'DODGED A BULLET'? NOT HERE
Posted: Monday, September 26 at 12:03 pm CT by Bob Sullivan
Vehicles stream east on I-10 through damaged areas near the Louisiana border Monday. (Andrew Locke / MSNBC.com)
EAST OF BEAUMONT, Texas -- The closer we get to Louisiana, the more water and broken trees we see. So we decide to just follow the path nature lays out before us, to follow the destruction. We're pushing past Beaumont, across into Louisiana, and then down closer to the coastline.
In this part of the world, there are flashing police cars blocking nearly every exit from the highway. At almost every one, we see a line of cars, and at each, people are pleading to get in to see their neighborhoods. Many are turned away.
At a few places, we see drivers choosing "alternate routes," skipping the exits, and jumping the medians to get into their towns.
Many just want to know if they have a house or not.
Some folks are being told they won't have power for three to four weeks, it and might be that long before they are allowed to re-enter the area.
This is not a place that dodged a bullet.
Television has incredible power, and influence. We were talking this morning about the overall reaction to Hurricane Rita, this sense of relief that everyone was talking about during the weekend.
But only last night the first pictures were coming out of Cameron Parish, La., revealing that near the eye of Hurricane Rita, entire communities were swept off the map. Only now we're getting a sense that things might be even worse than we imagine when we get there -- if we can get there.
But by Monday, it seems much of the nation's attention has moved on, in part because the initial reaction to the storm was that it spared Galveston and Houston, where most of the reporters had holed up.
The sad truth is, Andrew and I discuss, if there aren't pictures, it didn't happen. And if there aren't pictures right away, people tend to assume everything is fine, and move on.
That was part of the problem with Katrina, too -- immediately after the storm, because it was downgraded to a Category 4 just before landfall, there were reports that "it could have been worse." It took a good 24 hours to get out pictures showing the truth, and those turned out to be a critical 24 hours. By then, some of the nation's attention had turned and the focus of government officials had been un-focused.
On a smaller scale, the same is true here. So before we leave, we're going to to try to get as close as we can to Cameron, and some towns along the way, to make sure there are pictures of these people and these places.
Cattle wrangling on the bayou