Au revoir and "because of many disaster's magnitude, the support agencies were unable to handle the effects" : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

Sweetie and I have taken the house off the market and I'm going to be busy with some minor improvements. You know how it is, you figure it'll take a week and it takes a month. (And costs three times as much as you thought.) I'll check in periodically and be back regularly in a few weeks (I hope!). Till then, hang in there and print off the post below for handing out to those preparing for the proverbial storm. It's the best description I know of modern life without electricity, other conveniences or adequate security. It's a repeat of a post three months ago. Related posts are at the first URL, the original piece is at the second.


Each year disasters shred thousands of homes and mingle the tatters of lumber, drywall, shingles and roof tiles into one sickening blanket of scrap building materials.

(Photo: Looters openly steal goods during Hurricane Andrew)

As if dealing with a major disaster was not enough, I have found looting to be on the increase.It is interesting to note now and it was appalling to observe then, the majority of the victims were demanding that the "government--or someone--do something." The prevailing rationale was that the victims were not responsible for their own safety and welfare. Unfortunately, the magnitude of this disaster shut down an already cumbersome governmental support system upon which they were depending.

It was during Hurricane Hugo in the Carolinas that I first observed the extent of looting during a disaster. Of the hundreds of victims that I have dealt with, most had lost something to looters. Pillage even occurred in the rural areas. Then came Hurricane Andrew in south Florida. There the storm related damage estimates reached 20 billion dollars property damage, 250,000 homeless, 35,000 in shelters and 1.3 million lacking power--one of the costliest disasters ever in the United States. Here looting took on a life of its own. Many times whole families, including children, could be seen pushing shopping carts full of merchandise they had stolen.

In any disaster cash is "king" after all the banks were closed. Since lack of electricity meant no electronic funds transfers or interior lighting for the banks, cash was the only method of purchasing in many areas. There was a surprising number of people who had emergency goods to sell but they did not accept credit cards or personal checks. For several weeks, victims could not even get their paychecks cashed.

Unfortunately thieves and looters seek out those who have cash or goods. Most victims are to intent on making a purchase or solving their immediate crisis to be aware that others are watching them. They falsely assume, no one could be so cruel to take from those who already lost most or all of their possessions.

In large disasters, the National Guard will furnish some security, but it will be delayed by the extensive debris blocking the roads. The extent of a large damage area makes the efforts even less effective. Also the expedient focusing of National Guard activity mainly on town centers leaves rural residents unserved, disgruntled and very vulnerable to attack.During Hurricane Andrew, the Assistant City Manager of Homestead, Florida reported that he had a hundred National Guard next to the city hall, but every time he tried to direct them to a problem area, he was told they needed approval from higher up which sometimes took hours and sometimes days. Unfortunately, there was a severe shortage of on-site leadership.

Before the National Guard's presence is known, looting is always widespread. In many cases the plundering is done by "neighbors" from the next block. In one complex, during Hurricane Hugo, three scavengers gained entry into a number of the evacuated apartments. But when they began to pry one door open, one remaining occupant threatened to shoot. The looters then kicked in the door of the next apartment and ransacked it rather than face someone who was armed.

During one disaster, with no street lights, pitch blackness prevailed at night. It was frightening to see many people milling around after dark as both a result of and cause for anxiety. In one suburban area, the National Guard was unable to enforce an imposed curfew as people experienced the boredom and anxiety that rapidly sets in when normal patterns are disrupted. In some low income areas, the bars were in full swing by noon, and by dusk, bands of drunken men were moving out into urban areas looking for something to do.I recall a fright I experienced one evening when returning late to my motel during Hurricane Hugo's recovery operations. I made a wrong turn and found myself lost in the inner city after curfew. When I paused at the first intersection, several people brushed my car checking for an unlocked door. I was fortunate, for they might have broken out a window and crawled in. Needless to say, I did not slow down at other intersections.During Hurricane Andrew, looting was common place and accepted as a way of life. One victim from an upper class neighborhood told me " I was shunned by my neighbors because I rejected an offer to cruise for goods."

Or as Fred Taylor, Metro-Dade police director said,"The looting has occurred in areas made vulnerable in the storm. That's mostly homes on main roads, convenience stores and strip shopping malls. The takers included young people, old people and people with little kids."

In another situation, a looter was questioned about his looting as he carried out a television. He said, "I'm not looting - I need this television."

It was clear the looters knew the inability of law enforcement to handle masses of looters. "The police know we are here," said one female in her late teens, who declined to identify herself. She was pushing a shopping cart overflowing with clothes through the shattered plate glass window of a flooded T.J. Max store.

Police confessed they had more important worries. "Frankly, the priority is not property, " one said. "We're only handling life-threatening situations." What he said is probably true, for the victims I worked who lost most of their personal goods or business inventory due to looting saw very few arrests. Drug stores and veterinary clinics were especially vulnerable for drug theft.

But justice prevailed in one interesting instance. As the crowd cheered, a woman was handcuffed and led away from the Royal Palm Ice Company. Her crime: Trying to cut the line, nearly a quarter-mile long and 5,000 strong, waiting to buy bags of ice from the back of several trailer trucks. A dozen Miami police had been on duty at the ice house since 7 a.m. The wait was at least four hours; the cost for a 4-pound bag was $5. "They are fighting in ice lines all over town," one policeman said.

One thing I have learned is your protection will be your prior planning. During the LA riots, a major portion of those injured were going to get food or water. If they had been prepared to be self-supporting for two weeks, the danger would have past. In addition, I have yet to see a loss due to looting occur to anyone who was prepared to defend their property.During Hurricane Andrew, peaceful citizens packed guns to protect their flattened homes as looters pushed shopping carts through downtown Homestead, Florida. I talked with a lawyer who was a victim and who had been away in another city during the actual storm. His neighbors had called him and told him to buy shotgun ammunition. Being somewhat passive and not knowledgeable about guns, he went to a gun store and asked for ammunition. The store owner asked him what "load" he wanted. Then, noting the unsureness, added, "Is it to be used for rabbits?" The victim replied, "Well not actually--Larger." "For deer?" the owner asked. The victim stammered that he was from Homestead where they had looters. The store owner responded,"Well, why didn't you say so in the first place. Here is the load you need for looters." The homeowner told me that he now cherishes his right to protect himself.

During Hurricane Hugo, prepared neighborhoods barricaded their block. Home watch guards worked in shifts during the day and night. This system was very effective. Active involvement with neighbors now will aid in future group preparedness actions. One store owner I met was the only retailer in his shopping center that was not looted. His solution was a generator for light, a cooler for food and drink, a comfortable chair located in his doorway while on guard and a shotgun. He never had to even point it for all looters gave him full berth while seeking easier spoils.

The larger disasters experienced in this decade continue to breed looting. Unfortunately, because of many disaster's magnitude,Unfortunately, because of many disaster's magnitude, the support agencies were unable to adequately handle the effects. There was confusion and false starts on the part of federal and local agencies. Many victims had cause to feel helpless and become angry toward the powers in control.

In any survival situation, knowledge and advance preparation are crucial although loss cannot be completely prevented nor predicted. Yet understanding the tendencies of a natural disaster can enable one to become prepared physically and emotionally. Surely the mistakes made and the lessons learned from past disasters will not soon be forgotten--or will disasters continue to put unprepared people into desperate straits?

Cut and pasted on March 04, 1999, by

-- Old Git (, June 18, 1999


Thank you Old Git - great post. Real wake up call.

-- R (, June 18, 1999.

Great post, come back soon!

-- Andy (, June 18, 1999.

We will be waiting for your return. Thanks for the post.

-- Linda A. (, June 18, 1999.

Smooth sailing through all your projects, dear. Thanks for everything. Pop in with a quick howdy when you get a chance. We'll look for your return.

-- Faith Weaver (, June 18, 1999.

Thanks for the great post, Git.... Come back to us soon.

-- Sandmann (, June 18, 1999.

Old Git,

I remember Hurricane Hugo. It hit us rather hard in our area of the mountains. A couple of the summer home neighbors walked in to see if my son and I where ok. Sent them on their away with flashlights and water...sign of times to come.

If you need anything, let us know, can't be but a couple of hours between us.

-- Lilly (, June 18, 1999.

Old Git, many THANKS for your tireless efforts on behalf of this Forum, they are much appreciated. The MOST important thing is that you are AWARE, this factor alone will be invaluable no matter where you are located.


-- Ray (, June 18, 1999.

Old Git-We'll miss you but understand the time constraints. Take care. Linda

-- newbiebutnodummy (, June 18, 1999.

Thanks, Old Git, you have inspired so many of us!

-- Brooks (, June 18, 1999.

I read this when it was first posted & it gave me the creeps then, as now. Time to get out the shovel & dig, I guess.

What REALLY angers me tho, is reading official denials of wide-spread looting in the wake of these hurricaines. I've read in various places that looting was not a problem in any of the disaster scenes. Maybe there's a racial factor that no one wants to talk about. I don't know. But denial seems to be official policy. Very creepy.

-- persistant cookie (in@my.browser), June 18, 1999.

I can certainly empathise with your time constraints as I'm operating quite constrained myself these days. Real life can be so intrusive.

Be safe; stay healthy. Looking forward to your return.


"I made some studies, and reality is the leading cause of stress amongst those in touch with it. I can take it in small doses, but as a lifestyle, I found it too confining. It was just too needful; it expected me to be there for it ALL the time, and with all I have to do---I had to let something go." ---Trudy the Bag Lady (In Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe)

-- Hallyx (, June 18, 1999.

awesome post ms.-git' dogs folks i' keep tellin ya-dogs' very few looters want to wade into a pack of dogs.

-- al-d. (, June 18, 1999.

Thanks Old Git!

Prepare your house well.... and do come back when youre done. Thanks for all the great preparation posts!

For the newcomers, if Y2K doesnt inspire you, these natural disaster personal accounts are also worth a couple refresher reads...

ICE STORM MONTREAL, QUEBEC January 5-9 1998 icestormtext.html#anchor111706





-- Diane J. Squire (, June 18, 1999.

Old Git, truest thing ever said, "you figure a week and it takes a month and costs 3 times what you expected".

We're still plugging away at it and I hope to be back online next month, but I do manage to get on a borrowed computer to keep up with you (and Greybear,Big Dog, Diane, Taz and even Andy!)

Hurry back!

-- Sue (, June 18, 1999.

Thanks Old Git!

Especially for the advice on the radios and batteries.

-- nothere nothere (, June 18, 1999.

Thanks for everything Old Git! We all look forward to your return.

-- GA Russell (, June 22, 1999.

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