Monday, March 20, 2006

Hurricane Katrina and Cyclone Larry

Ah, the first day of spring here in the Northern Hemisphere and hurricanes are much in the news (as well as heavy snow in the American Heartland.)


When taking the long view of the long slide of the Bush administration into the toilet, a key juncture was its belated, ham-handed and hubristic response to Hurricane Katrina.

Good news has been hard to come by since then, but the New York Times reports that Donald E. Powell , who is coordinating federally-funded Gulf Coast rebuilding efforts, is winning over hearts and minds in that ravaged region and, most importantly, apparently has the president's ear. Details here.


Meanwhile, Cyclone Larry, a Force 5 hurricane as powerful as Katrina, has made landfall in the northern Queensland region of Australia, causing catastrophic damage but, as of this writing on Monday morning in the eastern U.S., has not taken a single life. The Sydney Morning Herald has the story here.

This begs the question: What do the Aussies do differently?

The Dear Friend and Conscience (DF&C) has travelled extensively in the affected area and has the answer:

* The government will not permit any construction unless it is cyclone proof, which is why many buildings and homes lost their roofs but are otherwise intact.

* The emergency response system is sophisticated and battle tested. In other words, it works.

(Hat tip to Tim Blair for the Cyclone Larry link.)


Fritz said...

To compare an 8,000 person rural town with a major US city is ludicrous. 5 times as many people were rescued after Katrina than live in Innisfail. In a Six Sigma Democratic Party Hollywood sound stage world, your comparison makes perfect sense.

Shaun Mullen said...

A more apt comparison would be Sydney and New Orleans, to be sure. But the larger points are valid no matter the populations of the respective impact areas: Queensland enforces its building code; New Orleans' code is a joke. Queensland has a disaster-evacuation plan that works; New Orleans' plan was outdated, was not widely disseminated and, as we known, was utterly deficient as regardings local-state-federal interfacing. That's not Hollywood, that's reality.

Grant Bussell said...

In most cyclones and hurricanes it's water that does the most damage, not wind. The breaking of the levees in New Orleans killed most people there. The North Queensland towns are happily above sea level.

Also please note Sydney is a considerably bigger city than NO ...

Having said that, I've no doubt that Australian emergency response would be better than what we saw in the US ... as would India's or China's no doubt ... I have my doubts about how strongly our building standards are administered though ...

Regards from Port Hedland, Western Australia ...

Anonymous said...

And let's not forget that State governments are responsible for clean-up, and that Queensland's government is on the left (at least, it's left of the Federal government, if not much else). Which means it actually recognises a level of social responsibility and care for its population.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous shows a lot of ignorance saying that Queensland's government is on the left, insinuating that the response to the cyclone was that of a caring Left-wing government. If that principle applied, I daresay that the firestorm that destroyed 500+ homes and killed 4 people in Canberra 3 years ago would not have been as devastating - as we would have had more than the 30 minutes warning that our Socialist Chief Minister gave us.
What is demonstrated by Larry is that through good leadership from Premier Beattie (unlike that of the ACT's Chief Minister Stanhope) and the coordination of a respected weather service in the Bureau of Meterology, and close coordination with the Queensland Emergency Services and Commonwealth Equivalent through funding and the Armed Forces (the Commonwealth is picking up all costs above $240K) there has been a quick and measured response to the disaster.
It also helps in having mandatory clean-up days in Cyclone-vulnerable areas to prevent the loss of assets and reduce the impact of flying debris. Maybe the same should also apply here in the populated Southeast corner in fireprone areas.

Shaun Mullen said...

From a Yank's perspective, I still find it amazing that there was not a single fatality in the wake of Cyclone Larry.

Given the focus on the political slant of certain governments, would anyone care to comment on how Mother Nature might vote in the next Queensland or national election?

Anonymous said...

Construction codes and their rigid enforcement are fundamental to best possible risk management from both a property and life preservation perspective.

Lower latitude hits of this magnitude in our part of the world are part of our future.

A communities height above sea level presents challenges yet to be successfully addressed in many parts of he globe affected by tropical storms.

Innisfail people also chose to get out of harms way, predominately because evacuation of its population presented a far easier
task for emergency personnel than that faced by the people of New Orleans.

It seems we have another one on the way with a Cat4 upgrade due within 24 hours, although present data indicates a lower latitude strike on towns bigger than Innisfail IF it makes land.

Hopefully it will swing away.....


Anonymous said...

The short term response is not affected (at least it would appear in Australia) by the political orientation of the Government.

Its part of the Australian Pysche to go in and help a mate in trouble.

As for how it would affect the next state election - it is an interesting question.

Beattie is in very serious trouble over the complete disaster that is the State Health system. The cyclone will probably provide only short term releif for his Government - his best asset in winning the next election is the dis-unity of the Opposition.