Katrina

Discussion
Sep 01, 2005
George Anderson

By George Anderson

Louisiana’s Governor tearfully describes the scene as “untenable…heartbreaking.” Mississippi’s Governor believes this is what it must look like after an atomic bomb is dropped.

Rescuers in boats need to push the dead away with sticks as they try to get to survivors locked in attics or up on the roofs of buildings. A woman talks of not being able to sleep. How could you sleep when you can’t get the images of the dead out of your head?

“There was this little baby. She looked so perfect and so beautiful. I just wanted to scoop her up and breathe life back into her little lungs. She wasn’t bloated or anything, just perfect,” she said.

Looters, some like vermin, sweep in to profit off the misery that is everywhere. Others break the law out of the desperation that comes from not having enough food or water to drink. What are you to do when you had virtually nothing before the storm and now you’re left with even less?

One man dies over a bag of ice.

Storeowners stand at the entrance of their shops armed and ready to protect what is theirs even if it means…

Thousands believing they were safe find themselves on buses to places such as Houston for it may be months before they will ever be able to return home or at least go back to where their homes once stood. Others make their way away by foot. They move in lines like refugees from some war-torn foreign land that is displayed on American television.

The President says it will take years to recover. Leaders call for prayer and the strength it will take to build something better, stronger, out of the ruins. Amen.

Moderator’s Comment: What are your thoughts on the events this week surrounding Hurricane Katrina? Specifically, what will be the impact of the storm
and its effects on retailers in the areas hit and on the national economy?

Here are a few groups involved in the Katrina recovery effort should you wish to make a donation.
George Anderson – Moderator

American Red Cross
http://www.redcross.org/

AmeriCares
http://www.americares.org/

Operation USA
http://www.operationusa.org/

The Salvation Army
http://www.salvationarmyusa.org/

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.

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16 Comments on "Katrina"


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Mark Barnhouse
Guest
Mark Barnhouse
15 years 6 months ago
I agree with what everyone above has said, especially about the inadequacy of governmental response. The Japanese government was widely criticized by Americans after the Kobe earthquake, for being about as effective as our response to Katrina has been so far. What Katrina shows for retailers and the businesses that serve them (not to mention individuals and families): you must develop your own plan for disasters, whether they be natural or man-made (e.g., terrorism). Do not rely on adequate governmental preparedness (let’s not forget that 25% of Louisiana’s National Guard is currently deployed in Iraq). Federal, Louisiana and New Orleans officials have LONG known, despite their claims to the contrary, that a Category 3, 4, or 5 hurricane would result in major loss of life and property damage, even at the scale we see today. They’ve known the levees were vulnerable and weak. National Geographic had a story that included this scenario in their October 2004 issue–did anyone from Louisiana read it? Businesses not only need to have their own plans — how to re-start… Read more »
Tom Bales
Guest
Tom Bales
15 years 6 months ago
I believe that retail organizations have an opportunity to polish a somewhat tarnished image that’s been developing over the past few years as return on investment has pushed customer service aside and cost cutting and head count reductions have become the main routes to “profit” for some. For example, Sears has said that they have 30 truckloads of generators sitting and waiting for when they can get their stores open and sell them to a devastated population. In my view, it would look a lot better for Sears if they simply delivered this vital equipment to one of the disaster management agencies for as immediate use as possible and let the professionals decide when, where and how to put them to best use, rather than sitting on them for possibly weeks while they try to re-open their stores. Wal-Mart is going to great lengths to lessen the impact for its employees. From the Post: Wal-Mart Stores Inc. initially closed 156 stores in the affected areas. As of yesterday afternoon, 46 were closed. Before the hurricane… Read more »
Franklin Benson
Guest
Franklin Benson
15 years 6 months ago

At the “nuts and bolts” level of what’s happening in retail, we are seeing sales go to zero for closed stores (obviously) but in another band of stores that is approximately more than 50 miles away from New Orleans and closer than 150 miles sales are going up. From a manufacturer’s point of view, this event is a wash – whatever sales were lost locally were made up for in the next band of stores further out.

People are literally starting over, and needing to buy whatever they can, or have to, to make it through the next few months.

I’ll second the comments about the inadequacy of the disaster planning – whoever had the brilliant idea of putting people in the Superdome needs to be relieved of a job. They should have just bused people to the Astrodome to begin with.

Mark Lilien
Guest
15 years 6 months ago

Due to the widespread devastation, the concentration of energy producers, and the likely multi-month recovery time needed for key infrastructure items, the Federal Reserve needs to flood the country with cash. The economy in most states will be hurt by the deepening of the energy crisis, which may continue for months. When the WTC was destroyed, the Fed loosened the money supply, and it helped the economy tremendously. This crisis is much worse than 9/11.

David Livingston
Guest
15 years 6 months ago

A large group of my clients are clustered in his area. Most of them have found refuge in outlying cities. They watch helplessly as the water and looters damage their stores. The West Bank stores were spared of the flood but desperate looters are making their way across the river.

I predict that many stores will be condemned and will not reopen. Thousands of people will take their insurance proceeds and simply relocate to other cities. New Orleans will face a significant loss in population. Outlying areas such as Baton Rouge, Mandeville, and Covington will probably explode with new population growth providing new retail opportunities. Will financially troubled Winn Dixie and A&P be able to adjust?

New Orleans had a nice collection of independent grocers unmatched by any other community. What will become of Langensteins, Zuppardo’s, Dorignac’s, Robert’s, Breaux Mart, Farrara, etc.? Even the famous French Quarter A&P?

I’m sure New Orleans will eventually recover, but the retail landscape will be rearranged.

Al McClain
Guest
Al McClain
15 years 6 months ago

Beyond the catastrophe itself, I’m amazed at the inadequacy of the relief effort thus far. To have people dying in their attics from flood water long after the initial event; patients expiring in hospitals for lack of oxygen, power, and water; and rampant looting is astounding. The failure of officials to get people evacuated from the city, both before and after the event, speaks poorly for our disaster preparation.

This seems like not only a natural disaster, but a complete failure of the entire infrastructure in a major American city. Having lived in New Orleans for four years, I’m shocked at the utter devastation, and more shocked at the poor response on so many levels.

Of course, you have to credit the emergency workers, police, National Guard, and volunteers who are doing their jobs under brutal conditions. And, there are glimmers of hope such as Chase reopening suburban bank branches, waiving ATM fees, and offering free checking. And, Texas is doing a terrific thing by taking in refugees and even enrolling their kids in Texas schools.

Katya Robinson
Guest
Katya Robinson
15 years 6 months ago

Thanks for calling attention to this important issue. Please also add http://www.networkforgood.org to your list of organizations
helping in relief areas. You can donate to all the major agencies rushing relief to the area online safely and securely on this one web site.

Don Delzell
Guest
Don Delzell
15 years 6 months ago
Katrina is a disaster of unprecedented scale for our country. We’ve talked in the past about Leaders. What must be done here is for each of us, regardless of our position in industry or the community, to demonstrate leadership. I’ve asked each of my clients to coordinate efforts toward providing whatever support they feel comfortable. What each individual and organization should do is to ask “what am I best suited to do in response to this”? For example, if I’m McDonald’s, I’m looking to see if I can set up temporary locations in the refugee camps that are going to exist, and can I subsidize the cost (because these people are unemployed and will remain so for awhile). If I’m Wal-Mart I should be looking at clothing these people, providing for subsistence comfort. Refugee camps quickly become nightmares. Anyone that visited the Palestinian camps or those in Bosnia can tell you better than I. Corporate America: you are very good at certain things. Bring that expertise to bear in helping. Think it through. If everyone… Read more »
Ed Dennis
Guest
Ed Dennis
15 years 6 months ago
Katrina has proven how fragile our communications systems are in the face of a disaster. What is even more unbelievable is how those who have the ability to communicate are totally oblivious to the service they could provide. I see all of our “24/7” news channels basically doing the same old thing. I even saw one “astute” reporter spend valuable time trying to place blame on officials for what he determined to be “slow” relief efforts. This was an opportunity for our media channels to shine but they have done little beyond hop from one Wow to another. If they were serving the public they would be crawling radio frequencies to let people know where to tune for local relief information. They would have Red Cross, FEMA, Salvation Army, etc. representatives on air and publishing locations where relief can be coordinated. The media can talk to all of us 24/7. They can certainly use this precious time and energy to be part of the solution. I think we all are aware of the problem. This… Read more »
Bernice Hurst
Guest
15 years 6 months ago
It’s obviously difficult from this distance to see the scale of the disaster objectively. I have got to assume that there is just the teensiest bit of bias in the media but some of what we are reading and seeing makes sense. That the vast majority of those who couldn’t get away and sought shelter in the stadium were poor and black. That those are the people with no homes, no jobs, no possessions and in some cases no family. That they are the ones who will need the most help with liveable accommodation for a long time to come and some way of finding jobs elsewhere to try and rebuild lives that were already poverty stricken. Talking to friends in the UK watching from thousands of miles away we are staggered not only by the results of Katrina but by the lack of preparation for a hurricane that most of the officials we’ve heard interviewed believed was inevitable. And by the shocking inability to evacuate those who couldn’t get themselves away. Not having enough… Read more »
Bill Bittner
Guest
Bill Bittner
15 years 6 months ago
It is not too early for us to begin to learn (again) what the benefit of an ounce of prevention can be to prevent catastrophe. I often think about how easy it would have been to have reinforced doors on aircraft cockpits before 9/11. Now we learn how much benefit it would be to offer public transportation and temporary shelter to people who need to be relocated in the face of a storm. It also seems that there should have been some kind of “fire siren” warning system to notify everyone of a break in the levy system. But it is also a lesson in the weakness of human nature as people become complacent in the face of potential danger. Repeated “close calls” lead to a false sense of invincibility that makes people accept risks that they shouldn’t. It is true that many of the people who remained in the city of New Orleans may not have left no matter what assistance was provided. I am sure that this experience will change that attitude. On… Read more »
Mark Burr
Guest
15 years 6 months ago
At these times, we see the best and the worst of human character. We also seem all to eager to second guess, lay blame and criticize — none of which are helpful or gain anything for those hurt by the disaster. Other than their state at the moment, are any of those who were lucky enough to reach safe ground any better off than those who did not? For most injured by the disaster, all is lost regardless whether you are temporarily standing in water or standing in the Astrodome in Texas. Towns, homes, workplaces, schools, hospitals, and life as they new it last week is gone. It’s not gone temporarily — but for good. Predictions are that many will never be able to return and the demographics will have been changed permanently. Even so, its expected to be 3-4 months before even an evaluation can take place. It strikes me as odd to compare. It strikes me as odd to criticize as if somehow we’d have done better or are somehow more prepared in… Read more »
ERIC MAINA
Guest
ERIC MAINA
15 years 5 months ago
I am saddened by the pictures I am seeing on my TV screen. More so because of the utter devastation and human desperation and suffering. What amazes me most is the images are coming from the world’s super power…I think we have been focusing our energy on the wrong things. Sending man to the moon, to Mars etc. spending millions of dollars while we are not even prepared for such an emergency. During the clamor for multiparty democracy, here in Nairobi, Kenya, retailers lost millions to looters during the violent demonstrations. Retailers installed steel roller shutters all along their shop fronts but that just killed window shopping. Retail business will suffer now but in a few months, I see a spur in consultancy, construction, logistics, transportation etc. The billions in damages will have to be ploughed back after settlements and the innovative will bloom but they have to make lemonade out of the lemons Katrina has hurled at them. My heartfelt condolences to all those affected…be strong and like in my Africa, you will rise… Read more »
R Budz
Guest
R Budz
15 years 5 months ago

The devastation of Katrina on the Gulf Coast is unthinkable. As a nation we need to ban together and help the individuals most affected by this catastrophe AS SOON AS POSSIBLE. I think the Senators and Congressmen from each of the states in this nation should roll up their sleeves and take responsibility for approximately 1,000 or so of the refugees. In doing so, they should consider providing transportation to their state and housing perhaps in hotels for a period of months until further decisions can be made on the future of their hometowns. We are a progressive nation and should not expect the refugees to be herded around in mass to facilities that barely address their basic needs. These individuals deserve dignity and care during this time of need!

Bernice Hurst
Guest
15 years 5 months ago

Rbudz makes an eminently sensible suggestion. It’s about time politicians actually did something for real people rather than stuffing legislation full of pork. I’m sure lots of retailers and aid agencies are contributing food and clothes to those who need it but the distribution needs to be improved drastically and sooner rather than later. Why can’t all the helicopters and coaches going in empty to take people out be bringing supplies to those still waiting their turn? Shooting to kill will do nothing but exacerbate an already tragic situation; alleviating circumstances in any and every way possible would be far more effective. Otherwise he who is finally planning to lift his head above the parapet, and has no iota of sympathy towards gun legislation, might find one of those desperate victims aiming a potshot at it.

George Ator
Guest
George Ator
15 years 5 months ago
Katrina was a major disaster, no question. But, the real problem is the total innane actions of the government agencies that are supposed to be able to handle disasters. There is blame enough for everyone from the lowest level of government to the President. One example of the inanity was to send national guard trucks to the area empty when it was fully known that there was no water or food available for survivors. Those trucks could easily have been loaded with some staples such as peanut butter crackers, bread, peanut butter, and similar rations. Water buffaloes should have been dispatched from Baton Rouge and Texas stations immediately. Clearly, FEMA and Homeland Security were asleep and the DOD showed its inabilties. The only good thing might be that these agencies and their leaders were exposed. Now maybe they will be replaced with good leaders and staffs. Isn’t it interesting also that Exxon has made phenomenal profits of billions in the last six months and sent only 3 million dollars in aid. Perhaps we need to… Read more »
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