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Friday, September 02, 2005

Gulfport-Biloxi Update

I made it in, but could not find Boomr, and I had to leave because I was running out of gas. I can't believe I am blogging, but I am freaking out and can't sleep.

Some aid and tons of utility workers and MPs are getting into the area. All the news is wrong. You can get in on I-10 west, but the last place I was able to find gas was considerably east of Pensacola and there were long gas lines. I think this situation will get much worse. I had to go further east to find gas on the way out than on the way in. On the way out it gets rough. You can go on 10 for a while and then that is detoured down to 90. You can get back on 10 before Mobile, but the going is very slow - and I was doing this late at night.

To reiterate: Forget finding gas in southern Mississippi or Alabama and a big section of the Panhandle. If you are trying to get into the area, at this time you have to bring enough gas for a round trip of close to 400 miles and and enough to use while you are there, plus your own food and water. Driving back I was listening to StormAlert Network and a guardsman from Pensacola called in, trying to find out where the guardsmen could find gas so they could get back to the Gulfport-Biloxi area in the morning. They had people following the tankers and calling into that station to report where they went the night before. I heard of gas lines 4 miles long and I saw cops dealing with very long gas lines. Gas cans are also in very short supply and are likely to be stolen. The main roads are quite safe but I wouldn't think driving around on back roads would be.

The area is very devastated. There is just no way to communicate to the outside or within it unless you leave. I think more food and water are now getting in, but there is no central authority or place where you can find out where people are. Everyone is just wandering around looking for places where they can find food and water. News passes by word of mouth only. Unless you believe that you will find someone in their house or another known location, you could spend days looking and never find them. Houses close to the shore are just gone. Also, only the main roads are passable and you have to be very careful driving on them. So if you need to go into a residential neighborhood, you may well have to walk. Do not expect a pickup truck loaded with supplies to still be loaded with supplies if you leave it unattended.

You see cop cars, but they are zipping around like guppies trying not to get eaten in a tank full of sharks. The real security is coming from military units. Curfew is at 8 in that area, but at 6 in some places in Alabama. I could find no safe places to park at night.

The problem with this disaster is that it has cut off a huge, huge area. The power is starting to come on around Mobile, but it was still mostly dark. The devastation extends at least up to the Hattiesberg area. It's not that people aren't trying, but planning for these types of disasters doesn't contemplate a swath of destruction that crosses four states and disrupts communications and supply lines so completely.

Even in Florida there are people who have no place to go who are driving around, looking for gas and hotel rooms. The people who were evacuated are starting to be displaced from their hotel rooms and have no place to go. The surrounding states need to get people out of Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama. Many of these people will have no homes for months to come. They cannot be accommodated within their home states and the neighboring states. Millions of people are dislocated.

The news out of New Orleans is horrific, but I think more of it is getting out because it is on the perimeter of the zone. If you listen to StormAlert Network, you hear horrible stories of people dying in hospitals, etc. I heard a FEMA official say that Thursday was the first day they had even heard about the 20,000 people in the convention center.

Send trucks loaded with stuff like this:
Water, water, water, water
Food (Peanut butter, crackers, jelly, canned soups and canned meat. Canned stuff should have pop-tops. Dried fruit like dates and prunes. Powdered milk and oatmeal. Go for the compact, nutrientally dense stuff that needs no refrigeration.)
Clothes. I saw people in underwear.
First aid kits. Stuff like bacitracin ointment.
Mosquito repellent.

I would think that people who are diabetics or need heart medication are in desperate straits and the hospitals would be the first to be evacuated. I can't stress enough that groups that go in need to plan to fend for themselves and provide their own fuel, food, accommodations, nighttime security and communications. The worst logistical problem is lack of fuel, which is preventing aid and help from getting in. The second worst is lack of communications. Ham radio operators are needed in the area, but they will need power.

You're an angel for trying.
No. All over the area there are people desperately trying to help people they don't know. It's the only logical thing to do under the circumstances.

But the practical difficulties are tremendous.
I am so glad you are back. I text messaged you in stead of calling when I got the news because I didn't want to wake you, and hear you are blogging. I guess you were in withdrawl :)
I feel a thousand times better knowing that help is on the way for Boomr and that he is okay.

I am pissed at what I read in the news though. I don't think it is accurate or helpful.
Glad you are back. Get some sleep- still praying for you.
You're one class act- you did Yeoman's duty.

That is all.
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