Saturday, September 03, 2005

Recovering From Katrina

Contrary to the Moonbat whines, the Feds have done a good job responding to Katrina. Its effects were very similar to the devastating area bombing of WW2 and the US has improvised a response that Brits and Germans took years to learn.

The Germans began their bombing of the UK with accurate daylight attacks on radar stations, airfields and munitions factories. After having the crap beaten out of them by the RAF they shifted to safer night time bombing of civilians, in London and industrial cities such as Coventry.

The best Brit mathematicians analyzed these German raids, and came to surprising conclusions. Provided the power, water, gas and road infrastructure was reasonably intact, a virtually destroyed plant was usually brought back on line within a week.

But if the bombers also destroyed infrastructure and workers' homes, as in Coventry, plants were out of commission for many months, as people searched for their families and the power and transportation grid was painfully rebuilt.

So was invented the science of Operations Research which guided the Brit area bombing campaign against Germany. It killed almost half a million civilians.

Katrina worked like a huge area bombing raid. An area almost the size of England has lost power, phones, telecoms (including cellphones), food supplies, gasoline, clean water and essential railroads & highways. Tens of thousands of families are dispersed and essential workers are prioritizing their kin over their civic duties.

The Germans learned that to recover from area bombing you need to hold specialized recovery teams outside target areas. These self-contained units (with their own equipment, water, power and weapons) went in post-attack to fix the "bottleneck" problems and enable the progressive rebuilding the infrastructure from the outside in. Len Deighton's book Bomber has a good fictionalized account.

Five days after the disaster, the US has proved to be a quick learner. Army Corps of Engineers teams have I believe repaired one of the two NO levee breaches and are working on the second. The army is deployed to stop looting and conducting an orderly evacuation.

The initial failures are mostly due the US Federal system. The effected states -Louisiana and Mississippi - have more autonomy within the US than, say the UK has within the EU. Unfortunately, the management of the States and the towns within them has been poor - not surprising since pols aren't elected for their disaster-management skills (Giuliani was the exception that proves the rule).
So I'm looking for the Feds to appoint of a top-rank disaster manager. He or she will move the locals aside and send in teams to quickly patch the transportation and telecoms infrastructure, enabling the big reconstruction crews to get moving.

My guess, based on the WW2 recoveries and experiences of other US disasters, is that the economic impact will be much less than the pessimists expect. For the sake of the suffering people, I hope so. Plus it would be good to burn the folks shorting the $...