San Diego is not FEMA’s anti-Katrina.

The media is already salivating at the prospect of inserting FEMA’s phallus into their mouth and christening the 2007 San Diego Wildfires as the “anti-Katrina.” Granted, San Diego has handled their disaster much better than New Orleans, but believe me, it has absolutely nothing to do with FEMA. At this point, all the feds have done is drop off some cots and some politicians (Hunter, Bilbray, Issa) to take credit for how well things have gone. Their press conference on Tuesday night was a full on circle-jerk of congratulatory praise between the three, and it made me sick.

I’ve been watching this go down 24/7 since the first day, and the first 2 days were handled well by the Local (and some State) officials. Shit was already in place before Ahnold even came down here. Within a few hours, Qualcomm was set up and operating, contingency plans were put in motion, and evacuation orders were being sent out in a very organized and cautious manner. I didn’t vote for Jerry Sanders, but he has done a good job. It made me proud of my city.

FEMA deserves zero credit here. What they have brought to the table is only going into effect as of today (Wednesday, 4 days after the fires started). The threat has pretty much passed as far as the heavily populated areas in San Diego go. Most people have already gone back to their homes (if they’re still standing). Things seem to be getting back to normal and FEMA is just now getting their wheels in motion. About 4 days late if you ask me. San Diego is not FEMA’s anti-Katrina.

Where FEMA will come into play is how they handle the aftermath and the displaced people who have lost their homes. Lets see if Skeletor Chertoff and FEMA can step up to the plate.

San Diego Wildfires != Katrina

The handling of both the San Diego Wildfire and Katrina disasters have had extremely different outcomes. The political shit-throwing has already begun as to why San Diego has handled their disaster better than New Orleans. While San Diegans have experienced organization, support, and supplies, we all know how New Orleans fared. So why has San Diego fared better? Most arguments that I’ve seen come down to race and/or income levels. While it is true that Katrina mostly affected less well-off minorities and the San Diego Wildfires mostly affected white affluent rich dudes, that is not why the response to the two disasters are different. Here is why…

  • Are people forgetting that New Orleans and the Superdome were essentially turned into an island? No cars, no motorcycles, no tanks, no humvees. Transportation is a huge factor (perhaps the factor) when it comes to evacuations and supply lines, and New Orleans had none. San Diego, on the other hand, has the full use of their highways and roads, allowing for the easy transport of supplies and aid, not to mention giving the populace the ability to evacuate in the first place. There is a line of cars outside of Qualcomm stadium containing supplies for the evacuees. New Orleans did not have this luxury. Unless you had a raft or boat.
  • San Diego has electricity, New Orleans did not. Katrina wiped out all electrical lines, but while San Diego has had some power interruptions, for the most part the electrical grid has remained in tact. Have you ever lived without electricity for more than a couple days? Try it sometime, you’ll get antsy too. San Diego hasn’t had to worry about that.
  • San Diego has communications, New Orleans did not. Katrina wiped out cell towers and phone lines, essentially crippling communications. If you didn’t have a battery powered radio you were fucked. After the fires, San Diego still had full usage of cell and land-line phones, full internet connectivity, and full cable/TV capabilities. They also has a new “reverse 911” system in place in which emergency personnel contact you with a call in case of evacuation orders. New Orleans had none of these.
  • San Diego had a dress rehearsal in the Cedar Fire of 2003, which was at the time was thought to be the worst fire San Diego had and will ever see. A lot was learned in that fire, and adjustments were made. Not to mention the huge budget California allocates to emergency services in preparation for The Big One ™ that will one day surely come. Sure, New Orleans had experienced hurricanes before, but they were experienced to handle hurricanes, not floods.
  • San Diego had Katrina to teach it how not to do things. Could it be that most San Diegans watched in horror as Katrina unfolded, and didn’t want a repeat? I think that is a big part of it. I think that many San Diegans put forth the extra effort to volunteer and donate, not because they are rich or white, but because they did not want to become the next Katrina.

So why did San Diego fare better than New Orleans? It’s not because of race or income level. It’s because San Diego had transportation, electricity, communication, and practice. New Orleans had none of these.

Coronado Sand Dune Grafiti

Coronado San Dune
So I was messing around with the amazingly new Google Maps and it’s satellite imagery tool today when I discovered something quite interesting. I was checking out various local spots I’ve been to and/or frequent, and as I made my way over to Coronado Island to check out the Hotel Del Coronado, something caught my eye. In the beach just to the north of the hotel there appeared to be a large-scale grafiti project in the sand.

Now, beach grafiti is nothing new, but this was a little different. I asked myself, “What are the chances of someone’s beach grafiti being present at the very moment that this satellite image was snapped?” I continued, “Damn, that’s some BIG fucking sand grafiti!” Then it dawned on me. This is not some random act of violence against our beloved San Diego beach sand… this was a master-planned “HELLO WORLD” from the people of Coronado! Though it’s upside down in the satellite photo, the text in the sand reads “CORONADO.”

Check it out for youself: Google Map of Coronado’s Sand Grafiti

I’ve always thought the sand dunes there were neat, but assumed they were a natural feature of the beach. There’s no possible way to know they actually make up letters when you’re on the ground, because they are HUGE. Bigger than the Hotel Del itself, which is a beast of a hotel. And as a San Diego native with a pretty good knowledge of local trivia, I had never heard of this before.

Most impressive, Google… most impressive.