September 20th, 2005 09:03 EST
Hurricane Rita enters the Gulf of Mexico
As hurricane Rita enters the Gulf of Mexico so soon after Katrina, it is important that we stay calm, and don`t exaggerate the problem.
In light of the damage caused by hurricane Katrina, hurricane Rita has a lot of people in the Houston/ Galveston area worried. Although some individuals may be wary but not overly distressed, some are considering or planning evacuations, some are getting ready to batten down the hatches and bear the storm, some don`t know what they`re going to do. Some are stocking up supplies " in some cases emptying store shelves, in a kind of bomb shelter mentality, or thinking about moving out like a hydrogen bomb is on the way. There are even preparations in development for relocating Katrina refugees from Houston, and for those moving back into New Orleans. And this was when Rita was still just a tropical storm, before it had even passed Florida. People were freaking out before the storm had even reached hurricane levels. This didn`t used to be the case. Not to this extent. Hurricanes heading toward the Texas coast generally don`t warrant or inspire thoughts of a mass exodus, at least not in Houston. Usually most people wait it out, and leave only if the situation appears too dangerous. But not now. Where is everyone supposed to go in an evacuation of Houston, anyway?
But, while caution and precautions are advisable, let`s be careful to not over-react and blow this out of proportion, and make matters (seem) worse than they really are, or may yet be. Fear always amplifies and magnifies a problem to appear bigger and worse than it really is or will be. It is important, particularly in a crisis, to remain calm and collected " and not jump to fearful conclusions.
Let`s keep in mind that this hurricane Rita isn`t, by all known indications, going to be another Katrina.
First of all, Rita is expected to be a category 3 storm. No, wait, suddenly it`s at level 4. Katrina was category 5. The experts are not sure what this hurricane is going to do or exactly where it`s going to hit land. Why not wait and see before you make a plan?
Second, Houston and Galveston have been barraged by a category 3 storm with hurricane Alicia in 1983; Houston and Galveston were not destroyed and made essentially unlivable or unsalvageable like New Orleans was; neither were any of the nearby areas. Yes, there was varying degrees of wind damage and flooding from Alicia, but not near the extent of devastation brought by Katrina. In 1980, hurricane Allen " a category 5 " hit the southern Texas coast, and the cities of that region, such as Brownsville, which is beside the Rio Grande AND the Gulf, were and are still standing and habitable. Furthermore, the east coast of the United States has witnessed and weathered a great many hurricanes in its history " including category 3, 4, and 5. And amazingly the coastline is not a barren wasteland of storm wreckage. The Gulf of Mexico has long been a target of hurricanes, and yet people continue to live there. Indeed, hurricanes are a normal and regular occurrence in Florida, and that state consistently gets through it and over it.
Third, Houston and Galveston are not New Orleans. Much of the damage of Katrina was collateral, a side effect of flooding and poor infrastructure planning in New Orleans. By comparison, other cities in the path of Katrina are relatively undamaged and recovering, or have recovered within a month`s time. Houston is physically, logistically and mentally better prepared to endure and recover from this kind of storm, and manage damage control. Especially in the wake of Katrina, the first appearance of Rita initiated plans to deal with a hurricane along the Texas coast.
There is truth in an old proverb, which says, "The wind does not respect a fool".
It does us no good to ignore the obviously potential dangers of a hurricane. Nor does it do us any good to panic about it.
Yes, there is a storm front coming. Yes, there will undoubtedly be some destruction of property and real estate. Yes, it will be hazardous to be outside.
However, it will not be an Armageddon, the likes of which New Orleans experienced.
So perhaps it is best to approach the coming storm as it actually is and not as we imagine it to be. Walk, do not run, to the nearest exit--- if necessary.