FEMA Director Brock Long made a remark at a joint press conference with President Trump, First Lady Melania Trump, and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott that is turning some heads.
“We are very aware of the issues at the convention center but let me be clear, this is not the Superdome,” Long remarked of the Houston Convention Center.
“The convention center, we are sustaining food, they have food, there is security. I have an intimate management team inside the city as we speak, and more and more people are being moved to shelters to stabilize the situation.”
The Houston convention center has surpassed its maximum rated capacity of 5,000 people and, on Tuesday, blew by its subsequent capacity of 9,000 evacuees. The current estimate is that over 10,000 evacuees have turned up at the convention center seeking shelter.
“We're just getting people together to get some rest, get a meal, and think about what we're going to do for recovery,” Lloyd Zeil of the American Red Cross told Fox News.
Jim “Mattress Mack” McIngvale has also opened up his furniture store to help shelter those without a home.
“Houstonians have a safe, dry place to take shelter at Gallery Furniture so if they can get here they are welcome,” said the owner. “We hope to give them some comfort in this incredibly difficult time.”
While George W. Bush came under fire for his handling of Hurricane Katrina, the media bent over backward to exonerate Democrats: then-mayor Kathleen Blanco and New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin (who was later sentenced to prison for 10 years for corruption).
While the worst of rumors about Katrina, if not captured on video, can be chalked up as untrue, the Superdome nonetheless has the reputation of being a monumental boondoggle during the natural disaster. The truth is that seven people died at the New Orleans convention center and 10 people died at the Louisiana Superdome. Murder, rape, and looting cases were reported and confirmed.
The Pulitzer Prize Winning Times-Picayune gave us a picture of what the Superdome was like during Katrina:
After five days managing near-riots, medical horrors and unspeakable living conditions inside the Superdome, Louisiana National Guard Col. Thomas Beron prepared to hand over the dead to representatives of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Following days of internationally reported killings, rapes and gang violence inside the Dome, the doctor from FEMA - Beron doesn't remember his name - came prepared for a grisly scene: He brought a refrigerated 18-wheeler and three doctors to process bodies.
While the rumors of rampant murders at the Superdome — there were inflated body counts as high as 200 murders — were grossly overstated, the picture that emerges is that it was nevertheless not a picnic.
As we can see from the superb management of the colossal Hurricane Harvey by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, who has given President Trump an A+ for his assistance, most of the management of natural disasters occurs at the state and local level in the United States. As Gov. Abbott pointed out during his joint press conference, the Trump administration and the Governor's office were preparing for Hurricane Harvey to make landfall 10 days before it struck the state of Texas.
Houston emergency management and citizen interventions, like those carried out by the Cajun Navy, provide a glimpse of a state well prepared and mobilized. Unfortunately, 15 people have died from the flooding, including a Houston police officer, but with flooding that is projected to double that of Katrina at 14 to 15 trillion gallons, versus Katrina's 6.5 trillion gallons of rain.
In the aftermath of Harvey, there have been scattered accounts of looting, which the Houston police seem to have brought under control through arrests. A few incidents of attempted robbery were thwarted by armed homeowners, including one fatality.
Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo estimated Monday that at least 20,000 Houstonians had thus far been rescued by emergency personnel, and 1,000 citizens had requested assistance. The Cajun Navy found a 73-year-old woman who was lifelessly floating in the street, but resuscitated her and brought her back to life. Countless other examples have already come to light that reveal the neighborly compassion and sacrifices people are making for one another in a highly stressful environment.
The most important component of effective natural disaster response is a people that is self-reliant, resourceful, and exhibit common sense under extreme pressure. No matter who the elected officials are when catastrophe strikes, people have to be prepared to help themselves and others, while at the same time trusting their law enforcement and political leaders.
Please note: This is a commentary piece. The views and opinions expressed within it are those of the author only and do not necessarily reflect the editorial opinion of IJR.