Rita hasn't even arrived yet, and vast gaping holes already appear in the Homeland Security Infrastructure for Texas. From the NYT:
Heeding days of dire warnings about Hurricane Rita, as many as 2.5 million people jammed evacuation routes on Thursday, creating colossal 100-mile-long traffic jams that left many people stranded and out of gas as the huge storm bore down on the Texas coast.
Acknowledging that "being on the highway is a deathtrap," Mayor Bill White asked for military help in rushing scarce fuel to stranded drivers.
Mr. White and the top official in Harris County, Judge Robert Eckels, admitted that their plans had not anticipated the volume of traffic. They maintained that they had not urged such a widespread evacuation, although only a day earlier they invoked the specter of Hurricane Katrina, and told residents that the "time for waiting was over."
Officials also made matters worse for themselves by announcing at one point that they would use inbound lanes on one highway to ease the outbound crush, only to abort the plan later, saying it was impractical.
Nobody can tell me they "no one anticipated" that you can't evacuate a large urban area this way. In Westchester County, where I live, exactly this kind of scenario is the primary argument for shutting down the Indian Point Nuclear Power plant: that in the event of an evacuation, the roads would get clogged.
Yes, sure, the local officials calling the shots aren't rocket scientists. But which regions have local officials who are? But Homeland Security is supposed to have been providing all kinds of support to raise their collective IQ on matters like this.
Can we please rename the the Department of Homeland Security the Department of Hassling Airline Passengers, downsizing it to its core competency, and fire Michael Chertoff and retroactively Fire Tom Ridge?
UPDATE: Here's a really grim evacuation story, also from the NYT.
A FURTHER NOTE: A reader in Fort Worth, TX writes, In Texas, we call the photo ops "all Hat (Meaning Cowboy Hat) and No Cattle."