Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Point/Counterpoint

First, a forward floating around out on "the Interweb"...
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North Dakota News - This text is from a county emergency manager out in the western part of North Dakota state after the recent snow storm.

WEATHER BULLETIN
Up here in the Northern Plains we just recovered from a historic event may I even say a "Weather Event" of "Biblical Proportions" --- with a historic blizzard of up to 44" inches of snow and winds to 90 MPH that broke trees in half, knocked down utility poles, stranded hundreds of motorists in lethal snow banks, closed ALL roads, isolated scores of communities and cut power to 10's of thousands.

FYI:
George Bush did not come....
FEMA did nothing....
No one howled for the government...
No one blamed the government
No one even uttered an expletive on TV...
Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton did not visit
Our Mayor's did not blame Bush or anyone else
Our Governor did not blame Bush or anyone else either
CNN, ABC, CBS, FOX, or NBC did not visit - or report on this category 5 snow storm
Nobody demanded $2,000 debit cards.....
No one asked for a FEMA Trailer House....
No one looted....
Nobody - I mean Nobody demanded the government do something
Nobody expected the government to do anything either
No Larry King, No Bill O'Rielly, No Oprah
No Chris Mathews and No Geraldo Rivera
No Shaun Penn, No Barbara Striesand, No Hollywood types to be found
Nope, we just melted the snow for water
Sent out caravans of SUV's to pluck people out of snow engulfed cars
The truck drivers pulled people out of snow banks and didn't ask for a penny
Local restaurants made food and the police and fire departments delivered it to the snow bound families
Families took in the stranded people - total strangers
We fired up wood stoves
Broke out coal oil lanterns or coleman lanterns
We put on an extra layer of clothes because up here it is "Work or Die"
We did not wait for some affirmative action government to get us out of a mess created by being immobilized by a welfare program that trades votes for 'sittin at home' checks.

Even though a Category "5" blizzard of this scale has never fallen this early...we know it can happen and how to deal with it ourselves. In my many travels, I have noticed that once one gets north of about 48 degrees North Latitude, 90% of most of the world's social problems seem to evaporate. Coincidence....I think not.
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And now, for the rest of the story.

I agree that there's a strong vein of "rugged individualism" that runs up north, and an expectation for self-reliance--and that's something I'm proud of, being from this neck of the woods. And I get that that was sort of meant as tongue-in-cheek...BUT...I'm not altogether certain that comparing these two situations is all that, well, fair.

I mean, #1, there ain't a hell of a lot of people living above 48 degrees north in general in the U.S. I mean, what does that leave, fifty miles of the northernmost parts of ND, MN, MT, ID & WA? Some of the most isolated, desolate (population-wise especially) regions of the country...I drive through these places, I've lived in these places...other than earth and sky, there isn't much else there. Hell, I'm back in the snow belt at the isolated tip-top of WI now, and even I'm not up at 48 degrees north.

Logistically-speaking, if one had to evacuate a town in ND/MN/etc. for a blizzard (unlikely, given the distances one would need to cover to get to another town in most places, and since most of those weather systems come together fast & cover big swaths of country--plus, there'd be fewer law enforcement/disaster preparedness staffers available than by a metro area), think of how much less authorities would have to deal with. Far fewer people, which means far fewer resources to have to put together...plus, you'd be dealing with smaller communities, where people most likely know each other better and are used to working together, so there'd be a lot of previously established relationships to build on. Also, buildings are constructed differently up north, with basements, stronger insulation, etc., so if people do have to shelter in place, they've got much sturdier places to do so in. Also, these are people who are used to not being able to get out to a store every day, given either weather, distance, or a combination of the two. Urban life, from what little I've experienced, is a different animal: more services available, more stores close by, perhaps less immediate perceived need (at least by past perspectives, before the hurricanes hit and gave some people a reality check) to stockpile stuff the way rural people tend to do (and I mean, like, really rural people, who live more than an hour from some suburbs).

Plus, I think it's a big overstatement to say that these areas don't have any social problems. What about the extreme poverty? Clashes between Native Americans/tribal governments and local/state governments? Towns evaporating as people migrate south? Drug culture exploding? Economies crumbling as remaining industries move south/overseas? I mean, seriously, it ain't all a bowl of cherries up north, either, and I think a lot of the same issues that plagued MS & LA before & after the hurricanes are just as prevalent up north, in proportation to the population of the area. To say otherwise strikes me as a bit naïve and/or unfairly cocky.

I'm certainly not saying that there weren't a lot of people who were poorly prepared during the hurricanes this fall, because there obviously were. And given the predictions for a bad hurricane season, and the fact that they occur almost every year, people should've been better prepared. But there were also many people down south who did prepare, and who did the best they could to evacuate and to get supplies together so they wouldn't have to rely on outside aid. But I think there's a huge difference between getting a blizzard, and getting your house blown away. A blizzard generally does temporary damage, if any--a hurricane can do an awful lot more.
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And because all episodes of Point/Counterpoint must end this way:

"Jane, you ignorant slut."

5 comments:

LC said...

observations, from an urban, warm-weather dweller....

1) social problems? rural communities have lots -- hello, meth! also, first-degree murders. believe it or not, rural areas have more than their fair share (personal experience, seeing them all come through the supreme court in MN). there are no homeless people in rural northern areas because they would freeze to death. rural people use food stamps, rural teens get pregnant, rural people abuse their spouses and children... they're no better than urban people. I'd question what the rates look like per capita - doubt that urban areas look so bad, considering. I hate that these folks think that cities are cesspools, just because they're densely populated. So not true.

2) hi. I was a student at Gustavus Adolphus College in April, 1998. That would be when a tornado hit St. Peter. There were FEMA trailers there. Lots of them. Oh yeah, and what of the Red River Valley? And that's just the shit I can remember offhand.

3) agreed on the hurricane vs. blizzard thing. but would also like to add that 1) the problems in New Orleans were not caused by the hurricane itself, but rather problematic engineering relating to the dikes that hold the water out of the city, and 2) flooding does a hellll of a lot more damage than does snow. you cannot hibernate to escape rising water; you can only run like hell.

4) but, these Southern states are the reason we have this crappy Administration in the first place. I for one would not miss them if they go. Long live the North!

Mary, you ignorant slut! ;)

LC said...

p.s. you should see Syriana if you get a chance. very good.

Mary said...

You know, I'd forgotten about the Red River Valley flooding (was that in '97? I kind of think it was, for some reason)...yeah, that shit was all over the news, and rightfully so. But, it sure does show how short some people's memories (including my own, apparently, haha) are.

On a similar note, Snopes.com has put together a bunch of materials about Katrina-related rumors/forwards that have been making the rounds, pretty interesting stuff:

http://www.snopes.com/katrina/katrina.asp

It will be interesting to see how history judges all this.

Mary said...

P.S. Haven't seen Syriana yet, but I'm really hoping to soon. Maybe if it comes to Duluth...thanks for the reminder! :+)

LC said...

there's no place in Duluth that you can see that currently? sad. hey, you should join netflix -- I've been a member for six weeks or so, and it's *awesome*!

also, see Fun With Dick and Jane -- I think you'd really, really like that one too... and hey, your mom's name is Jane (right?)