Who would have thought after Hurricane Katrina that a natural disaster could occur that cannot be blamed on President George W. Bush? Believe it or not, it just happened in Southern California. The wildfires between Malibu and the Mexican border have caused immense damage to buildings and personal tragedies of incredible magnitude have occurred. In San Diego County alone, some 500,000 people were evacuated for a few days and have slowly returned to their neighborhoods, many of which finding their homes (1,300 homes destroyed) either destroyed or standing alone amidst the rubble of burned out houses next to them. It will take a long time to bring some sense of normalcy to these communities and their residents; the rebuilding process will take even longer. Our hearts go out to all who were affected by these events, one of America’s biggest natural disasters.
Needless to say, the fires had not even burned for more than a day when the members of the media made comparisons to the events surrounding Hurricane Katrina in September 2005. However, here is what surprised them all: The local (city and county) and state officials assumed responsibility in their areas and showed leadership that astounded everybody. They assumed their respective roles as “first respondents”, worked together, coordinated their resources and got to work to confront the vast variety of problems occurring simultaneously when such disaster strikes. From Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger on down to the local elected officials at the county and city levels, the fire, sheriff’s and police departments of all communities’ demonstrated coordination of ultimate expediency. The public was kept informed through frequent news releases, joint press conferences, the local television and radio stations, reverse-911 calls, and the print media conveyed information as soon as it was available. The Governor contacted the White House and asked for and received emergency declarations as well as assistance from the Federal Government and the various governmental agencies at the President’s direction in a timely manner.
All the while, for the first three to four days, Santa Ana winds were blowing at high velocities with gusts of up to 70-80 miles per hour, fanning the fires, blowing embers for miles to start other fires in distant locations, eliminating humidity to single digits throughout the area, the word ‘fire inferno’ probably best described the situations. And as is the case, when such fires occur, it brings out the demented firebugs who then have the strong desire to start their own fires and it is assumed that several of these fires (in Orange County and near Lake Arrowhead in San Bernardino County) were started by arsonists and large rewards for their capture have been posted.
Yet, all this could not prevent the members of the media to look for placing blame somewhere. Since the mainstream media is considered overwhelmingly liberal, it did not even take hours before attempts were made to blame our President for this disaster. This encouraged Democrats to blame the Iraq War and Global Warming for this natural catastrophy. The Lieutenant Governor of California, career Democrat John Garamendi even questioned the purpose of the visit by President Bush to California on October 25 by suggesting that his visit was not necessary since the President had also made numerous trips to Louisiana and New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina and still had not fixed the problems there. This all was, of course, fodder for the media and they now started looking for laying blame in all places. To no one’s surprise, they found some. The planes, specifically the huge C134’s of the Department of Defense had not been flying in a timely manner to douse the flames with fire retardant material and reduce the size of the catastrophes. Never mind the fact that flying in those strong gusty wind was hazardous, let alone the ineffectiveness of spreading fire retardant material under these conditions. They also found some fault in the cooperation between State and Federal agencies in other areas. Some Hollywood types even thought it appropriate to suggest that maybe these houses should not have been built in the first place.
But when it came to the comparison with Hurricane Katrina which in their opinion was all the result of President Bush’s mishandling of the disaster, they, the critics had a difficult time blaming this one on the President, at least not entirely. Darn, you could see the frustration on the part of the “Anti Bush gang” but then they found solace in the fact that the two disasters were different in scope and content.
But enough of this nonsense: Let us look at the facts. This natural disaster was handled like many others in America before, the many hurricanes in Florida and neighboring states, the tornados in central states, earthquakes and fires in California etc, the major difference here compared to the disaster called Katrina was that the first respondents assumed their roles of responsibility in these disasters, the first respondents being the local and state agencies! That was not the case at all during and after Katrina, they did not do their job at all, the Mayor of New Orleans, Ray Nagin, was not heard from for several days (some people even wondered if that city had a mayor) and when he was heard from, it was all about how the Feds had not reacted in a timely fashion. That was shameful. From the Governor of Louisiana to Mayor Nagin, there was a total absence of leadership and a complete display of absolute disarray and incompetence. They were entangled in jurisdictional disputes and arguments over who should do what. All they could do is cry for help and look towards Washington D.C. And when FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) and other Federal agencies did not respond within hours, the blame game started and the entire disaster and its aftermath was layed at the feet of the President. Again, liberal media and Democrats had their whipping boy and the story continues until today and probably for years to come.
The wildfires in the San Diego area in 2003 were dealt with in a similar fashion as the current disaster: First responders first and then help from the Feds! It works all the time when properly executed and that is why the real catastrophy of Katrina and its aftermath is an abomination and should not be considered the norm or be blamed on the Federal Government. We have spent over $100 billion in tax dollars on Katrina and it’s still not enough. Nobody ever mentions the fact that entire areas in New Orleans are below sea level and are still largely uninhabitable. When Katrina, a category 4 or 5 hurricane, whipped up the waters of Lake Pontchartrain, the levies broke and flooded large areas in that city. You have to question the wisdom of previous local governments to allow home development in those areas.
We here at ‘Back to Common Sense’ firmly believe that there is no guarantee against natural disasters or any measure of prevention that can be taken by local, state or federal authorities. Changes to building codes and fire prevention rules are good but they are no defense against flying embers. Since we are a growing population in America and especially in California, we will have to deal with disasters of this type in the future. The one absolute positive result of this tragedy was to see the strength and goodness of the people of America in general, the willingness to help, to volunteer time where needed and to donate goods and money and other assistance to those who have suffered. America, it’s a great country!
This article and others on Back to Common Sense are designed to provoke further thought and investigation. It is not the intent for the articles to be politically biased. Sources are referenced in each article to encourage readers to delve into the supporting material. We welcome all readers to participate with their point of view either in support or contrary with additional information sources.