapidly rising price of gas is really hitting hard. this morning in mobile, gas is going for $3.25 a gallon. last week i paid $2.46 per gallon. and this is what the gas stations can charge despite the strict anti-price-gouging policies. i shudder to think what i'll be paying when i have to buy gas in a couple of weeks. i am refusing to drive anywhere unless it is absolutely unavoidable. my tiny car has a full tank of gas, and USA does not resume classes until next tuesday (due to the gas shortages, power outages, and curfews in place from dusk to dawn), so i should be able to stretch it for a long time. the university is about 4 miles from my apartment, and i will probably be having my seminar class there instead of dauphin island (which is 32 miles from my apartment), so i shouldn't have to buy gas until things settle down.

grocery stores are another source of madness here. the bruno's that chad and i went into yesterday wasn't actually that crazy, but many of its shelves were bare. another of our neighbors works security at wal-mart, and he told us that the number of shoplifters has increased dramatically. people are shooting their relatives over ice in mississippi, so i guess things really aren't as bad as they could be here. we have power again, so we can cook now. we have food and clean water, both of our gas tanks are full, so i feel pretty good about our situation personally. it's really bad for some people, though. especially in coastal mississippi (biloxi and gulfport) and new orleans.

i have mixed feelings about the human suffering that is being broadcast nationally (worldwide?) out of biloxi, gulfport, and new orleans. my initial reaction is absolute heartbreak at what these people are going through. i almost cried when i saw local reporter jennifer mayerle's interview with hardy jackson (which has been broadcast nationally on msnbc and fox news channel), the biloxi man who rode out the storm in his home, which split in two when it flooded, causing him to lose his wife. she told him to let her go so he could take care of their two grandchildren, who were with hardy when he was interviewed. i see this over and over, and then the reports of people who stayed in apartment buildings right on the beach. and they died. because they didn't heed evacuation orders. and it is very depressing to see. then logic kicks in, and i think that these people did this to themselves. there is absolutely no way that they did not know that this enormous and immensely powerful hurricane was headed their way. they were ordered to evacuate. here in mobile, buses were sent into the areas where mandatory evacuations were ordered to move the poor, sick, and elderly to shelters on safer ground. here, there was no excuse for staying in the danger zone. i just cannot make myself believe that the people who stayed and tried to ride out katrina in places like new orleans, biloxi, and gulfport didn't have the means to get to a safer place. in some cases, i truly believe that the flight instincts in these people, which would have saved their lives, were overpowered by a sense of complacence, a feeling that the government would take care of them rather than feeling that they could take care of themselves. i see this woman screaming on the news that if they die there in new orleans, it's because the state of lousiana let them die. but it just isn't true. they were ordered to leave the city, for crying out loud. looters abound, keeping what help is there from being effective as national guard members are diverted to stop looters. officials are trying valiantly to get everyone out of the drowning city of new orleans, and people don't seem to be helping the national guard help them by cooperating. i feel terrible for thinking this, but maybe they should just let these people go and get the people out that they can. let the looters have the city. it's mostly under water anyway. if they want to die for a bit of jewelry and electronics, let them. those businesses are mostly ruined already, as water continues to pour into new orleans. all of the people who are now dying in new orleans had the chance to save themselves. they could have gone to the superdome (which really wasn't a very effective shelter) or fled the city, but they sat back and claimed that they couldn't get there. i don't know if places other than mobile mobilized public transportation to get people out, but i still don't believe that the people who stayed and died in the areas destroyed by katrina just couldn't go anywhere else. could this be natural selection in action? getting rid of the people who are too lazy and dependent on the government to save themselves?

the people that i truly feel for are those who did evacuate and are now stuck in shelters because they've lost everything. i see all of this destruction in biloxi, where i have spent a fair amount of time in the past. the mississippi sea wolves, biloxi's local hockey team, have always been a great rival for the pensacola ice pilots, a team i've supported for many years, although this is my first season having a full season ticket package. now, i doubt that the sea wolves will play this season. their arena, the mississippi coast coliseum, is one of the few buildings still standing along the biloxi coast, but i just don't see how they're going to play. over the summer, deva and i went to biloxi for a showing of cats at the grand theater. the grand casino, which was basically attached to the grand theater, is no longer there. it was carried about a half mile from it's original location. the brand spankin' new hard rock hotel and casino, which was slated to become "our place" in biloxi this hockey season (you know, the place we went after hockey games), is totally smashed. only the guitar sign out front survived. there is a mcdonald's on the coast there where chad and i stopped almost every time we went to biloxi, and it is completely hollowed out - just a few posts holding up pieces of the roof. the landscape will never be the same. the city basically has to be completely rebuilt. biloxi is losing half a million dollars a day in revenue because none of the casinos are operational. this area is going to be very poor for a long time, i think, and it makes me very sad.

i also made a trip over to new orleans this summer, and that city will also never be the same. there is all this talk of pumping out the water and fixing the levees, but what's to stop something like this from happening again? the place is below sea level. the vast majority of the city is destroyed. why rebuild in a place like that? it marshland, for god's sake. these people already have to start over. why not do it in on more stable land? my heart goes out to these people. i don't know what i would do in their situation. sure my life has been disrupted by hurricane katrina, but no matter how much worse the damage in mobile is from katrina than from ivan, it is nowhere near as bad as that just to our west.

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