Thursday, September 01, 2005

Astrodome closed to new refugees? (updated)

CNN just reported breaking news that the Astrodome has started turning away buses, even though there are only 5 or 6,000 refugees currently inside, and estimates were that it would hold 24,000. Their most recent footage shows a pretty crowded floor of the Dome, but it doesn't look like they've used any of the various upper concourse levels and none of the seats. Aaron Brown indicated this is about to blow up into a big story: there are hundreds of buses headed our way. Why did we promise we could take 24,000 if it can only really hold 6,000?

OK, the newest update is that the fire marshal ordered it to stop accepting new people for safety reasons. I find that curious: if the stadium is fire safe with 60,000 people watching a game, how come it's not with 10 or 20,000? My suspicion is they planned on using all the concourses for cots, but the fire marshal thinks those cots would inhibit evacuation down those same concourses during an emergency. Alternately, it might be a cover excuse once they figured out that, if they filled every nook and cranny with people, it would be a security nightmare: you can monitor people on an open field, but not in the back concourses without an army of guards (certainly a concern after all the rape and assault stories from the SuperDome).

Regardless, this could be a real black mark for Houston unless we explain quickly and thoroughly, and find alternate options (Reliant Center? the GRB?). In the meantime, they've said they can accept thousands in San Antonio at the old Kelley Air Force Base, so they can forward those buses on for an extra three hours for tonight (those poor, exhausted people), but I hope they have something else figured out by morning when the mass fleets of buses start showing up...

Morning update: the Chronicle reports this morning that there are 11,375 inside, and they are trying to accommodate a few more at Reliant Arena.

My suggestion: Try to make the Astrodome an initial processing facility, then distribute them to other shelters. Give refugees a medical screening, a shower, some hot food, a good night's sleep - and then once they're stabilized move them on to smaller shelters that might not have the same access to medical care. Families with more serious medical conditions could stay, but others that are basically healthy could be moved on to make room for the incoming waves. Maybe 5-10 thousand people per day could be moved through this way?


At 8:23 AM, September 02, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

RE: make the Astrodome an initial processing facility

That strikes me as a good idea. After a day or two of recovery, there's no reason why people can't be flown on chartered planes (or driven in buses, transported on trains) to points all around the country. There are cities and towns all over the US that will help if given the chance. And frankly, I think the evacuees will have an easier time getting themselves back to something resembling normal if they're housed in pockets of hundreds or less, not multiple thousands. Personally, I'd much rather try to put my life back together with 100 others in a gymnasium in Des Moines or a warehouse in Tulsa than with 20,000 others in the Astrodome.

At 2:22 PM, September 02, 2005, Blogger kjb434 said...

it's almost like we would turn the Astrodome into an Ellis Island

At 10:26 PM, September 03, 2005, Blogger Andrew said...

Alot of these people don't have a job to return to or homes. So Houston better have alot of voter registration cards handy!


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