It’s still galling to remember how the George Bush-hating media and American Left used the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina seven years ago to club him over the head.
No one had to tell us how destructive it was, slamming with full force into the Crescent City Below Sea Level and taking over 1800 lives along the Gulf Coast and elsewhere as the storm raged inland.
Mr. Bush was following the law waiting for what turned out to be dawdling incompetents to ask for federal assistance as Katrina howled toward the coast. He eventually took control of the evacuation and relief efforts, alas too late to help thousands of people in the storm’s path.
Yet he was castigated, as was the oversight by the federal relief agency FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency). The late reaction was turned into a political billy club and effectively obscured from public view the timidity of local politicians and bureaucrats who had primary responsibility for the safety of their citizens.
So, if anything good can be said to come from the Katrina disaster, it’s the role of FEMA. Never again, it seems, will the federal relief agency be caught standing around when disasters hit.
Witness events here in the wake of Tropical Storm Debby.
Less than a week after she doused the county with between 14-17 inches of rain over a three-day period, Baker and other area counties were declared disaster areas, paving the way for relief efforts.
Federal, state and local governments were in on initial assessments to make that determination, and FEMA is now spearheading the application process to apply for relief money. The Small Business Administration is in on the act as well, offering low interest loans to fill in gaps that outright grants can’t fill.
Around Macclenny, where FEMA set up a temporary office across from a northside church, it’s hard not to notice its presence. Lighted and posted signs point to the office on North 7th St.
There you’ll find a covered waiting area outside (with a portable bathroom nearby!), a cordoned parking lot, a security guard posted outside, signs directing you around — all highly organized.
Inside the office are FEMA people from around the southern district, who will remain as long as applicants show up and applications need processing.
Never mind that the money they’re giving out and the expense of setting up in counties like Baker is more than likely coming from the Chinese, you can’t say FEMA isn’t on the ball.
One hopes that the disaster relief industry has refined its rules to the extent that government money is not used to rebuild or replace structures in areas vulnerable to the same destructive forces the next time a deluge like Debby descends upon us.
It’s said that recent flooding exceeded the time-honored “100-year mark” to more like the “500-year mark” and it’s unlikely we’ll see anything like it in our lifetimes. That is, until it happens again in 2017.
Local taxpayers can take heart that FEMA will likely be heavily involved in reimbursing cash-strapped local governments for road and bridge repairs and, in the case of the City of Macclenny, for repair of a sewer “blow-out” off South 6th St.
So we can safely say the much-maligned FEMA of the Katrina era has re-invented itself — for the better.