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Wednesday, August 31, 2005

KATRINA:Bloggers Swarm to Organize Many Assistance Efforts; Hotline Notes "Official Washington" Slow to Grasp Magnitude

The shock of Hurricane Katrina is clearing, the enormity of the disaster in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama is evident and the American people are starting to demonstrate yet again how resourceful, compassionate and determined we are.

The announcement of the Astrodome in Houston as a shelter for New Orleans victims is getting headlines this afternoon but people and private organizations in every corner of the nation are stepping up to provide help in a myriad of ways. As we saw with the Southeast Asia tsunami last December, bloggers were among the first to step up.

Even before Katrina struck, Michelle Malkin - who has led the Blogosphere in gathering vital storm links - posted on the idea of fellow blogger Bill Hennessey of a network of homes opened to storm victims, which is now a reality. Also check out his Katrinia help wiki here and his blog reports on corporate aid here. More tracking of the private sector response here.

Similarly, even as the storm continued to rage, Samaritan's Purse - which has long been my favored charity - was loading up trucks and organizing legions of volunteers to go to the disaster areas. The Southern Baptist Convention has 15 state units either on site now or on the way with food and other assistance. Catholic Charities has swung into action.

Perhaps the most striking examples of bloggers moving in the Katrina aid effort are Hugh Hewitt, Glenn Reynolds and N.Z. Bear. Hewitt suggested a blog bleg, Reynolds said let's do it Sept. 1 and Bear put together a blog directory of bleggers and their favored charities.

The list just goes on and on and on. The incredible way the Blogosphere is able to identify, organize and concentrate aid resources - applying the wisdom of crowds - is a management model for everybody in government, business, the academic world and the non-profit community.


For those who think I was unnecessarily critical of Bush yesterday, this post from the Hotline -which is among the most widely read media in Washington, D.C. - is indicative of conversations taking place all over town for several days:

"Anyone else get the feeling that we here in official Washington haven't quite grasped the seriousness of what's happening in LA and MS?
"This is not a criticism of any one person or one agency. It's meant as a wakeup call to all of us. This could very well be the biggest natural disaster in this country's history; an entire city in ruins.
"If this happened in Washington, you wouldn't be reading this. There would be no electricity; there would be no light; there would be no phones (even cell service would be nearly non-existent); your Blackberries would get no email; there'd be no subway; there'd be no newspaper delivered or available; you couldn't reach your friends; your office wouldn't exist or you couldn't get to it; your home would be gone; there'd be no schools to send your kids to; the graves of your family would be washed away; electrocuted family pets; snakes and other scary creatures everywere; and you'd have to move somewhere for at least 3 months.
"And this is what life is like for those with means in New Orleans. MS is the 3rd poorest state in the union, according to a Census report released yesterday."

Yes, emergency declarations were issued before Katrina's full fury was felt and federal agencies led by FEMA were preparing to move in advance of the storm's landfall. But it has seemed Washington has been about 48 hours behind the curve in grasping the magnitude of the storm and the even more serious consequences for several million Americans.

Given the rarity of a Category Four or Five hurricane, it is understandable that people are slow to understand just how extensive the damages and casualties can be. But now we know and because there will be more Katrinas - natural and manmade - in the future, we need to acknowledge this reality and take appropriate measures to prevent its recurrence.


Dallas Reunion Arena also accepting evacuees, though a spokesman there declined to say how many would be involved. A local source tells me it could be up to 10,000 people. The Arena is part of the Dallas Convention Center. Also in Dallas, EDS has established a matching fund for its employees, who are offered a choice between contributing to Red Cross or Second Harvest.

And a small bit of good news - the Houston Chronicle reports oil companies are assessing damage to off-shore rigs and finding less damage than expected. And the same paper reports on Houstonians opening their homes.

The New Orleans Times-Picayune will undoubtedly win a Pulitzer for its performance in these past few days. And the daily will certainly have a wealth of first-person stories of rescue, tragedy, terror and perseverance as a result of this.

Did you know the overall intensity of hurricanes has actually declined in recent decades? James Glassman of TechCentralStation.com has the details.
HT: Instapundit