Preparedness counts

The Baltimore Sun

The Bush administration, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and New Orleans Mayor C. Ray Nagin took the hurricane warnings seriously and put the power of government solidly behind efforts to protect citizens and secure the Big Easy. And then Hurricane Gustav cooperated by delivering a less-forceful blow to the region Monday. What a relief and a lesson in the benefits of emergency preparedness.

New Orleans is a demonstrably different city than it was before Hurricane Katrina slammed into the Gulf Coast three years ago, exposing the incompetence of city, state and federal officials who were ill-prepared to deal with its aftermath. It was a tragic, demoralizing commentary on the Bush administration's inability to respond appropriately, but also a powerful incentive to prepare fully for the next big storm. The evacuation plan put together for New Orleans worked extremely well, from all reports. City and state officials deserve praise for providing enough transportation to safely relocate citizens who needed an exit.

But residents of the Gulf Coast should regard the preparedness for Gustav as a dress rehearsal for the next big storm, which could wreak a lot more havoc than what occurred this week. While post-Katrina improvements to New Orleans' levee system proved effective, that work must continue, and vulnerable levees in other areas should also be reinforced. The hurricane season goes on for another 88 days.

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