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Author: TriSec    Date: 10/10/2017 09:50:06

Good Morning.

We'll start this morning with a tale of two hurricanes, or more specifically, a tale of two landfalls.

Many days ago now, Hurricane Maria pummeled the island of Puerto Rico. It remains surprising that the death toll remains as low as it is, but this may yet be because of the total lack of communication around parts of the island. Here is a recent picture from Yabucoa:


The story below is slightly out-of-date (Oct 4), but buried deep in the story is the news that the long-rumoured hospital ship USNS Comfort has indeed finally reached the stricken island.

I’ll say straight-out: There are few obvious gaps in the federal response in the timeline. But it does make it clear that the speed and scale of the initial Maria relief effort pales next to other recent campaigns.

After a magnitude-7 earthquake struck Haiti in 2010, President Obama ordered a massive military and civilian response. As The Washington Post describes: Eight thousand troops were bound for the island within two days; 22,000 troops and 33 ships had arrived within two weeks. And five days after the quake struck, former presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton joined Obama at the White House to announce the Haiti Fund, a multimillion-dollar philanthropic appeal for the foreign country.

By comparison, only about 7,200 military personnel have made it to Puerto Rico two weeks after landfall.

And while the five living former presidents added Hurricane Maria to One America Appeal, their preexisting campaign for hurricane-relief donations, five days after landfall, they have not visited the White House or gone on television. President Trump tweeted about One America Appeal once, on the day that Hurricane Irma made landfall, but that was well before Hurricane Maria formed.

This speed did not ensure Haiti had a successful recovery, and today the earthquake-relief effort is considered a failure. But the precedent suggests that the U.S. military might have responded with greater speed than it did to Maria. Unlike Haiti, Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory; unlike an earthquake, a hurricane is predictable. The National Weather Service first warned that Maria could strike the island as a “dangerous major hurricane” more than three weeks ago.

Likewise, the first public call to mobilize the USNS Comfort, the only U.S. Navy hospital ship on the East Coast, came from Hillary Clinton on Sunday, September 24, four days after landfall.

The Comfort was not deployed until Tuesday, September 26, six days after landfall; did not leave port until Thursday, September 28, more than a week after landfall; and did not reach Puerto Rico until Tuesday, October 3, 11 days after Maria hit the island. A Pentagon official has told The Washington Post that the Navy considered sending the Comfort before the storm but decided Puerto Rican ports could not immediately handle a ship that large.

I will personally dispute that last sentence, as I was fortunate to see the USNS Comfort with my own eyes this summer. Earlier this year, she was in drydock in South Boston, across the pier from our cruise ship terminal. I did some math.

USNS Comfort is roughly the size of the Titanic - about 890 feet long, and 100 feet on the beam. The Cruise ship "Oasis of the Seas" was also here in Boston this year, just a couple of weeks ago, and I saw that one too. "Oasis" routinely makes ports-of-call in San Juan and other resort locations around the Caribbean. Here are the two photoshopped together:


So make of that what you will.

But there is more - yesterday we had the lingering aftereffects of Hurricane Nate passing through New England. It was sultry most of the day, some gusting winds, and a passing shower or two that were really no big deal. (They were able to "play" baseball at Fenway yesterday.) Nate made landfall back in Louisiana as a category one hurricane. Of course, the response was quite different from Puerto Rico.

Hurricane Nate made landfall at about 8 p.m. local time at the mouth of the Mississippi River and again at about 1:30 a.m. Sunday morning near Biloxi, Mississippi, as a Category 1 storm with sustained winds of 85 mph.

By Sunday afternoon, Nate had weakened to a tropical depression with sustained winds of 35 mph as it moved inland over Mississippi and Alabama, the National Hurricane Center said.

More than 70,000 in Alabama and 30,000 in Mississippi were without power Sunday in the storm surge and flooding but the region appeared to have been spared the kind of catastrophic damage that Texas, Florida and the Caribbean suffered in the recent series of hurricanes. New Orleans, which had feared a major hit, on Sunday lifted a curfew that had been in effect over the weekend.

"We are very fortunate this morning and have been blessed," Gov. Phil Bryant, R-Mississippi, said while noting that there had been damage to homes primarily from the storm surge produced by Nate.

On Saturday, the amphibious dock ship Iwo Jima and the transport dock New York -- both with Marines aboard from the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit based at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, left port in Mayport, Florida, to be in position behind Nate if they were needed.

U.S. Northern Command, which was coordinating the military response with the Federal Emergency Management Agency along the Gulf Coast, as well as in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, set up an Installation Support Base at Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama, over the weekend to stage supplies and personnel as Nate arrived.

The Defense Department also readied relief for states potentially impacted by Nate by putting on standby a search and rescue package of light, medium and heavy-lift helicopters, an Air Expeditionary Group (for support operations), and an E-3 Airborne Early Warning and Control System along with trucks and general purpose boats, NorthCom said.

There doesn't seem to be too much more to say, but I bet we're really good at reading between the lines most days. I can leave you with a musical interlude that may be relevant as well.


19 comments (Latest Comment: 10/10/2017 17:21:27 by Raine)
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