Pushback from GWU re PR Death Statistics

Dr. Lynn Goldman, Dean of the GWU School of Public Health, wrote the following in the Wash Post today: We calculated the deaths from Hurricane Maria. Politics played no role.Her concluding paragraph:

The federal government and charities have provided tremendous resources to Puerto Rico, and we are proud of the hard work of the local citizens and leaders, federal responders and volunteers who risked their own lives to pitch in and help. What was lacking was adequate planning and preparedness for such a horrific storm. No one administration or political party is responsible for why we still don’t prioritize preparedness even though we are increasingly threatened by large hurricanes. By identifying the preventable causes of these deaths, we can save lives the next time a fierce storm hits. And this is especially important as Hurricane Florence grinds up the Carolina coast, leaving a deadly trail in its wake.


Meals for PR Hurricane Victims

The Diva cannot recall finding a relevant article in the Food section of the Washington Post, so today is a first. See: Jose Andres’s Riveting “We Fed An Island” Called for a Revolution in Disaster Relief.

José Andrés’s riveting ‘We Fed an Island’ calls for a revolution in disaster relief
with “We Fed an Island,” chef-and-restaurateur-turned-relief worker José Andrés doesn’t just tell the story about how he and a fleet of volunteers cooked millions of meals for the Americans left adrift on Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria. He exposes what he views as an outdated top-down, para-military-type model of disaster relief that proved woefully ineffective on an island knocked flat by the Category 4 hurricane.

Andrés also points plenty of fingers. At President Trump. At the Federal Emergency Management Agency. At the American Red Cross. At Puerto Rican politicians who let their own people down. No one is spared Andrés’s critical eye, including the chef himself.

FEMA After-Action Report on PR Response [A very important report.]

Update on July 14: Editorial in the NYTimes: FEMA Admits It Failed Puerto Rico. Can It Do Any Better? The agency’s disorganization and a lack of supplies and personnel contributed to the havoc.

Rebuilding Dominica for Climate Change

This Tiny Country Says It Can Beat Climate Change . Hurricane Maria turned Dominica into a foreign-funded laboratory for stormproofing an entire nation. Progress so far is hard to see. Some background:

Maria inflicted $1.3 billion in damage, equal to 225 percent of the country’s annual economic output—more than twice the corresponding figure in nearby Puerto Rico. It destroyed or severely damaged almost half the island’s 29,000 buildings, along with much of its power and telecom infrastructure; the island’s towns remain pockmarked by the husks of ruined homes, its forests littered with half-toppled trees. As many as a third of residents have fled.

NIST to Study PR Infrastructure Impacts

NIST Launches Study of Hurricane Maria’s Impact on Puerto Rico.

The U.S. Commerce Department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) announced it will study the impacts of Hurricane Maria on Puerto Rico, focusing specifically on the performance of critical buildings and their dependence on distributed infrastructure (such as electricity and water), as well as emergency communications and the public’s response to those communications.

Detailed Account of Electrical Infrastructure Problems in PR

From the NYTimes, this detailed, well-researched account of the electric grid problems before and after Hurricane Maria.  See: How Storms, Missteps and an Ailing Grid Left Puerto Rico in the Dark. “It took months to restore electricity in Puerto Rico after hurricanes dealt a one-two punch. Many homes are still without power, and the system’s future is far from certain.”

There are many elements of this article worth delving into, but one that I would like to highlight is this question: Is the Stafford Act adequate to deal with a catastrophic event?

NPR on FEMA’s Failure re Puerto Rico

From National Public Radio (5/1/18): How FEMA Failed to Help Victims of Hurricanes in Puerto Rico Recover.

Also on 5/1, the Public Television show Frontline did a program titled The Blackout in Puerto Rico.

Update:  My fellow blogger, Eric Holdeman also posted comments about these citations, and ends with a worthy warning:

Thus, when people point the finger at Mike Byrne  [federal coordinating officer] and FEMA, remember that three fingers are pointing back at you and others. You own a portion of this failure to have a national culture of preparedness and community resilience.



FEMA’s Plan for PR Criticized

From Politico: FEMA’s plan underestimated Puerto Rican hurricane. In preparing for the storm, the disaster agency failed to anticipate the level of damage or extent of federal involvement required.

The federal government significantly underestimated the potential damage to Puerto Rico from Hurricane Maria and relied too heavily on local officials and private-sector entities to handle the cleanup, according to a POLITICO review of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s plan for the disaster.

The plan, which was developed by a FEMA contractor in 2014 in anticipation of a catastrophic storm and utilized by FEMA when Maria hit last September, prepared for a Category 4 hurricane and projected that the island would shift from response to recovery mode after roughly 30 days. In fact, Hurricane Maria was a “high-end” Category 4 storm with different locations on the island experiencing Category 5 winds. More than six months after Maria made landfall, the island is just beginning to shift to recovery mode.