Katrina Shatters the South

August 31, 2005

TCConfidential has lagged in the past few days, and for a reason you'd not expect a Web site to suffer. But then, there's not been a hurricane like Katrina in recent memory for most of us.

A few years back, our Mike Davis wrote a piece on the human and vehicular losses that followed the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11. Combined with the incredible suffering that followed, it seemed to be the defining tragedy of our time. But Katrina may change that, sinking a whole region into utter chaos for months.

The personal losses are steep. TCC En Espanol publisher Greg Sanchez' home is without a roof, thanks to Katrina, and he's without power still. On my side of the Gulf of Mexico, Katrina has devastated the city I have made my second home. Friends have been uprooted, if they were wise enough to leave town before the floodwaters surged back into the CBD and the near suburbs. The interstates through Mississippi are moonscapes now, utterly flattened by storm surge. A friend who reports for Mobile's NBC affiliate says from his city west, "most of it is gone." Hundreds are dead, the frightened and weak and tired left behind are resorting to looting, and New Orleans is months away from functioning like a city again.

Automakers have been generous in helping thus far, forgiving payments, donating cash, and giving away vehicles in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. GM will give $400,000 to the American Red Cross as well as 25 vehicles; Ford is allowing those who live in disaster areas to defer two vehicle payments and will match employee donations to the American Red Cross; and Nissan, which operates an assembly plant in mid-Mississippi, will donated 30-day leases for 50 Titan trucks to the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency. Nissan's plant had closed prior to the landfall of the hurricane and has not yet reopened.

But it's not enough. Estimates for damages from the storm are ranging from $9 billion to $26 billion. Donations to the American Red Cross are not just needed, they're critical at this stage of the recovery process. They will help put volunteers in the area to dispense medical care, food and potable water, and will help the evacuees try to resettle outside the coast until the states and FEMA figure out how to begin a massive recovery effort.

And once they're ready for you again, you can help the gulf coast get back on its feet by coming down for a visit. Make plans now to drive down for Mardi Gras in February, even if gas is $3.50 a gallon by then. Or to visit Mississippi's Delta or Vicksburg. Or the incredible Robert Trent Jones golf courses in Alabama. And maybe then, we'll be able to put Katrina into the history books where she belongs.

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