Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Obstacles, Hindrances or both?

I turned the idiot box off after ten minutes of watching the same scene being replayed on the major networks: Fox, PMSNBC, ViacomCBS and DisneyABC. They were all showing the same thing: a split screen with running commentary of a Coast Guard helicopter lifting a couple of black people from rooftops.

This scene is being augmented by the politicos from various towns, notably New Orleans and Gulfport telling the viewing public how bad it is at this moment. And yet, as these officials predict gloom, they are still telling the press, they still intend to round up the hopeless and offer them help.

What utter nonsense!

The city-ship is sinking and yet they are taking on more passengers; and the laughable part of this, is the people are willingly climbing aboard this sinking ship.

And it is with this background that I make the following prediction: The people of New Orleans will be partying within three days. I got skewered for that comment. A woman went off on me for about five minutes before angrily storming off with a cup of coffee.

But how could I make such a light hearted prediction about New Orleans?

Well, for one thing, three days is about all the stress some people can take and secondly, many more roads will be passable by then. Hence, the need to let off steam but in case people should forget, let me remind them of a couple of things.

Hurricanes have been hitting that part of the Americas for a few more years than there has been a country called the United States of America. In fact, should the USA cease to exists tomorrow, the chances are that a major hurricane will hit that region of the world before this year is over and most definetely by next September.

So, what is the problem?

The problem is that the people living in these regions have come to rely on the state as their protector and not themselves. They have done this, especially in their building codes to such an extent that domestic structures cannot withstand Cat-5 winds. They have build their houses to maximize the benefit of air conditioning to the benefit of everything else.

A house, as it is going through a hurricane is NOT MEANT TO BE a rigid structure but rather, the house is suppose to sway with the wind. In other words, the structure is to be as flimsy as possible but yet strong enough to withstand high gale force winds. And that can be done by utilizing a piece of their buildings that they have been relegated to ornamental: SHUTTERS!

When closed over glass windows, and then the glass windows are opened during hurricanes, SHUTTERS permit the wind to pass through a house and equalize the pressure inside with that on the outside. If the pressure is the same, the chance of the roof blowing off is severly minimized. If the roof stays, then the rest of the house probably will.

I saw that fact by looking at almost all the houses that were blown apart on television, and yet, no one mentioned this simple fact given the numerous experts babbling on the boob tube.

I grew in the Caribbean: Barbados to be exact, where we learn building codes the old fashion way.

By trial and error!

My family have survived a couple of hurricanes quite well without state aid.

Another saving fact of shutters is this: they reverse the air flow within the house when the winds reverse direction in a hurricane.

Roofs should also be made of one piece corrugated galvanized and not tiles but with that is not that big of a deal given most roofs have a plywood type sub roof.

But the biggest obstacle to the people recovering are their masters. The cities and states are hindering supplies from getting through because of such things as price gouging: that is, merchants HAVE to sell their goods at regular price even though there is an emergency.

Should WalMart, Shell, Texaco or Chevron be allowed to raise their prices to meet the demand?


People would bring in goods to meet the needs. The first buyers would pay a premium but the selling price would fall with demand. Life would return to normal much more quickly because people would know where to get stuff from. Extra benefit would be less looting.

Contrast these two ideas with the present. The president, govenors and mayors are all sootsaying the people of the gulf states with promises of the good life returning BUT after weeks of testing bridges, rebuilding dams or restoring the water supply. In other words: the people can only return home when we tell you.

So good people of New Orleans and Gulfport: go back to using shutters on your houses and stop depending on the national guard for rescue. Keep a small boat in your backyard or something but do not depend on that bright orange helicopter.

You might drown waiting your turn...


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