A lesson in humility, category five level: an ode to the value of preparation ... and prudence.There was a time when I considered myself an unusually wise and generous person. In particular, I knew all about hurricanes.
Understanding what an asset those characteristics were to the community, I freely shared with readers of the Mobile Register what they should do before, during, and after a hurricane. ("Think before you leave," I instructed in a column a few months ago. Hurricane Ivan This article is about the Atlantic hurricane of 2004. For other storms of the same name, see Tropical Storm Ivan (disambiguation).
Hurricane Ivan was the strongest hurricane of the 2004 Atlantic hurricane season. in September 2004, with its traffic jams and stories of people sleeping in their cars because motels across the Southeast were full, had confirmed the wisdom of "staying put" even when experts advised otherwise.)
Being so smart also imbued me with an ability to Monday-morning-quarterback politicians' and emergency planners' preparations and responses. Thus, after Ivan devastated dev·as·tate
tr.v. dev·as·tat·ed, dev·as·tat·ing, dev·as·tates
1. To lay waste; destroy.
2. To overwhelm; confound; stun: was devastated by the rude remark. the Florida Panhandle The Florida Panhandle is the region of the state of Florida which includes the westernmost 16 counties in the state. It is a narrow strip lying between Alabama and Georgia to the north and the Gulf of Mexico to the south. instead of south Alabama South Alabama is a term used to describe various parts of southern Alabama. Its usage does not however reflect a strictly defined geographic region. The most general description of the area would be all Alabama counties south of the Black Belt. , I explained in a column that our governor had made a mistake when he ordered a mandatory evacuation of coastal Alabama south of Interstate 10.
As I pointed out, there's a big difference between homes on the Gulf of Mexico Noun 1. Gulf of Mexico - an arm of the Atlantic to the south of the United States and to the east of Mexico
Golfo de Mexico
Atlantic, Atlantic Ocean - the 2nd largest ocean; separates North and South America on the west from Europe and Africa on the east and neighborhoods twenty-five miles inland.
"Next time," I chided, "the governor will want to choose his words more carefully." Our editorials agreed.
The governor, apparently, did not.
In fact, when "next time" came in July of this year in the form of Hurricane Dennis This article is about the Atlantic hurricane of 2005. For other storms of the same name, see Hurricane Dennis (disambiguation).
Hurricane Dennis was an early-forming major hurricane in the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico during the 2005 Atlantic hurricane season. , darned darned
Adj. 1. darned - expletives used informally as intensifiers; "he's a blasted idiot"; "it's a blamed shame"; "a blame cold winter"; "not a blessed dime"; "I'll be damned (or blessed or darned or if governor Bob Riley
Once again, the hurricane went elsewhere. Once again, Alabama had cleared its coast for nothing.
Honestly, some people just never learn.
But a funny thing happened on the way to the rest of this year's hurricanes. A massive storm named Katrina swamped New Orleans New Orleans (ôr`lēənz –lənz, ôrlēnz`), city (2006 pop. 187,525), coextensive with Orleans parish, SE La., between the Mississippi River and Lake Pontchartrain, 107 mi (172 km) by water from the river mouth; founded and coastal Mississippi, killing more than a thousand people.
In Katrina's wake, governors who espouse a "better safe than sorry" approach to hurricane evacuations are now visionaries, and know-it-all opinion writers are now the ones who will want to choose their words more carefully.
Indeed, instead of rejecting emergency planners as people who always cry "wolf" and dismissing all politicians as hacks in search of a photo-op, we will want to remember that hurricane preparations by their nature are based on probabilities and possibilities, not certainties.
We will want to remember--and to remind our readers--that it does not matter that a hurricane hasn't struck a community in forty years, or that this or that building "survived Camille" or another catastrophic storm, or that the past three or four evacuations were for naught.
Katrina's lesson for planners, politicians, and pundits alike is that we fail our constituents if we don't focus on the fact that because every hurricane is unique, every set of preparations has to be uniquely tailored to the storm at hand.
In the aftermath of Katrina, Americans learned that New Orleans' planners had no plan to find and evacuate people who couldn't fend for Verb 1. fend for - argue or speak in defense of; "She supported the motion to strike"
argue, reason - present reasons and arguments themselves. Americans also learned that over the years, Louisiana politicians ignored reams of scientific evidence that New Orleans' destruction was only a matter of time.
As for pundits, at least one editorial page editor and columnist situated a hundred fifty miles east of New Orleans learned what the ever-quotable Benjamin Franklin meant when he wrote, "Experience keeps a dear school, but fools will learn in no other."
Giving voice to an entire region's outrage
Terri Troncale, editor of the editorial page at The Times-Picayune in New Orleans, told me once that she believed she was born to be an editorial writer. A couple of weeks ago I reminded of her of that in an e-mail, saying that The Times-Picayune editorials post-Katrina were proof. She replied that the storm had caused all of her staff to write with passion. That passion infused their editorials with an authority that couldn't be ignored, from calling for the dismissal of Michael Brown Michael or Mike Brown may refer to:
1. Unrestrained by law; unruly: a lawless mob.
2. Contrary to the law; unlawful: the lawless slaughter of protected species.
3. . I think they gave voice to an entire region's outrage and influenced the national agenda, in part because the editorials also colored, prompted, and informed editorials at other newspapers. I think they were an affirmation of the role of editorials in public decision-making.
Fran Dauth, editorial page editor, The Star-Ledger, Newark, New Jersey
Frances Coleman is editorial page editor of the Mobile Register. E-mail fcoleman@ mobileregister.com