Gustav provided a successful response to hurricanes
Hurricane Gustav caused less damage than feared as it was downgraded and came ashore west of New Orleans.
Hurricane Gustav hammered the Gulf Coast with heavy rain and forceful winds, but the region was relieved of the level of devastation that struck New Orleans three years ago. The storm resulted in a successful test run of preparedness that was largely absent during Katrina and was a reminder that Hawaii is far from immune from the ravage of hurricanes.
Gustav was downgraded as it struck the coast about 70 miles southwest of New Orleans, but another storm, Hanna, gained strength yesterday to hurricane force as it struck the Bahamas and aimed at the southeastern coast.
Iniki, which struck Kauai on Sept. 11, 1992, and Katrina were Category 4 hurricanes, with winds of about 140 mph when they hit land. Iniki caused about $3 billion in damage and caused two fatalities, while Katrina caused more than $82 billion in damage and recorded a death toll of more than 1,800. Gustav had weakened from Category 3 to 1 by the time it came ashore.
Nearly two million people from the Gulf Coast stretching from Alabama to Texas fled inland in compliance with evacuation orders as Katrina approached. The orderly evacuation was a huge improvement from the bedlam that preceded Katrina.
Hawaii is better prepared for a hurricane than it was when Iniki struck Kauai. Building standards now require double-wall construction and ground-to-roof metal ties for new and extensively rebuilt homes. It will be safer when National Guard members who helped respond to Iniki stop being deployed to the Middle East.
Forecasters predicted three to four tropical storm systems in the Central Pacific in the hurricane season, which runs from June through November. That is slightly below average but that crystal ball is less than fully reliable.
As a safeguard, a hurricane emergency plan should constitute a time and place for family members to meet, evacuation routes to higher ground and shelter locations, in addition to money, food and health-related items good for a week. Families also should have plans for their pets, including a carrier or kennel, a collar and leash, pet medications and identification and vaccination documents.
The bureaucratic debacle in dealing with Katrina prompted creation of a nationwide system for drawing clear lines of authority and coordination among federal, state and county officials. That should result in Hawaii and all other coastal states in avoiding the flawed command system during Katrina.
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