Friday, September 30, 2005

Into the Disaster Zone

I'm back at the shelter in Tyler after making a quick trip down into the disaster zone to check on my house. Troy took some pictures of my yard, and I've posted a few of them here.

I met Troy at his home in Spring (just north of Houston), and together we drove to Lumberton. Spot the dog came with us. On our way through Beaumont we saw storm damage everywhere - windows blown out, signs torn down, buildings with their fronts sheered off. Ford Park was being used as a staging area for the relief effort, with tents, military vehicles, and helicopters in the parking lot. Offramps were closed and guarded, and we had to show I.D. to get onto Highway 69 northbound. We were prepared for the worst, and sure enough, an ugly scene awaited us at my place.

Miraculously our house had been spared. Part of a tree had fallen on a corner of the roof, but it caused no structural damage, only broken shingles. The garage was surrounded by fallen trees, but also emerged relatively unscathed. Some of my neighbors were not so lucky. A big pine had uprooted and fallen on one house, smashing its roof in. Considering how many trees we lost, we were very fortunate that the storm had left our home intact.

The rest of my property is a total disaster area, with trees and branches down everywhere. We had to park at the road because the driveway was impassable. Several big trees uprooted and toppled over, wrecking fences and pulling down powerlines. I found my carport crushed under a fallen cedar. It was heartbreaking to see our garden in shambles after all the hard work we put into it. Amidst the destruction I was amazed to see that our martin house was still sitting atop its pole in the backyard.

We arrived in the "cool of the morning," but it was already miserably hot and humid, and only got worse once we started working. Our plan was to survey the damage, cover any broken windows or holes in the roof, and leave before the heat became too intense. Quick in, quick out. Using chainsaws we cut away the branches that had fallen onto the house. Troy got up on the roof, where he encountered swarms of biting ants. The heat and humidity were almost unbearable. I really owe him one for the pain he endured in helping me out.

We cleared all the branches from the roof and backside of the house, but hardly made a dent in the mess. Cleanup is gonna take a lot of hard work over many days. I'll need to hire somone to remove the big trees that have fallen. After emptying the refrigerator (yuck) and grabbing some items that Michelle & I wanted, we secured the house and left.

Michelle & I have been truly fortunate during this disaster. Fortunate to evacuate to Tyler Junior College, fortunate not to lose our home, and fortunate to have each other. I'll probably be returning to Lumberton soon to get back to work and start clearing the wreckage. I'm expecting a hard time ahead, and I'm not looking forward to it. Living conditions won't be pleasant without electricity, and the county is still discouraging residents from coming back. Most of all I'll miss Michelle, who will have to stay here to care for her patients.

It may be several weeks before power is restored in my neighborhood, and this will probably be the last update to my blog until that happens. I'd like to thank all of you who have written or called to express concern during this difficult time. Just know that we are fine and everything is gonna be all right.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Still in Limbo

Life has become sort of routine here at Tyler Junior College, but a change is coming. The evacuee population here is shrinking as patients from other nursing homes are farmed out to long term facilities, and soon we'll have to leave too. They aren't gonna let us stay here indefinitely. Not that I want to be here any longer than I have to. It's been an interesting experience, but really I just want to go back home.

Today I visited Pipa, our canine evacuee, at the home where he is staying (we are not allowed to keep pets here at the shelter). Turns out his accomodations are more posh than our own. He's being kept in a comfortable ranch-style home on a large country estate. Reminds me of those children who were evacuated from their London tenements during WWII and sent to stay at palacial country houses to escape German bombing. They have two ponds on their property and keep several horses in addition to the many pets they are sheltering for the evacuees. After the regal treatment he's received he might not want to go home with us!

Michelle met a Texas State Guard who once lived in our subdivision (Artesian Acres), and whose stepfather still lives there. I got his number and called him. He told me that there are many downed trees in the neighborhood, but the roads have been cleared and there wasn't any serious flooding. Falling trees had smashed his roof. He said that he would check on my place and let me know what he found. So hopefully tomorrow I'll have a better idea of what kind of damage to expect.

One of the ladies from Silsbee plays piano, and tonight we had a little hootenany in the volunteer's dining room. She played songs like "Deep in the Heart of Texas," "As Time Goes By," and "Nine to Five." She even knew the theme from Green Acres! Those who could - and even some who couldn't - danced and sang along. Some of the Texas State Guard troops joined in. At one point I was forced to do the hokey pokey, much to my chagrin. It was great fun and a nice break from the tedium.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Correction & an Update

I need to correct an error that I made in an earlier posting and give credit where credit is due. The Texas State Guard is providing assistance to the evacuees at Tyler Junior College, NOT the National Guard. One of the guardsmen corrected me on that point, and it's important that I correctly identify the people who are helping us. They are doing a great job.

During the day a guardsmen is usually stationed by each of the doors to the big gymnasium where most of the evacuees are housed. They are there to make sure our hands are disinfected whenever we enter or leave. They get you coming and going. When you go back and forth as much as we do it gets to be a little tedious, repeatedly being stopped and squirted with hand sanitizer. At least we can be fairly sure are hands are clean and germ-free.

It looks like we may be here for quite a while. A prolonged stay will put a strain on the volunteers and patients, and will require more food and medical resources, among other things. Some of the staff and patients arrived short on clothing. Fortunately a Goodwill store came through for us, donating several large sacks of clothes. So far the patients have shown great resilience, handling a stressful situation about as well as could be hoped for.

Michelle got costume wings, a tiara, and a little wand at Walmart. Now at meal times she becomes the "food fairy." We also picked up some games that will help reduce boredom. There really isn't a whole lot for the patients to do here other than watch television or roam the building, and due to limited mobility some of them can't even do that. I've spent most of my time trying to be helpful and reading. I'm in the middle of Bill Graham's autobiography (the concert promoter, not the evangelist). If I get really bored I guess I could take up calligraphy...

Troy tells me electricity has been restored in Spring (just north of Houston), and things are getting back to normal there. He offered to go check on our property, but I think it'll be a while before anyone can safely enter the worst effected areas - roads are likely to be damaged or obstructed, and availability of gas remains an issue. Michelle received a second-hand report from one of our neighbors that there are many downed trees in our neighborhood, and the road leading in has been barricaded to keep people out. It's probably best that we all wait until the authorities tell us it's o.k. to go back.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

After Rita; In For the Long Haul

We've been receiving news slowly, in drips and drabs. Everyone wants to know about the condition of their homes and communities, but we are receiving precious little information from the Golden Triangle. The cable news stations have tended to focus on the larger urban areas, particularly Houston and New Orleans - neither of which took a direct hit. Beaumont and Lake Charles clearly suffered worse destruction, but are getting less coverage. Either news is only slowly emerging from the most effected areas, or it's simply that larger urban areas with greater populations demand more attention. Maybe it's a little of both.

I talked with one of my coworkers by cell phone today. She and her family evacuated to Woodville (which was the original destination for Silsbee Convalescent Center patients...before the storm's projected path caused an immediate change of plan). She sounded miserable. She has four kids with her. They are without electricity and have no food. The authorities are telling them not to return to their home, and they can't go anywhere else because the gas stations are all closed. She told me that during the night there were tornadoes - one took down a row of trees behind the building they are staying in. She also informed me that another of our coworkers wrecked her car in a collision while evacuating. Our conversation made me even more thankful that we are here in Tyler.

Everyone is talking about when we can go back to our homes. It doesn't look like that is gonna happen anytime soon. It's gonna take time for electricity to be restored, and apparently the buildings at Silsbee Convalescent Center sustained some serious damage. The patients and their caregivers will have to remain here until the facilities are inhabitable again. And tonight yet another busload of evacuees arrived. The storm may have passed, but our little ordeal is far from over. The worst part is not knowing. We won't know the full extent of the disaster until we can return to our homes and survey the damage, and nobody knows when that will be. And then we'll face the hard work of clearing the wreckage and rebuilding. No telling when this will finally end.

I'm writing this in the gymnasium where most of the evacuess have bedded down for the night. It's after lights out and quiet except for the snoring, occasional coughs, and some incoherent babbling from the nursing home patients. I'll be going to bed myself soon.

Tyler Morning Telegraph Article

We made the local news! Here's an article about our temporary home from the Tyler Morning Telegraph:

Michelle and I went shopping a little earlier. On our trip we encountered high winds and heavy rain, with electrical outages in some areas and downed tree limbs. Looking out the window now I see a tall tree being whipped by powerful gusts of wind. Even this far inland we are experiencing the effects of Rita.


The lights are on and people are starting to get up. We finally got a good night's sleep - the first real sleep some of these people have had in the last 48 hours. A moment ago one of the patients was screaming her head off (some of them suffer from dementia). The volunteers are trying to get a head count. That's gonna be difficult, because people are awake and moving around now.

I was following the path of the storm on television a little while ago, and it looked like it was sitting right over our backyard. Now the storm has moved northward. Outside it's a gloomy gray morning here in Tyler. We can expect the heavy rain and high winds to arrive here later in the day.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Shepard Smith Loses Hat

I've been watching Fox News here at the shelter. Shepard Smith is in Beaumont tonight. He has been standing in the rain and wind, demonstrating just how very rainy and windy it is there. He has certainly lost one, and possibly two, baseball caps while doing his broadcast. The question is, will he attempt to don a third hat if the second is lost. His mascara is all but gone. This has certainly become a very serious storm.

As I write this one of the patients lying on a mattress in front of me is having a medical emergency. He is being assisted by a woman from the Texas State Guard and several volunteers. The lights are being lowered so that the evacuees can get to sleep. Looking around I see a lot of exhausted and restless people. Those that aren't bedding down are busy providing aid or hunkered around the television.

The storm is approaching that is awfully close to home. It's lights out now.

Worst Fears Realized

The population of the evacuation shelter here at Tyler Junior College continues to grow. Earlier today we were able to make some calls and reassure people that we were O.K. The last time I tried to use my phone I got the "searching for signal" message. I think that cell phone service will probably be tenuous at best from now on.

It's gonna be time for lights out soon. Most of us have had very little sleep in the last 48 hours. Everyone has been trapped in slow moving traffic for hours, everyone has frayed nerves, and everyone is tired. Even so most people seem to be in good spirits.

I'm anxious about the situation down on the coast. Looks like we won't be spared this time - our home is right in the path of Rita. And things must be bad. Geraldo Rivera is in Port Arthur. When guys like Geraldo and Shepard Smith show up you know your town is in trouble.

Evacuation Ordeal; We Is Refugees

Thanks to Tyler Community College, where Michelle and I are now staying as guests, I have internet access and can update my blog sooner than expected. Yesterday morning I hurriedly finished securing the house and loading the car. I met Michelle at Silsbee Convalescent, and joined the convoy headed north at at about 11am. We were travelling in separate cars - Michelle had one of her residents with her, and I had Pipa with me (dog is my copilot). He was surprisingly relaxed & well behaved, and his good behaviour was rewarded with pepperoni and beef stick.

As soon as we got on Highway 69 we were in heavy traffic. Normally it takes less than 2 hours to reach Woodville; we didn't get there until about 4pm. Fortunately there was a Pizza Hut still open there, and we took a late lunch break before starting the nightmarish second leg of our journey.

Michelle and I both had full gas tanks prior to departure - astute planning on our part, because finding a gas station that was still open was only half the battle; then you had to contend with the long lines.

We were stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic for mile after mile. After Woodville I became separated from Michelle and the rest of the nursing home convoy. Traffic was at a crawl, and for hours it was stop-and-go...well, more stop than go. There were long periods when we were at a complete standstill. Michelle reached Tyler around midnight; I didn't arrive until about 2am. I had been on the road for 15 hours.

Pipa couldn't stay with us at the evacuation center. I'm afraid the nursing home patients will have do without a therapy dog for a while. A volunteer was nice enough to come down to the college and pick him up last night. Once again, good people coming through during an emergency.

Tyler is located southeast of Dallas. We are staying at Tyler Junior College, which has become an ecacuation center for special needs patients. The college has provided us with a place to stay (we are camped in the gymnasium), and volunteers have kindly dispensed plenty of food and drinks to the nursing home patients and staff (and tag-alongs like me). They are doing a great job and really deserve to be commended. There are televisions so we can track the storm's progress, and we even have internet access, as you can see.

The drive here was frustrating, tiring, and often chaotic. EMS vehicles and police had to find a way around the congested traffic to reach those who needed help, and there were many cars and trucks stalled along the roadside. Not all of the evacuees were as well prepared as we were. One of the nursing home employees didn't arrive last night, which has everyone concerned. But since our arrival here the situation has been orderly and well managed, and everyone seems to be in good spirits.

According to the latest storm tracking Rita is expected to slam into the Texas Coast near Port Arthur. This is very bad news, and means that Beaumont & Lumberton may take a direct hit. The prospects are catastrophic for all of us. Now all we can do is wait and see.

It's likely that I won't be able to use my cell phone after the storm makes landfall. Yesterday I was getting "all circuits are busy" messages most of the time. Michelle lost her cell phone service after Katrina, and it took quite a while for service to be restored. Again, it's wait and see. For now we are all well and doing fine.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

We're Outa Here

This will probably be my last blog entry for a while. We're evacuating. Gotta go.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

We've Got a Situation Here...

Here in Southeast Texas the mood is one of nervous anticipation. Most people are either leaving or preparing to leave. The highway through Lumberton is a major evacuation route, and this afternoon it was already clogged with northbound traffic. Some of this traffic is probably from Galveston and Chambers Counties, which are now under a mandatory evacuation.

Michelle and I have been preparing for the worst. Early this morning I went to Home Depot and got boards to cover our windows. Good thing I went when I did. Later in the afternoon I returned to get some wood screws, and the line for lumber stretched to the back of the store. Michelle visited Walmart on her way to work and stocked up on essentials - canned food, batteries, etc.

Here in Southeast Texas we had record-breaking heat today, with temperatures rising to over 100 degrees. The weather was sunny with only a slight breeze, and our drought continues unabated. No indication of impending danger. If not for the news reports you would never know that a monsterous storm was swirling toward us.

We are very fortunate to live in an age of telecommunication, satellite tracking, and accurate weather modeling. In earlier times people had little warning prior to the arrival of deadly storms. The hurricane that hit Galveston in 1900 killed 8,000 people and was the worst weather disaster in U.S. history (despite the recent hyperbole regarding Katrina). At least now we know when a catastrophe is on the way.

I'm using a few vacation days this week, then I'm scheduled to start work again on Saturday. Hurricane Rita is also predicted to make landfall on Saturday, so the question is, do I stay and work, or evacuate before the storm arrives? Walgreens has taken the position that unless there is a mandatory evacuation order in the county where you are employed (Hardin County, in my case) you are expected to work. Managers who fail to come to work, in the absence of a mandatory evacuation order, will be summarily fired. I'm sure most of our employees plan on leaving town ahead of the storm, and by Saturday we may not have enough people to keep the store open.

This morning I spent a couple of hours in my backyard searching the sky for raptors. Between 10am and 11am I counted over 380 Broad-winged Hawks! Such large numbers are not unusual along the Texas Gulf Coast during migration, and there is no reason to think that this was a storm-related event. I didn't see any other raptor species among the many Broad-wings, although I later had an adult Red-tailed Hawk circling over my yard. A Black-and-White Warbler that flew into a neighbor's tree was a new addition to my yard list.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Deja Vu All Over Again

Hurricane Rita has been pounding the Florida Keys all day, and is now spiraling into the gulf where it is expected to pick up energy and intensify. Present predictions are that it will continue moving in a westerly direction, which puts it on a probable collision course with Texas.

Of course nobody yet knows where it's gonna make landfall, but in the aftermath of Katrina people are edgy about this sort of thing, and it's already causing some anxiety. It may be a bit premature, but I've heard that a voluntary evacuation is already underway in Galveston. Who knows - a week from now we may all be refugees.

Michelle's family have returned to their storm-ravaged homes near New Orleans. Michelle's brother, Dale, told her that next time there is a hurricane evacuation he and his family will catch a flight to somewhere else and make a vacation of it. That struck me as a sensible plan. In the event of a hurricane landing here Michelle and I would have to stay long enough aid in the evacuation of her patients (who will not be neglected or abandoned, as was deplorably the case with some of the nursing home residents in Louisiana during Katrina). I'll assist of course.

Fortunately my home is far enough inland that it wouldn't be threatened by storm surge. Torrential rainstorms have deluged this area in the past, and will again, but my house is on relatively high ground and has never flooded (at least not within the memory of people living nearby). Some of my neighbor's haven't been so lucky. There are houses in my neighborhood that are lower lying and closer to the bayou, where rising flood waters would put them in serious jeopardy. As far as my property is concerned, I'm more worried about the potential danger posed by hurricane-force winds.

My house is surrounded by tall trees. If one was to fall it could cause some severe damage. A heavy limb recently fell, taking down a section of my fence. A larger branch or tree trunk could smash right through the roof, and I wouldn't want to be in the house when that happens. But then I don't plan on being here long after the evacuation orders are given.

Today Michelle had me call my insurer and buy flood insurance. The change to my homeowner's policy won't become effective for thirty days, so it doesn't give us any protection from this storm should it land here. I really don't think the house is likely to flood anyway, but for peace of mind it's worth the additional expense. And even if the coming storm passes us by, hurricane season isn't over yet...

Monday, September 19, 2005


My yard continues to produce surprises. Yesterday I found this monstrosity creeping along the front walkway. The object in the foreground is a quarter; by comparison I would estimate this giant's length at well over 4 inches.

So there I was, confronted with a guacamole-green caterpillar the size of a goddamn hotdog and covered with nasty-looking black spines. Scary stuff. Very rarely do I encounter a creature that completely baffles me, but in this case my immediate reaction was "what the f**k is that thing?!" I did a little research and discovered that my mystery beast is known as a Hickory Horned Devil. It's the larval form of the Regal Moth (or should I say it's adult stage it's awfully big too). I also found out that despite it's fierce appearance and ominous name it's not the least bit dangerous. Shortly after I discovered this one Michelle spotted another under one of our azaleas. These are the first ones I've seen here in three years, and they were found within minutes of each other. Hopefully this isn't the onset of an invasion.

Hummingbird migration must be peaking. Each of our three feeders has been staked out by a different adult male Ruby-throat. The males stay close to their respective feeders and maintain a constant vigil, immediately attacking any other bird that tries to feed there. Lately I've been seeing aerial dogfights involving as many as four or five birds. Passerine migrants have been few, but on Sunday I got a brief look at a bright male Baltimore Oriole in my backyard.

Man, did I get sunburned today! From 10am to 4pm I was at the Smith Point Hawk Watch. In case you didn't know, the Texas coastal bend is a major conduit for southbound raptors during fall migration. Smith Point on Galveston Bay is perfectly situated for observing their passage, because the coastline tends to funnel birds toward the point, which forms a natural cul-de-sac. There's a lookout tower there from which volunteer hawk watchers count the passing birds. The tower is manned every day during the prime fall season.

Broad-winged Hawk taking a spin over Smith Point

So while I was getting sunburned I enjoyed the company of several other hawk watchers. Most of the raptors we saw were Broad-winged & Cooper's Hawks. Occasionally large kettles would form high in the stratosphere - so high up that the birds were often mere specks. In one such kettle we counted over 300 Broad-winged Hawks! Anhingas and Mississipi Kites often joined these swirling columns of birds. Cooper's Hawks were more often seen singly or in pairs, but one or more were almost always in sight. Not only were there large numbers of raptors, but a nice variety of species kept it interesting. The highlight was a first-year Bald Eagle that at one point flew directly over the lookout tower.

Here's my blurry photo of a young Bald Eagle flying away

Other raptors seen from the tower included Osprey, White-tailed Kite, Northern Harrier, Peregrine Falcon, Merlin, and Sharp-shinned, Red-shouldered, and Red-tailed Hawks. A Magnificent Frigatebird was observed soaring high above the bay.

Hawk watchers tend to focus exclusively on raptors, paying little attention to other birds, so I find it interesting that while we were scanning the sky for birds of prey there were literally THOUSANDS of swallows hurrying by practically unnoticed, and hummingbird feeders below the tower were attracting mobs of Ruby-throats - I saw as many as ten at a time sipping from a single feeder! Olive-sided Flycatcher, Yellow Warbler, Blue Grosbeak, and Orchard Oriole were among the passerine migrants in the nearby thickets.

How many do you see? I counted 29 hummingbirds in this picture!

With its panoramic view of bay, fields, and woodlands, the lookout tower at Smith Point would make a great platform from which to do a "big sit." The 13th Annual Big Sit is set for October 9th, and if I can get the day off I'd like to spend it there. The hawk watch volunteers thought this was a good idea. unfortunately, just as I was leaving they received some bad news - apparently the area is being evacuated - another big storm has moved into the gulf, and it appears to be coming this way.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Joyride in the Big Thicket

Yesterday Troy came over and we did some exploring in the Neches Bottoms/Jack Gore Baygall Units of the Big Thicket National Preserve. Troy was determined to prove to me that my CRV could handle any road, no matter how narrow, rutted, muddy, or wet.

In the Jack Gore Baygall Unit we drove all the way to the river (about 6 miles on an unimproved road). The weather has been dry lately, but even so the road surface was wet and muddy. Troy was right; my four-wheel-drive vehicle had no difficulty getting through the puddles and deep wallows. The road traverses several miles of mature bottomland forest with many big old trees (a habitat I'd like to explore further), and crosses baygalls with stands of cypress and stagnant water. From the high watermark on some of the cypresses it looks like low points along the road are regularly submerged. We finally reached the end of the line, a wide sandbar on the river. After Spot had a swim we backtracked and checked out a side road leading to a "day use area." A preserve sign pointing the way to the "Potato Patch" took down a slightly overgrown track to a nice area of cypress swamp.

After that we headed south and took the road to Franklin Lake, which was more swamp than lake. There's a boat launch where the road ends, and it looks like it would be a good place to go canoeing or kayaking. Wildlife there included map turtles and a big alligator (yes, there are alligators in the Big Thicket!). We estimated it to be 6-8 feet in length.

I occasionally heard Pileated, Red-bellied, and Downy Woodpeckers, and some of the habitat looked promising, but if there are any Ivory-billed Woodpeckers in there they conceal their presence well. Saw plenty of dead trees, but didn't see any evidence of IBWs having worked on them. White-eyed Vireos were still singing, but otherwise the woods were pretty quiet.

Our four-wheeling adventure ended without mishap...well sort of. Once we got back on pavement the car seemed to lag, and when I tried to pick up speed it began to shake. At first we thought it might be a flat tire, or the tread coming apart, but it turned out the vibration was due to big clumps of clay stuck to the rims. We blasted the dirt off at carwash in Silsbee and the problem went away.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Some Thoughts on the Recent Unpleasantness

Come on folks. It was not only forseeable but inevitable that a major hurricane would one day hit New Orleans. Every city on the Gulf Coast is a potential and eventual target for a killer storm. The day before Katrina slammed New Orleans the experts were predicting total disaster, including flooding. Not only do I remember this, I made mention of it in my blog prior to Katrina making landfall. As bad as the aftermath of the storm was, some of the predictions made prior were much worse.

The televised "experts" didn't just figure this out as Katrina came barreling down on New Orleans. The potential for calamity was always there. Someday a major earthquake is gonna shake San Francisco. Someday a violent eruption will bury the towns around Mt. Shasta in volcanic ash. And oh yes, someday a big hurricane will hit New Orleans.

The question then is why didn't New Orleans and the State of Louisiana have a plan in place for such an eventuality? Why wasn't the order to evacuate enforced and the evacuation better organized? Why didn't Mayor Nagin call for help sooner? Why didn't Governor Blanco mobilize the National Guard earlier? Where was FEMA in the hours before the inevitable finally occurred? Basically, why did everyone drop the ball?

Not that anyone really cares - now it's all about apportioning blame. Should it be laid at the doorstep of complacent and corrupt Louisiana politicians? Naw. How about those New Orleans residents who didn't heed repeated warnings and behaved abominably in the aftermath? Heck no! We can't blame those poor unfortunate victims. Is it all FEMA's fault? Maybe, but I doubt that's gonna satisfy anyone. Of course President Bush will be blamed, at least by people who are inclined to do that sort of thing anyway.

I think the true lesson of Katrina is that disaster preparedness is something that nobody really takes seriously. Government doesn't, your fellow citizens don't, and you can't expect either to save you. The ones who suffered the most in the aftermath of Katrina - the poor who remained in New Orleans - were relying on others to come to their rescue. Thus their inertia when the time came to evacuate. Their inaction in the face of disaster (and the misery they subsequently endured) was a consequence of their conditioned dependence on public assistance. Why evacuate? Help is surely on the way! Such faith is almost touching, although pathetic is a word that better suits it.

People who believe that government is the answer to all their problems are bound to be disappointed. Truth is, catastrophes like this are inevitable and we have an obligation to ourselves to be ready for them. As a famously useless New Orlean's cop recently told a tourist who was seeking help, "it's every man for himself!" Or maybe Jack Nicholson put it better when he said "The truth? You can't handle the truth!"