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Katrina and the neighborhood

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Concerned about Louisianians stranded in the unsanitary Superdome, the governor of Texas invited all 25,000 of them to the cool, dry Houston Astrodome Wednesday. Thursday, he invited another 25,000 evacuees to San Antonio. "We're neighbors and we're going to pull together," Gov. Rick Perry stated.

After hurricane Katrina, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama are now everyone's "next door." Those states' vast needs require help from across the country - donations to private charities, offers to open up homes to the displaced, and all levels of government assistance.

The catastrophe is also particularly relevant to those who share the same potential for large-scale disaster or evacuation - people living in flood or earthquake zones, for instance, or cities deemed terrorist targets. As Governor Perry observed, "we could be the ones that have this extraordinary need."

Dealing skillfully with this current need, therefore, serves a dual purpose: helping the millions directly affected, and teaching Americans how to cope more effectively with disasters.

So far, local, state, and national officials have shown a good measure of competence in handling Katrina before, during, and after it hit.

Last year, local and state officials along the Gulf of Mexico were criticized for poor evacuation procedures in advance of hurricane Ivan. This time, they called for mandatory evacuations early on and opened all lanes to outbound traffic on the two interstates leading away from Louisiana's and Mississippi's most populous areas. More than a million people fled, including about 80 percent of the population of New Orleans.

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