Sunday, March 19, 2006
for the big one
SC Statehouse Report
NEW ORLEANS, March 19, 2006 - -In this city dubbed "The
Big Easy," life still isn't easy for a lot of folks.
months after Hurricane Katrina and the waters that flooded
first floors after levees broke across the city, the scene
Hundreds of houses sit empty, still filled with the grime
of the storm. Piles of debris line street after street. Microscopic
particles of dust and who-knows-what cause your nose and eyes
to burn. "For sale" signs dot the front yards of
houses you wonder whether anyone would ever buy.
Neither newspaper photographs nor pictures from television
can prepare you for the block after block, mile after mile
of destruction. In 1989 when Hurricane Hugo hit South Carolina,
the village of McClellanville had homes knocked off foundations
and flooded with water from a storm surge. To get an idea
of how the storm slammed into New Orleans and the Mississippi
coast, you'd have to multiply what happened in McClellanville
by 10,000, or maybe 50,000.
Simply put, the magnitude of what happened along the Gulf
Coast is too big to comprehend.
ESSAY. If you'd like to see a photo essay
of the devastation in New Orleans and Mississippi, click
In parts of the city not savaged by flood waters, it's not
uncommon to see blue tarps covering roofs or FEMA trailers
in front yards as people try to put their lives back together.
But next door to one pitiful scene may be another house where
all looks fine and people seem to be living normal lives again.
In fact despite the destruction that litters segments of
the city, New Orleans seems to be percolating. Even though
some traffic signals still don't work, there's morning commuter
congestion. Stores and national chains along Veterans Highway
are packed. Students run around playing outside a school at
the end of the day. Partying is back to normal in the French
Quarter, which missed flooding.
After wandering around for a couple of days looking at what's
happened and happening here, you wonder, "Is South Carolina
ready for a catastrophe of this magnitude?"
The answer, it seems, is we're as ready as we can be, according
to state and local officials.
"No state can truly be ready for a disaster of the magnitude
of Hurricane Katrina," said Ron Osborne, a retired Air
Force lieutenant colonel who directs the state's Emergency
Since Hugo's scar from the Lowcountry across the state toward
Charlotte, emergency management officials have been preparing
for the big one. They say they believe their plans for evacuation
and recovery are about as good as possible for the infrastructure
"I believe that South Carolina is ahead of the curve
in emergency planning, and that we are as prepared as our
current level of funding allows," Osborne said.
The state's portion of the department's emergency management
budget is $922,999 in the current fiscal year. Four years
ago, it was $1.3 million. In Charleston County, the story
is similar. The current budget is $240,415 to pay for operations
and three employees. Four years ago, it was $251,320, which
paid for operations and four employees.
Cathy Haynes, director of the Charleston County Emergency
Preparedness Division, said, "I don't think anybody could
be ready totally 100 percent for a catastrophe event like
Katrina, but we are working toward improving our readiness."
She said the county and state learned a lot of lessons from
Hugo and the storms since. Evacuation plans are ready and
fine-tuned. They're working on more plans to move people without
transportation further inland if ever necessary.
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Steve Fields, deputy director of the Beaufort County Emergency
Management Division, says the county is as ready as it can
be for any recovery efforts following a big storm.
"But it is still unknown," he added, "because
in modern times, we haven't taken a devastating hit such as
Fields and Haynes agreed in separate interviews that while
government can get ready for evacuation and leading recovery
efforts, citizens can make sure they're prepared for the big
"The biggest thing that will help with evacuation and
recovery is people being self-reliant - - not depending on
the government doing everything for them," Fields said.
The hurricane season opens June 1. Forecasters say the coming
season may be tougher than the past two.
Another great cartoon from Bill McLemore:
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a connection, Butch
Robbins, Hilton Head Island, SC
- 2/24: Block the
sale of national forest land, Elizabeth Bailey, Darlington
Here's a "thumbs up" and "thumbs down" related to various
political news items from the past week:
Round ball: Three-pointers, or treys, are awarded to
the Winthrop University Eagles for being the only college
in the state to get into the NCAA major college basketball
tournament. They lost by only two points to a more highly
ranked team, Tennessee. Slam dunks go to the University of
South Carolina and Clemson University for being invited to
the National Invitation Tournament and winning their opening
games in good fashion.
Environment: Tip of the St. Patrick's Day green hat
to two legislators, Rep. Billy Witherspoon, R-Conway, and
Sen. Phil Leventis, D-Sumter, for their interests in cleaning
up the environment. Witherspoon has led the charge to assuring
mercury switches, such as in car trunks for lighting, are
not left to pollute the ground, and Leventis wants to impose
$6 to $10 fees on computers and television sets to fund an
Electronic Waste Recovery and Recycling Fund to recycle pollutants
from the electronics.
School starts: Sen. Leventis won't get our vote on
his latest effort to stop streamroller legislation, this one
on establishing a statewide school start day, the third Monday
in August. While supporters believe the later start for some
school districts would give more vacation time to families,
Leventis argues for home rule so that local school boards
could set start dates as they do now. York, for instance,
plans to start on Aug. 9 this fall. He's thoughtful about
such issues that seem overwhelming, such as his unsuccessful
effort to derail billboard legislation this year, but the
families who want the later school start win this latest debate.
No hogging, no clucking: A Senate committee has sent
a so-called "right to farm" bill to the full Senate,
and that spells trouble for counties that already have tougher
zoning or regulations than the state dictates on such enterprises
as hog farms and poultry farms. The bill would deny local
communities tougher restrictions on buffer zones and the like.
Sen. Brad Hutto, D-Orangeburg, a supporter of the bill, ought
to have to live only as far from smelly agricultural farming
as the state allows.
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