Hurricanes Katrina & Rita: Fires?

After having been glued to the TV for the last few weeks watching news coverage about Hurricane Katrina, and now started to catch coverage on Rita's landfall, I've gotta wonder where all these fires are coming from. How is it that when people evacuate, things start burning? It's like the presence of a warm human body keeps the flames out. I'm sure there's a law of thermodynamics that can explain this.

Good luck with Round 2, Louisiana. Good luck with Round 1, Texas.

News: Michael Brown Removed from Role in Managing Katrina Relief

News sites are reporting all over that Michael Brown has been relieved in his role of managing Hurricane Katrina relief efforts. In my opinion, this is a good first step.

But, I do have to ask — what's the value in having the head of FEMA not working on the major disaster at-hand? FNC is reporting that he will still be the head of FEMA.

Update: Chertoff says in press conference that Michael Brown “did everything he could do” — had we had someone with stronger background in emergency management and disaster response, I think we could've had someone who could have, and more importantly, would have, done a lot more.

FEMA Director Strikes Again

According to this article at MSNBC, Michael Brown (who I wrote about the other day) waited for FIVE HOURS after Hurricane Katrina slammed into the Louisiana coast before writing a memo to DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff. Five hours to request 1,000 workers to arrive; and he gave them two days to get there.

From the MSNBC article (emphasis mine):

Michael Brown, director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, sought the approval from Homeland Security Secretary Mike Chertoff roughly five hours after Katrina made landfall on Aug. 29. Brown said that among duties of these employees was to “convey a positive image” about the government's response for victims.

Brown's memo to Chertoff described Katrina as “this near catastrophic event” but otherwise lacked any urgent language. The memo politely ended, “Thank you for your consideration in helping us to meet our responsibilities.”

… Brown's memo told employees that among their duties, they would be expected to “convey a positive image of disaster operations to government officials, community organizations and the general public.”

“FEMA response and recovery operations are a top priority of the department and as we know, one of yours,” Brown wrote Chertoff. He proposed sending 1,000 Homeland Security Department employees within 48 hours and 2,000 within seven days.

… The same day Brown wrote Chertoff, Brown also urged local fire and rescue departments outside Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi not to send trucks or emergency workers into disaster areas without an explicit request for help from state or local governments. Brown said it was vital to coordinate fire and rescue efforts.

This guy has got to go.

Countdown

Today, Keith Olbermann of Countdown had a great little editorial piece about the way the Bush administration has handled the unfurling crisis in New Orleans. The full editorial can be viewed here.

… But now, at least, it is has stopped getting exponentially worse in Mississippi and Alabama and New Orleans and Louisiana (the state, not the city). And, having given our leaders what we know now is the week or so they need to get their act together, that period of editorial silence I mentioned, should come to an end.

No one is suggesting that mayors or governors in the afflicted areas, nor the federal government, should be able to stop hurricanes. Lord knows, no one is suggesting that we should ever prioritize levee improvement for a below-sea-level city, ahead of $454 million worth of trophy bridges for the politicians of Alaska.

… And most chillingly of all, this is the Law and Order and Terror government. It promised protection — or at least amelioration — against all threats: conventional, radiological, or biological.

It has just proved that it cannot save its citizens from a biological weapon called standing water.

Definitely worth 10 minutes of your time to read.

Update: Video of Keith's editorial here