June 4, 2006

Ready or Not, Hurricane Season is Here

Hurricane season is here, and serious questions have been raised about our readiness at the federal and state levels. Many of us in the reality-based community are surprised that the improvements in preparedness were not more extensive. Of course, I tend to be chronically surprised that science is not more frequently used to inform policy, so maybe this is just another example.

Reports out of New Orleans are not encouraging. I support the rebuilding of New Orleans for many reasons, however, my support is based on the assumption that the levee system would be improved to sustain even stronger storms than Katrina. This has not been the case, and now the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are acknowledging that there are no plans to make the levees any better than they were prior to Katrina.

Here in Mississippi, we still have a surprisingly high number of people living in FEMA trailers. This means that the shelters will start to fill well in advance of an approaching storm. Locally, we are hearing that improvements have been made to the availability of supplies, utility companies, and communications. I remain somewhat skeptical of the scope of these improvements, and I hope they are not tested this year.

Perhaps this situation is yet another issue that highlights the unfortunate consequences of relying on mythical supernatural entities for guidance and protection. Lack of funds and political partisanship may be the primary obstacles to improved readiness, but I'm not convinced they are the only ones. After all, if we are cheering the approach of "end times," why worry much about disaster preparedness? If we could just pass a gay marriage ban in time, maybe we'd be safe from another hurricane.

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