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Even with head start, Houston had a problem
Waterbury Republican-American ^ | September 24, 2005 | Erin McClam (A.P.)

Posted on 09/24/2005 1:13:44 PM PDT by Graybeard58

Texas officials sketched a staggered, orderly evacuation plan for Hurricane Rita and urged people to get out days ahead of time.

But tangles still arrived even before the storm's first bands. Panicked drivers ran out of gas, a spectacular, deadly bus fire clogged traffic, and freeways were red rivers of taillights that stretched to the horizon.

In an age of terrorist danger and with memories of the nightmare in New Orleans still fresh, the Texas exodus raises a troubling question: Can any American city empty itself safely and quickly?

Thousands of drivers remained stranded Friday to the north and west of Houston. Many were stuck in extreme heat, out of gas -- as gas trucks, rumored to be on the way, or at least buses to evacuate motorists, never came.

They were frustrated, angry and growing desperate, scattered and stranded across a broad swath of the state as the monster storm bore down.

Houston is a landlocked city, an hour's drive from the Gulf of Mexico. Besides Houston's 4 million people fleeing, as many as 2 million were trying to get out through Houston from the coastal side.

In Galveston County along the Gulf, authorities set up three evacuation zones, beginning Wednesday evening and staggered at eight-hour intervals, with the most outlying areas to be the first to leave. But people in all three zones left early anyway, further snarling traffic.

From Houston, the main roads out of town -- Interstate 10 to San Antonio, I-45 to Dallas, and U.S. Highway 290 to Austin -- were turned into one-way thoroughfares only Thursday, and even then the one-way flow began well outside Houston.

"There were some weaknesses," Texas Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, a Democrat, acknowledged to KTRK-TV on Friday. "We could have fixed some of the elements ... a fuel truck that works, a mechanical system that works, and opening the contraflow," the term emergency officials use for routing all lanes in one direction.

Later in the day, Jackson Lee told The Associated Press the state should have asked the Federal Emergency Management Agency for supplies. "I'm marching people all over looking for gasoline," she said.

Republican Texas Gov. Rick Perry said Friday decision to order one-way flow came after the storm, originally on a track south of Houston, changed course and headed toward Houston instead.

"It's not perfect," he said. "I wish I could wave a magic wand and somehow transport people magically from Houston, Texas, to Dallas or other points, but that's not the fact when you have the type of congestion that you see in the state of Texas on a daily basis."

He added: "I think when you look behind later, it will be almost miraculous that this many people were moved out of harm's way."

State emergency management coordinator Jack Colley said 2.5 million to 2.7 million Texans had already been moved out of harm's way, and the governor said 25 buses would canvass Beaumont, looking for people still trying to get out.

By midday Friday, lanes were restored to normal traffic. Still, many remained stranded beyond Houston's suburbs.

Before the late 1990s, emergency management officials were in charge of evacuations, and transportation engineers had little interest.

But those engineers have devoted great energy to the problem since Hurricane Georges forced an evacuation of New Orleans in 1998, and Hurricane Floyd an evacuation of the Carolinas in 1999.

Rita and her hellish predecessor, Katrina, come in the new age of terror, as authorities try to draw up plans for clearing out cities in the event of deadly strikes with unconventional weapons.

Still, experts say the massive coastal zone that needs to be cleared of people before a major hurricane is far larger than the area to be evacuated after an industrial accident or a terror attack.

In the event of a nuclear accident, federal rules require the evacuation of a 10-mile radius around the plant. After a so-called "dirty bomb" nuclear detonation or the release of chemical or biological weapons, only the region immediately downwind of the release point would have to be cleared.

"Natural disasters just dwarf anything that's manmade," said Reuben B. Goldblatt, a partner at traffic engineering firm KLD Associates in Commack, N.Y.

Brian Wolshon, a professor of civil engineering at Louisiana State University, said Texas officials "will probably see there were things they could have done better."

But he added: "It's not economically or environmentally feasible to build enough roads to evacuate a city the size of Houston in a short time and with no congestion. It's just not going to happen."

It was a point all too clear to Bruce French, who left his home in Clear Lake, Texas, early Thursday, and ran out of gas just past Conroe, far short of his destination of Dallas. On Friday morning, he was stranded, waiting for fuel.

"They're giving $10 worth of gas if you're on empty and $5 if you have some," he said. "That's not going to get you very far."

-- -- --

EDITOR'S NOTE -- Associated Press writers Kristen Hays in Houston, Liz Austin in Austin and Suzanne Gamboa in Washington, National Writer Matt Crenson in New York and photographer Paul Sancya contributed to this story.


TOPICS: Extended News; News/Current Events; US: Texas
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1 posted on 09/24/2005 1:13:44 PM PDT by Graybeard58
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To: Graybeard58
"Can any American city empty itself safely and quickly?"

No.

2 posted on 09/24/2005 1:15:29 PM PDT by Bob Mc
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To: Graybeard58
I have taken 12 hours to drive from Houston to Dallas many times on the Thanksgiving holiday. This evacuation was remarkable and it will now be spun into a crisis that has to be fixed.
3 posted on 09/24/2005 1:17:38 PM PDT by Texasforever
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To: Texasforever

I hate the media!!!


4 posted on 09/24/2005 1:20:03 PM PDT by patriciamary
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To: Graybeard58

Obviously, we need to install a vacuum-tube system like at banks to "chute" entire families out of town. Just drop the tube in the slot, hit "send," and chute yourself to the city of your choice.


5 posted on 09/24/2005 1:20:37 PM PDT by Larry Lucido
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To: Graybeard58

Considering this is the biggest evacuation ever attempted in US history, we didn't do too bad.


6 posted on 09/24/2005 1:21:08 PM PDT by Paleo Conservative (France is an example of retrograde chordate evolution.)
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To: Graybeard58
In Galveston County along the Gulf, authorities set up three evacuation zones, beginning Wednesday evening and staggered at eight-hour intervals, with the most outlying areas to be the first to leave. But people in all three zones left early anyway, further snarling traffic.

Not one word about this from the lame stream media. They want to be able to blame the traffic jams on Texas officials. Won't do for the public to start seeing the difference in Texas and LA. They just have to find something to make Texas look bad. One info babe asked an official in Beaumont this morning how many looters did they have. He said none. No looters. She looked absolutely shocked. Instead of asking him IF they had any looters, she asks how many looters they had. I despise the media.

7 posted on 09/24/2005 1:22:34 PM PDT by beckysueb (God bless America and President Bush.)
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To: Graybeard58

Pittsburgh could empty itself pretty quickly, unless the evacuation was on a weekend. They usually close some of the inbound and outbound parkway lanes for paving. Honestly, unless you own a hovercraft, no one is leaving Pittsburgh in an orderly or timely fashion.


8 posted on 09/24/2005 1:26:23 PM PDT by WV Mountain Mama (You should post without reading once a day. If my post makes no sense, I am filling my quota.)
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To: Graybeard58

It only took me six hours to get from League City to Austin.

Of course I left before noon on Wednesday. My employer reseased folks at noon., but if you hit the road promptly, you still would have beat the crush out of the evacuation areas.

The problem was made worse by nimrods in safe areas of Houston (Katy, Cypress, the Heights, the Woodlands, etc) that decided to leave for Dallas or Austin. Once you are fifty or so miles inland you are just as safe staying at home (assuming you do not live in a mobile home) as you are in Dallas or Austin. A tornado is just as likely to take the roof off the evacuation center you are in as off your house.


9 posted on 09/24/2005 1:26:26 PM PDT by No Truce With Kings (The opinions expressed are mine! Mine! MINE! All Mine!)
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To: Texasforever
I had to evacuate New Orleans ahead of Katrina and it took 15 hours to get from New Orleans to Austin. During Rita it took friends of mine 20 hours to get from Houston to Austin.
10 posted on 09/24/2005 1:26:45 PM PDT by IronMan04
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To: Graybeard58
I give the fine people of the Great State of Texas two thumbs up! Their kindness towards the LA people after Katrina will never be forgotten. IMO: The evacuation ran like clockwork as compared to the bumbling Gov. Blanco & the inept Mayor of NOLA ! No buracracy is perfect , however this was a wide scale evacuation, they saved many lives.
11 posted on 09/24/2005 1:27:04 PM PDT by alice_in_bubbaland
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To: Bob Mc
"Can any American city empty itself safely and quickly?" No.

Agree. One can imagine what it would be like with no warning if several radition (dirty) bombs were set off in Houston.

There would be no "getting out" period.

12 posted on 09/24/2005 1:27:42 PM PDT by Black Tooth (The more people I meet, the more I like my dog.)
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To: alice_in_bubbaland
I give the fine people of the Great State of Texas two thumbs up! Their kindness towards the LA people after Katrina will never be forgotten. IMO: The evacuation ran like clockwork as compared to the bumbling Gov. Blanco & the inept Mayor of NOLA ! No buracracy is perfect , however this was a wide scale evacuation, they saved many lives.

Amen! God bless Texas!

13 posted on 09/24/2005 1:28:29 PM PDT by beckysueb (God bless America and President Bush.)
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To: No Truce With Kings
The problem was made worse by nimrods in safe areas of Houston (Katy, Cypress, the Heights, the Woodlands, etc) that decided to leave for Dallas or Austin.

You are correct. I think many people high inland parts of Houston suffered form Hurricane Envy.

14 posted on 09/24/2005 1:29:29 PM PDT by IronMan04
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To: Graybeard58
This is why I think the Federal government should provide everyone with their own personal jetpack.


15 posted on 09/24/2005 1:30:23 PM PDT by frankjr
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To: beckysueb

How was the Evacuation of Houston better than that of New Orleans?


16 posted on 09/24/2005 1:30:38 PM PDT by IronMan04
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To: beckysueb

I do not think taking 24 hours to drive from Houston to Austin is clockwork.


17 posted on 09/24/2005 1:31:33 PM PDT by IronMan04
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To: IronMan04
How was the Evacuation of Houston better than that of New Orleans?

Well, because Houston was actually evacuated?

18 posted on 09/24/2005 1:32:41 PM PDT by beckysueb (God bless America and President Bush.)
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To: frankjr

LOL! I want to see Jesse in his Jetpack! Maybe he'll hit the wrong switch and be shot into a different galaxy.


19 posted on 09/24/2005 1:34:22 PM PDT by livius
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To: IronMan04
I do not think taking 24 hours to drive from Houston to Austin is clockwork.

No dissrespect intended but what do you expect when nearly 3 million people try to leave at the same time? You're not going to get me to criticize Texas. LOL

20 posted on 09/24/2005 1:35:38 PM PDT by beckysueb (God bless America and President Bush.)
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To: Black Tooth

"One can imagine what it would be like with no warning if several radition (dirty) bombs were set off in Houston."

No need to evacuate entire city for one (or several) dirty bombs.

http://64.233.167.104/search?q=cache:DuYKSapzK-gJ:www.fas.org/faspir/2002/v55n2/dirtybomb.htm+nuclear+dirty+bomb+effective+area&hl=en

"Imagine that the cesium in this device was exploded in Washington, DC in a bomb using ten pounds of TNT. The initial passing of the radioactive cloud would be relatively harmless, and no one would have to evacuate immediately. However, residents of an area of about five city blocks, if they remained, would have a one-in-a-thousand chance of getting cancer."


21 posted on 09/24/2005 1:35:49 PM PDT by frankjr
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To: Texasforever

It took us 12 hours to drive from Houston to New Orleans 3 years ago, a normal 6 hour trip. It was road construction combined with regular Fri afternoon traffic.


22 posted on 09/24/2005 1:35:57 PM PDT by Ditter
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To: frankjr
"Imagine that the cesium in this device was exploded in Washington, DC in a bomb using ten pounds of TNT. The initial passing of the radioactive cloud would be relatively harmless, and no one would have to evacuate immediately. However, residents of an area of about five city blocks, if they remained, would have a one-in-a-thousand chance of getting cancer."

Really? I never knew this. Can you imagine the hysteria of the media, though? These facts would totally be lost in their hype.

23 posted on 09/24/2005 1:38:18 PM PDT by beckysueb (God bless America and President Bush.)
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To: Bob Mc

One of my neighbors left early Thursday from Houston, for refuge with family in Memphis. They made it there in reasonable time and had no gas troubles... simply by staying OFF the evacuation routes. Another neighbor left for Austin on Friday, the day AFTER the traffic gridlock, and at a time when we were being instructed to stay put, and hunker down. Again, they sailed through with no trouble.

Sometimes it's better to NOT follow the "official" instructions.


24 posted on 09/24/2005 1:39:24 PM PDT by Tim n Texas
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To: beckysueb

Becky, please add: They used the darn BUSES to evacuate the elderly, infirmed & poor!


25 posted on 09/24/2005 1:40:12 PM PDT by alice_in_bubbaland
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To: beckysueb
No dissrespect intended but what do you expect when nearly 3 million people try to leave at the same time? You're not going to get me to criticize Texas. LOL

Unlike you, i will not give Praise to the Democratic Mayors of Houston and Galveston for a Failed Evacuation.

The problem was that people left at the same time. In LA the people in the Lower Parishes left first and then the New Orleans began to evacuate.

26 posted on 09/24/2005 1:40:25 PM PDT by IronMan04
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To: IronMan04; No Truce With Kings
The problem was made worse by nimrods in safe areas of Houston (Katy, Cypress, the Heights, the Woodlands, etc) that decided to leave for Dallas or Austin.

I said the same thing last night on one of the hurricane threads and was called an idiot by several people.

27 posted on 09/24/2005 1:40:55 PM PDT by TheMom (My husband and children rock! I am like a rock . . . round and thick.)
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To: TheMom

On Thursday idiots in Austin were buying all the water off the shelves!


Major Case of Hurricane Envy!


28 posted on 09/24/2005 1:42:22 PM PDT by IronMan04
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To: alice_in_bubbaland

Do you know for a fact that all the elderly and infirmed were evacuated from Houston?


29 posted on 09/24/2005 1:43:14 PM PDT by IronMan04
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To: Ditter

there were people that didn't make it from 610 loop and 290 to the beltway in 12 hours...much less 500 miles to new orleans...there is simply no way to evacuate that many people given the present highways...the traffic jams were over 100 miles long. people sat still idling until they ran out of gas. i think next time they should evacuate the northern portions of the city earlier in the week or only allow cars with no empty seats access to the evacuation routes to cut down on traffic...it was really amazing to watch...maybe a light system like florida has where people can be warned when all lanes are heading out of town during emergencies instead of having to wait for the police to set up all the road blocks.


30 posted on 09/24/2005 1:43:44 PM PDT by willyd (Good Fences Make Good Neighbors)
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To: IronMan04

Yes, by bus and plane.


31 posted on 09/24/2005 1:44:25 PM PDT by alice_in_bubbaland
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To: alice_in_bubbaland

Where did you get such information that ALL these people were Evacuated safely by the Mayor White (D) of Houston?


32 posted on 09/24/2005 1:46:22 PM PDT by IronMan04
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To: beckysueb

It seems to me that there should have been some traffic controls. It should have been possible for those leaving the city to use some of the incoming lanes since they were not in use. It would not take much work at all to make that happen.


33 posted on 09/24/2005 1:46:23 PM PDT by tessalu
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To: Graybeard58

Jackson-Lee will use this to pimp for more government spending.

Perry will use this to pimp for his Trans-Texas Corridor.


34 posted on 09/24/2005 1:46:25 PM PDT by Tall_Texan (Austin TX - and staying put.)
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To: IronMan04

It was on the news, they used c-130 planes and it showed them using the baggage cars to carry stretchers. Nursing homes were evacuated, etc by bus or whatever other means they needed.


35 posted on 09/24/2005 1:48:02 PM PDT by WV Mountain Mama (You should post without reading once a day. If my post makes no sense, I am filling my quota.)
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To: tessalu

Louisiana had the Contraflow lanes open by 4:00 p.m. on the Saturday before Katrina.


36 posted on 09/24/2005 1:48:09 PM PDT by IronMan04
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To: beckysueb

I am no radiological expert (or even amateur), but I did a little net surfing after 9/11 to learn about chem, bio, nuke (dirty bomb) attacks. Obviously if you are very close to the site of the attack you are probably out of luck. It seems like the key thing is not to be downwind (or quickly move upwind) in any of these type of attacks. However, I assume panic could set off a stampede where you would end up with gridlock anyway.

(disclaimer: this is just based on my brief reading of research. do not rely on any of it.)


37 posted on 09/24/2005 1:49:37 PM PDT by frankjr
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To: WV Mountain Mama
But, how do you know all the elderly got out of Houston?


I did not know that the City of Houston owned a fleet of C-130's.
38 posted on 09/24/2005 1:50:19 PM PDT by IronMan04
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To: Larry Lucido
Obviously, we need to install a vacuum-tube system like at banks to "chute" entire families out of town. Just drop the tube in the slot, hit "send," and chute yourself to the city of your choice.

Won't work. There'll be a discrimination lawsuit the first time some 400-pound fatty can't fit into the tube. Then, of course, there will be a wrongful death lawsuit the first time granny's oxygen tube comes out or she suffers "deceleration trauma".

You can't do anything effective nowadays unless the most feeble and incapable among us are able to access it.

39 posted on 09/24/2005 1:50:31 PM PDT by Tall_Texan (Austin TX - and staying put.)
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To: Tim n Texas
Sometimes it's better to NOT follow the "official" instructions.

Or go the same way as the rest of the herd. I was suggesting to anyone who listened to go southwest to Laredo or the Valley. There would have been less traffic and a better chance to find an available room. Beats driving to New Mexico.

40 posted on 09/24/2005 1:54:21 PM PDT by Tall_Texan (Austin TX - and staying put.)
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To: Graybeard58
Texas rocked.
They identified problems in their plan and are correcting some of them for the return trip.
One day turn around.
Nice job Lone Star.
41 posted on 09/24/2005 1:56:21 PM PDT by JamminJAY (This space for rent)
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To: willyd

Yes I watched the traffic jams on TV until our power went off last night. I also talked to people who turned around after going 10 miles in 8 hours. Other people I know unpacked their cars and went back inside, having never left the driveway. What I meant by my other post was that there was nothing unusual going on and the traffic was horrible.


42 posted on 09/24/2005 1:56:35 PM PDT by Ditter
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To: Tall_Texan
So I guess this idea won't "fly."


43 posted on 09/24/2005 1:56:54 PM PDT by Larry Lucido
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To: IronMan04

Sorry to disappoint, but they called in the military to do it. Did you eat crab cakes for lunch?


44 posted on 09/24/2005 1:58:15 PM PDT by WV Mountain Mama (You should post without reading once a day. If my post makes no sense, I am filling my quota.)
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To: WV Mountain Mama

It was on the news, they used c-130 planes and it showed them using the baggage cars to carry stretchers. Nursing homes were evacuated, etc by bus or whatever other means they needed.



Don't know about all the areas but I was passed by several convoys of ambulances, etc headed northward. Then you'd see a line of them coming back south for another trip.


45 posted on 09/24/2005 2:00:50 PM PDT by deport
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To: WV Mountain Mama

If true it looks like the Democratic Mayor of Houston did a great thing.


46 posted on 09/24/2005 2:01:24 PM PDT by IronMan04
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To: Graybeard58
I am sick of uninvolved detached Monday morning quarterbacks, especially from idjits in northeast la, la, land.

Winter is coming, smug and pontificating, self aggrandizing, New England & NYC liberal types may get their comeuppance. A bad winter with many feet of snow and bitter cold could give them a real jolt of reality. If so, I for one have my answer ready for them and theirs; I could care less, where were your plans, why didn't you implement them, in short, go pound sand jerk offs.

47 posted on 09/24/2005 2:01:31 PM PDT by Ursus arctos horribilis ("It is better to die on your feet than to live on your knees!" Emiliano Zapata 1879-1919)
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To: JamminJAY

It sure looked to me that they did a better job in Houston than the people responsible for the New Orleans evacuation. Houston is a much larger city than New Orleans and should have had many more problems with evacuation because of that.

Some people are reluctant to praise the effort of Houston officials for fear that the democrat Mayor might get some of the credit for it. So what if he does? Rake him for some of his failed policies. I am not at all familiar with Houston city government but if it is like democrat run government everywhere else in the country it is riddled with failed policy.


48 posted on 09/24/2005 2:04:25 PM PDT by Graybeard58 (Remember and pray for Sgt. Matt Maupin - MIA/POW- Iraq since 04/09/04)
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To: IronMan04

He did. I am surrounded by government democrats in this state, and I hope that they could learn from such a botched LA attempt. Though, we don't get hurricanes, we do get lots of floods.


49 posted on 09/24/2005 2:06:41 PM PDT by WV Mountain Mama (You should post without reading once a day. If my post makes no sense, I am filling my quota.)
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To: tessalu
It seems to me that there should have been some traffic controls.

On-ramp metering is more important than opening the reverse direction lanes. The capacity of a freeway is a function of the average vehicle speed. It's better to keep cars queued on side streets rather than turning the freeway capacity into a 1 mph virtual parking lot. They could have evacuated 100 times faster with one metering traffic cop posted at every on-ramp.

50 posted on 09/24/2005 2:07:58 PM PDT by Reeses
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