Friday, September 02, 2005

"Ground truth" Logistics

Instapundit gets a "ground truth" email that lays out some of the problems trying to help New Orleans (and presumbaly Biloxi, etc) here
I run a trade association of tank truck carriers trying to assist in the relief efforts by transporting food and potable water. I'm in regular contact with many of the companies, and here are some "on the ground" facts:
1) Large trucks (80,000 lbs. gross weight) almost always have to use the Interstates. For trucks attempting to come in from outside the area, most of those roads (approaching the disaster area) are either closed or have bridges out. The so-called secondary roads may be somewhat passable, but their bridges (over rivers and streams) are not built to sustain such loads. Simply stated, you can't get there from here.

2) Trucks domicled in those areas (because that's where the companies traditionally serve customers) are still underwater, thus the equipment is not accessible;

3) Nobody in their right mind is going to take loads of gasoline and fuel oil into a city controlled by unfriendly folks carrying automatic weapons. A tank truck loaded with 8,000 gallons of gasoline can produce a very impressive fire;

4) Those local trucking companies can't contact their drivers. There's no power, thus (even) cellular is unavailable, and many of the drivers homes (in places like Kenner, Slidel, Metarie, etc) have been destroyed and families dispersed. I have one member with about 120 drivers and mechanics in that immediate area. To date, management has been able to contact 12. Those in the National Guard have been mobilized and are not available to drive.

5) Pumps -- needed to load the vehicles -- don't work because there's no power.
Supports what I was trying to say here:
Everyone in the MSM is pounding on the idea that too little is happening quickly enough to clear New Orleans and help the trapped people. The problem is that the damaged logistics system is complicating matters. An example, as is shown here at NY Times map is that the normal routes to New Orleans are all broken.

How many roads available to bring supplies in and take people out?

Looks like one. On the satellite photo below, I have put symbols on the roads and bridges we know are closed. We also know that Slidell Louisiana at the top of the I-10 bridge is in ruins, the railroads are in ruins, the Intercoastal waterway is closed, the Mississippi River is closed. All water for the helpers has to be flown or trucked in, all food has to be flown or trucked in. Bring in more troops and you add to the logistics problems. Add more helicopters and you add more flight crews and support crews and fuel issues.
and highlights some of John's point here:
Two. Life support. Remember, this place just got hammered. You have tens of thousands of refugees, milling around, and moving outward. This in an area which has had it's infrastructure hammered. Now you want to bring in thousands of more people. Where do they sleep? How do they get fed? Water? Toilets? Sanitation? So, in addition to having to find a way to feed clothe and house 10s of thousands of refugees on short notice in an area that is by definition under stress and possibly unable to cope - you have to *bring in* additional life support for the supporters. That takes time. And again, the tyranny of distance. FEMA keeps regional storage sites with the stuff they need - but it *still* takes time. Even more so if one of the regional storage sites is involved in the disaster. I don't know that that is the case here, I'm just pointing it out.

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