Natural Disasters

Battered by Ike

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There's a popular stereotype, fed by films and other media, that says that natural disasters are almost invariably followed by looting. But in the real U.S., theft and violence are extremely rare in

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such situations. In Texas right now, as Hurricane Ike moves northwards, you'll find reports of people fretting about looters as they refuse to leave their homes. Yet when you look at how neighbors in the storm's path are actually behaving, you see cooperation instead:

The water was rising at the Summerset Apartments in Galveston at 5:30 a.m., according to residents, who said they had been through a long night with little sleep, like many who stayed in the area to meet Hurricane Ike.

After the ceiling caved in on her mother's bedroom in their second floor apartment, Vee Thrasher moved into the bathroom and took in some neighbors from the first floor, which had already flooded.

And then there's this intriguing report from Houston:

The Black Panther Party says it deployed 17 of its members to area gasoline station convenience stores to protect them from theft in the hours before and after Hurricane Ike makes landfall.

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Owners asked the group to provide private security for their property, said Major Kenyha Shabazz, chairman of Peoples Party No. 3, the Houston affiliate of the Black Panther Party.

"These are the places that service our communities with food, water and fuel," Shabazz said. "We don't want these places torn up."

During the daylight hours, Panthers were standing guard at boarded-up convenience stores in the East End, North Houston and Third, Fourth and Fifth wards. They planned to spend the night in the stores and be back out front at dawn.

"We hired these Black Panther people to take care of our two stores, one here on Dowling and the other one on Elgin," said Nabi Chowdhury, manager of a Mobil station on Dowling Street.

"We have confidence in them because for a long time we have known them, and their attitude and everything, we like," Chowdhury said.

That isn't the Black Panther Party, of course—that group disbanded three decades ago. But whoever these new Panthers are, they're apparently more interested in keeping the peace than offing the pigs.

Also revived: the rumor mill. Yesterday afternoon, at a Circle K in southeast Michigan, an employee told me confidently that gas was going to go up to $6 this morning. He was wrong, though it did hit an impressive $4.05. That's higher than fuel costs in Houston right now. (In Galveston, on the other hand, TexasGasPrices.com gives me this message: "No gas prices found. Please choose another area." Note: If you're trying to drive in Galveston today, the lack of gas will be the least of your worries.)

NEXT: The Friday Political Thread: Pigs on a Wing

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  1. Walker,

    So this new Black Panther Party is into the security/mercenary gig now? Could make for an interesting article here . . . just sayin’. private firms hired to guard and police in wake of natrual disaster instead of relying on traditional government means.

  2. Cooperation you say? Thank God the government seems to have stepped in to mandate it. We all know well that people are incapable of cooperative behavior without a duly appointed goon squad calling the shots.

  3. Shouldn’t there be some law preventing hurricanes from being named after former presidents? All this talk about Ike makes me think about … you know, Ike.

  4. Good for the black panthers. The big thing is that the storm surge was much smaller than predicted. The Port Arthur levies held and there was not major damage to the refineries down there. For the second time in four years, the country got very lucky.

    One of these days, there is going to be a catagory four or five that hits at the right angle and place and the country will not be so lucky and we will be looking at months of gasoline shortages and heating oil shortages. It might be a good idea to maybe build some new refineries that aren’t on the gulf coast and vaunerable to hurricanes. I know that will piss off our environmentalist betters, but that sounds better than having 20% of our refining capacity, which is stretched to the max anyway, wiped out in one night.

  5. So a high school drop out . . . sorry . . . a highly educated employee in a position of authority told you gas was going to be $6 was wrong. Somehow not surprised.

  6. Gas is going to go up. The refineries don’t have power and won’t for a while. BUt that can be fixed a hell of a lot easier than if they had been flooded.

  7. You worry to much John. Where are the refineries going? Gotta be somewhere coastal due to transportation costs. West Coast? Earthquakes. New England coast? Blizzards. Take your pick.

  8. So what caused the looting in New Orleans after Katrina?

    Was it evil Bush?

    What caused the looting during the Rodney King riots?

  9. John,

    I don’t know how much gas has to go up for me to worry. I sure as hell know I am not walking to work or school.

  10. True Naga, but maybe we shouldn’t put so many in one place. How about a few in California and a few more in the NE and a few less in Houston? Twenty percent vaunerable to being wiped out by one storm is just not a good idea.

  11. crispin,

    Availability.

  12. John,

    I would agree were it not for economy of scales. They WANT to make money. Hopefully, their self interest works in our favor. Or so I have read elsewhere.

  13. Naga,

    It won’t go up that much. I am constantly amazed at our economy and the sheer volume of stuff that is produced and consumed. Think about it. We take millions of barrells of oil every day, ship them half way accross the world, boil it into about 30 different products and deliver those products in any variety of forms and quantities to every nook and cranny of the country. It really boggles the mind when you think about it.

  14. John,

    Totally agree. I always viewed the Soviet Union’s failure on two problems. Human nature and information overload.

  15. John: They were talking about a possible 25-foot storm surge in Galveston. Instead it seems to have peaked at 9 to 11 feet. Which is a relief to me, if not to the people living closer to the seawall, since my parents’ house is at 12 feet.

    Crispin: Click on the “extremely rare” link and find out!

  16. Whoa! Do my eyes deceive me? Or is the moose in the “Moose hunter? Paegent queen?” ad crying?

  17. Jesse,

    I’m over in Biloxi and we were getting enough water to submerge the breakers behind the Beau Rivage and it wasn’t even high tide.

  18. Peoples Party No. 3? What, are Black Panther parties like Baptist churches?

    Maybe it’s like signing up for email. They’re lucky they didn’t end up “ThePeopPar1146.”

  19. Oh, what the hell. Here’s the relevant text, Crispin:

    When looting does occur, most of it is done covertly by individuals or small groups snatching something when they think no one’s looking, not by mobs acting openly. According to Quarantelli, research has revealed only four American exceptions: during the blackout of ’77; in St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands following 1989’s Hurricane Hugo; in and around Homestead, Florida, after 1992’s Hurricane Andrew; and in New Orleans this year.

    What happened after Hugo seemed so unusual that Quarantelli visited the island three times to investigate the chain of events. If you’ve been following the news from New Orleans, the variables at work in St. Croix should sound familiar.

    First, “it’s a tourist area, and one thing that stood out is that the tourists that come there are very wealthy while the native population is very, very poor.” Second, “there’s an underclass that engages in a lot of petty crime,” and it includes juvenile gangs who launched the looting and “in a sense were simply acting on a larger scale than they normally do.” Third, the police department was “ineffective, corrupt, and full of nepotism,” and many officers joined in the larceny themselves. Put those factors together with the massive impact of the hurricane and the relative isolation of the island, and you had a recipe for riots.

    Indeed, while events in New York, St. Croix, Homestead, and New Orleans differ radically from the usual behavior seen after catastrophes, they do resemble the sort of angry urban disorder that emerges not from without but from within. “In riots,” says Quarantelli, “looting is overt, it’s socially supported, it’s engaged in by almost everyone, and also it’s targeted looting, in the sense that people break into alcohol stores and drug stores and things of that kind.” That, he discovered, is what happened in St. Croix; and it essentially occurred in the other three examples as well. “You could make the argument,” he says of the ’77 blackout, “that what happened there was less a technological disaster than simply the breakout of another riot”: another Watts in another long, hot summer. The disparity between ’77 and ’65 reflected different social and economic conditions, just as St. Croix broke out in looting while other places battered by Hugo-Puerto Rico, the Carolinas-maintained social order.

    “But even that’s got to be put in context,” Quarantelli concludes. “When all is said and done, while people paid attention to the looting and it certainly did occur, the pro-social behavior [in St. Croix] far outweighed the anti-social behavior.” In fact, in every disaster he’s studied, “the height of the emergency is when people are nicest to one another.” In St. Croix, residents rescued their neighbors, gave shelter to the homeless, and shared their supplies; even the looting itself was often a matter of desperate but nonviolent citizens taking survival necessities, not gangs seizing luxury goods.

  20. They were talking about a possible 25-foot storm surge in Galveston. Instead it seems to have peaked at 9 to 11 feet. Which is a relief to me, if not to the people living closer to the seawall, since my parents’ house is at 12 feet

    My friend was telling me all this dire shit last night about how many people stayed on the island, how high the surge was going to be, and how many people were going to die. I was very relieved to wake up this morning and see that it was much less.

    I will have to give him a charlie horse for being such an alarmist.

  21. Will do, Jesse.

    Episiarch,

    Hurricanes are as bizarre as tsunamis. A Cat 2 can make landfall and tear the place up . . . except when it doesn’t.

  22. Indeed. When I was a kid, Hurricane Gloria hit CT and the eye passed right over my house. My sister and I went outside and marveled at how calm it was while jumping our bikes over the downed power lines.

    I had read about the calm of the eye, and it was super cool to experience it.

  23. Connecticut? A hurricane came all the way north to Connecticut? Word?

  24. Damn Gulf Stream. We should cut it off somehow. That would show those limeys who’s boss!

  25. Yes, it’s explained at the link in my post.

    You seem to have pretty reliable internet and power down there during storms. You’re lucky.

  26. Don’t quote me on this. It is only my personal experience and opinion. Now I think I have let everyone know how much I hate Mississippi but . . . (looks around that no one around) when it comes to disasters, Mississippi definitely has its shit together.

  27. You must be bored, Mr. Sadow. Can’t go out and party during a storm.

  28. I feel dirty after having posted that. I’m gonna narrow it down further. The “authorities” don’t really know how to help everyone, so they just concentrate on getting and keeping infrastructure up so everyone can help themselves. That still doesn’t feel right but I got nothing better.

  29. Actually, I gotta work tonight. The two hanging out here are drinking and about to play some madden while I gotta get ready for work. Lucky bastards.

  30. No rest for the wicked, Naga. I will party it up extra in tribute to you.

  31. Indeed. I’m going across the street after work and having a glass of Makers to put in appearances and then I’m on my way home. Later Epi.

  32. at a Circle K in southeast Michigan

    Really? A Circle K in SE Mich? I’ve never seen such a thing.

    Sure it wasn’t just a kosher 7-11?

  33. “Strange things are afoot at the Circle-K.”

  34. It’s real, Tom. And when I walked by it about an hour ago, the gas there had gone up to $4.25. Maybe they’ll make it to six after all!

  35. John asked:

    “How about a few in California and a few more in the NE and a few less in Houston?”

    There already _are_ a few refineries in California, busily refining the oil that is produced here.

  36. So you were in southeast Michigan and didn’t call? And I was free for lunch today. Humphhh.

    Seriously, your post today was fascinating–I heard talk about the fear of looting today and assumed it was standard. Of course, here in the Detroit area in the late 60’s it kinda was…

  37. god, I hate Texas.

  38. nicely done, Epi. Nicely done.

    I doubt if Tom has ever been to michigan.
    hier
    hier
    hier
    hier

  39. they’re apparently more interested in keeping the peace than offing the pigs.

    After reading Balko’s columns, you have to wonder whether those are mutually exclusive.

  40. Those of us here in Ohio are about to get slammed, SLAMMED, I tell you, by Hurricane Ike. Please keep us in your prayers.

  41. Were there ever any prosecutions of the brazen uniformed NOLA cops caught looting their local Wal-Mart on camera?

  42. It’s cooler outside than it is inside. I am grubby and stinky and my hair is frightening but I can’t take a shower because water pressure is so low as to be nonexistent. The generator can only power the fridge, a fan, my laptop and a light. The front and backyards are in bad shape but we didn’t get any tree limbs on power lines; people around the neighborhood did and the hub is helping to cut and clear the trees. My daughter is hyper and bored and driving me up the fucking wall. We have no idea when power will be restored.

    I am very, very, very, very lucky. But if we don’t have power by Monday I’m taking the kid to Dallas because the husband won’t let me keep her sedated.

    The ideal way to handle this, of course, is with alcohol, but we’ve got gasoline, power tools and kids to to deal with.

    I’ve not read any reports of looting here in town. We’re too well-armed.

    This has been Stubby Librarian, coming to you from the Willowbend area, at the corner of the West and South Loop, Houston.

  43. Tom | September 13, 2008, 4:07pm | #
    god, I hate Texas.
    ?

    Me to.

  44. God can’t spell…

  45. Connecticut? A hurricane came all the way north to Connecticut? Word?

    Word.

  46. I am grubby and stinky and my hair is frightening but I can’t take a shower

    Damn stubby, that’s kinda hot. Grubby, stinky and frightening is definitely the turn-on trifecta!

  47. Strange things are afoot at the Circle K.

  48. “So what caused the looting in New Orleans after Katrina?”

    2 things-

    1) a critical mass of responsibale people left the city. Without the people on the street who would never loot unnessary items people who would ussaly not behave lawlessly were in the minorty.

    2) there was ligitimet looting of water, food and clothing by people who need these items to survive. I am sure most would have paid for a lot of things had this been an option, but if you need water and no one is selling it your going to steel it.

  49. Jesse, your folks live on the island? I used to have a house at 9th and Post Office, near UTMB. I miss living down there, it is an interesting place.

    I hope they’ve stayed safe. Folks down there generally know how to handle the weather. I wonder if most of the people who chose to stay were long-time residents…

  50. So, no hysteria there about “price gouging” like here in FL?

    Sounds promising, but a lack of evidence is no evidence.

  51. Per the saharvey quoting of someone i’ve not looked up yet . . .

    “So what caused the looting in New Orleans after Katrina?”

    After the fact, did not sound like much of that happened in real. Seems you are the victim of the MSM distorted view of the way people oof color react in an emergency.

    On your bike now!

    Montag

  52. Water pressure is still low here in west Houston. Cell phone networks are tied up (you can still text though). Also, trees are down and traffic lights don’t work.

    Plus side: power was only out for 5:30 hours, not much worse than Rita. This despite that I could hear transformers exploding all night. I love our electricity technicians and would happily supply them with beers.

  53. David: You have power?? I don’t have power. The hub is telling me not to whine, but it’s hard. We back up to the utility easement that runs under the West Loop, and I think it took a big hit.

  54. I’m in midtown Houston just outside downtown. We didn’t lose power at all and my ATT uverse cable has worked the entire time. Cell service is spotty but I haven’t had too much trouble getting calls out.

    The water pressure is still very low and non-existent on the third floor of our town house. All in all the people in my immediate area were very lucky and many are now congregating outside and having a beer.

  55. Damn Gulf Stream. We should cut it off somehow. That would show those limeys who’s boss!

    My Dad used to tell me stories about some senator who proposed that we should build a breakwater out from Cape Hatteras to do exactly that.

    And when Henry Flagler originally proposed the Overseas Railroad the plan was to just fill in the gaps between the Florida Keys. Complaints that a solid causeway would block the flow of water into the Gulf Stream led to the decision to build bridges instead.

    But whoever these new Panthers are, they’re apparently more interested in keeping the peace than offing the pigs.

    However, they do sound a lot like the group that Karl Hess worked with in the Adams-Morgan neighborhood in Washington, DC in the 70s. Personal note: I met Karl Hess once and told him what a great man I thought he was. He told me that I would eventually recover from that delusion. He is still one of my heroes, so I guess he was wrong on that, wasn’t he?

    And all you denizens of Houston and Galveston, I wish you the best. Here in Central Florida we know what you’re going through.

  56. I remember Gloria. We had pine trees behind my house in a very wet area, so the roots were very shallow. It’s an adaptation that upland species do to survive in areas that are often saturated.

    So there was very little to hold them in place, and the dropped like flied, creating these 8-15′ high walls of roots. Not balls, because the roots didn’t form a ball, more like disks. Saw through the trunk, and SLAM! just like a door.

    After the fact, did not sound like much of that happened in real. Seems you are the victim of the MSM distorted view of the way people oof color react in an emergency. Guy’s right. There was some looting, but the stories were vastly overblown.

    Which made Charles “I am so TOTALLY not a racist” Murray’s editorial about “the animals let loose from the zoo” in the NYT that much more fun.

  57. “…so they dropped like flies…” that is.

  58. “There’s a popular stereotype, fed by films and other media, that says that natural disasters are almost invariably followed by looting.”

    Stereotype: something conforming to a fixed or general pattern.

    The stereotype of looting following disasters is not “fed by films” but it is fed by “other media”.” Namely the news media.

    Millions of Americans watched as Mayor Nagin’s “chocolate city” descended into a spasm of looting and disorder following the hurricane. A direct result of his (and then governor Blanco’s) lack of preparation and leadership skills.

    As to the idea the NOLA folks were looting for essentials like water, I doubt the boxes of sneakers and sports jerseys we all saw being looted were essentials. How about the police that set up shop on the top floor of a downtown hotel and looted jewelry stores for diamonds and rolexes? Essentials?

    There are numerous examples of major looting episodes throughout history. It’s part of the reason the Bill of Rights includes the Right to Bear Arms.

  59. Naga Sadow:

    Are you a military contractor? Why do you stay in Miss’ippi if you hate it?

    I have a close friend who is unhappy with the Magnolia state’s inefficiency and reverse racism. She calls it “Mississippi Disease.” Just remember, in the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.

    Tom on the rez.

  60. $4.05 a gallon in SE Michigan? Here in the Southwest of the state it’s hit $4.20 a gallon… rather bewildering.

  61. “I’m over in Biloxi”

    I’ve been to Biloxi. Smells like a fish fart.

  62. “When looting does occur, most of it is done covertly by individuals or small groups snatching something when they think no one’s looking, not by mobs acting openly. According to Quarantelli, research has revealed only four American exceptions: during the blackout of ’77; in St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands following 1989’s Hurricane Hugo; in and around Homestead, Florida, after 1992’s Hurricane Andrew; and in New Orleans this year.”

    South Central 1994

  63. ster?e?o?type [ster-ee-uh-tahyp, steer-] Pronunciation Key noun, verb, -typed, -typ?ing.
    -noun
    1. a process, now often replaced by more advanced methods, for making metal printing plates by taking a mold of composed type or the like in papier-m?ch? or other material and then taking from this mold a cast in type metal.
    2. a plate made by this process.
    3. a set form; convention.
    4. Sociology. a simplified and standardized conception or image invested with special meaning and held in common by members of a group: The cowboy and Indian are American stereotypes.

    Anyways, it’s good to hear that we can rely on the unerring accuracy of the media when they report sensational stories during emergencies.

    ???,

    The subject of the story was looting after natural disasters.

    There’s a popular stereotype, fed by films and other media, that says that natural disasters are almost invariably followed by looting. But in the real U.S., theft and violence are extremely rare in such situations.

    Nobody’s questioning that there is frequently looting during riots.

  64. “The subject of the story was looting after natural disasters.”

    Forgot SC ’94 was man made. My bad.

  65. If ALL Looters were SHOT ON SIGHT, it would only take a few getting killed for word to get around quickly that it just isnt worth it!

    JIff
    http://www.anonymize.us.tc

  66. Jesse, you might want to take a closer look at the New Black Panther Party. Read their program, for instance, and then tell me what you think of them.

  67. I’m sure those Black Panthers also provide protection to those store owners when there is no disaster around. Just 10 percent of the till is all they ask, every week, no matter what.

  68. Just google Quanell X. You’ll find all the info you need about the New Black Panthers. They’re shukin and jivin no doubt about it.

  69. So basically, the only thing “new” about the Black Panther Party is a web page and members who are to pussy to put violence behind their threats and demands.

  70. In the US, we don’t loot after natural disasters, we loot after World Series victories.

  71. In the Caribbean, approximately 80 dead. 2 each in Texas and Louisiana. Poverty is often fatal.

  72. So basically, the only thing “new” about the Black Panther Party is a web page and members who are to pussy to put violence behind their threats and demands.

    Eschewing violence in favor of politics is “too pussy”?

  73. I’m famliar with the NBPP. But it wasn’t clear to me, reading the Houston Chronicle report, whether these people were part of that group. I know that there are at least two “Black Panther” organizations active right now.

  74. J sub D,

    They seem to have all the old socialist trash talk down except they apparently don’t back it up with threats of physical violence. Take fromt that what you will. “We want tax exemption and an end to robbery of THE BLACK NATION by the CAPITALIST. We want an end to the capitalistic domination of Africa in all of its forms: imperialism, criminal settler colonialism, neo-colonialism, racism, sexism, zionism, Apartheid and artificial borders.
    We believe that this wicked racist government has robbed us, and now we are demanding the overdue debt of reparations. A form of reparations was promised 100 years ago (forty acres and a mule) as restitution for the continued genocide of our people and to in meaningful measure and repair the damage for the AFRICAN HOLOCAUST (Maangamizo/Maafa).
    We believe our people should be exempt from ALL TAXATION as long as we are deprived of equal justice under the laws of the land and the overdue reparations debt remains unpaid. We will accept payment in fertile and mine rally rich land, precious metals, industry, commerce and currency. As genocide crimes continue, people’s tribunals must be set up to prosecute and to execute.
    The “Jews” were given reparations. The Japanese were given reparations. The Black, the Red and the Brown Nations must be given reparations. The American white man owes us reparations. England owes us reparations. France owes us reparations, Spain and all of Europe. Africa owes us reparations and repatriation. The Arabs owe us reparations. The “Jews” owe us reparations. All have taken part in the AFRICAN HOLOCAUST and the slaughter of 600 million of our people over the past 6,000 years in general and 400 year in particular. We know that this is a reasonable and just demand that we make at this time in history.”

  75. Who are the “Jews”? Are they anything like the Jews?

    God, those Panther guys are idiots.

  76. I wonder who they felt the need to protect their stores from exactly? Do you think they were concerned with hispanics looting or blacks or both? Looting happens and no one can deny it. They are even stealing generators chained down around here these days.

    People should shoot these worthless fucks dead on the spot and drag them out into the street witha big L painted on their back to let police know what happened.

    Notice you didn’t see any looting in the Baton Rouge area like you did in New Orleans after Katrina. Different type of people in the projects of N.O., they are still worthless people in the projects here but they know enough to no loot for fear of being shot dead without question.

    When I lived in Houston in the 90’s it proved to me that racism from all races is alive and well and that no matter who is in charge the others will bitch. I cracked up when the Latinos were pissed a black guy got the schoolboard super. post. It showed me that no matter what unless the race of people is in power no one will be happy within that race and all their problems are directly because of the race in power.

    I used to think it was just black/white issue being from La. but that showed me no matter where you are unless that group feels they are in control they are being oppressed. Histerical and scary in that it will be this way all over the country soon. Even if you combined the black population and hispanic you still do no make up 50% of the population. So why should you expect to run 50% of everything? I never have understood that. Equality is pecentage based on numbers of people not numbers of positions.

    As for LiHO I am waiting for Amy Winehouse’s opinion before making a final decission on who to vote for. Until then LiHo try to keep your panties on and the rehab trips down. We can not afford to lose both an election to McCain and you as our entertainment.

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