Hurricane lessons not learned?

March 13, 2009 9:11:35 AM PDT
Hurricane Ike made landfall six months ago today, but the discussion into what went wrong is still going. Some say many people did not follow the lessons learned from earlier hurricanes. [SIGN UP: Get headlines and breaking news sent to you]

In the last six months, experts have looked back at how the hurricane was handled by authorities and by those who evacuated. What they found was unsettling.

A Rice University report suggests people did not practice the lessons which some hoped had been learned from Hurricane Rita. The findings of that report were discussed at a forum last night at Rice. It concluded that only 24 percent, far fewer people, evacuated during and before Hurricane Ike than did so for Hurricane Rita. And those who did leave, researchers say, left too late.

Had Ike been a stronger hurricane, the impact on the roadways, experts believe, might have been much worse.

"The bad news was they didn't time the evacuations any better. We didn't see the congestion and the terrible tragedies we saw with Rita," said Robert Stein with Rice University. "But would we get another hurricane (category) 3 or 4, we have every reason to expect the degrees of evacuations would go back up to that level of 2 million and that's where we find we get gridlock and gridlock leads to some of the tragedies that we saw with Rita."

The report did conclude that evacuees did bring with them fewer vehicles as they fled the storm.

Today, six months after the storm is a significant day in that another FEMA mobile community will open its doors. Yesterday, it was one on Galveston Island. Today will be another on High Island. Those trailers are meant to be temporary homes for folks still rebuilding, who have nowhere else to stay, unique in that the entire communities were built by FEMA and bills, including sewer, water and electric, are paid by the federal government.

Today also is the last day that FEMA is paying for hotel and motel stays. They've been billed already for $500 million in lodging since Ike.

Problems rebuilding in Kemah?

Meanwhile, Kemah residents trying to rebuild after Ike cannot because of some city rules and figures they say don't add up. In parts of West Kemah, residents describe it as if a bomb went off. The city says anyone with 50 percent or more damage to their home cannot rebuild to current standards, but some people say their damage is far less.

Mary-Ellen Snell says the city assessed damage on things she doesn't even own. She relies on a mobile home for rent.

"The rent money was paying my note," she said. "I'm 71 and I can't run out and get a job, you know."

Residents do have a right to appeal the city's ruling. Ultimately, the city council makes the final decision.

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