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Day 1 of The 2006 Atlantic Hurricane Season

That’s today, June 1.  The New Orleans area (including nearby Mississippi which doesn’t get the same press coverage) is far from recovered from last year.  Brian Oberkirch took the photo below THIS April.  Click on it to see the entire flickr set he calls 53 days to Hurricane Season.

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Brian is one of the amazing people I met at an Aspen Institute Conference in Maryland a couple of weeks ago who actually were able to do things which made a substantial difference in the aftermath of Katrina.  Three days after the hurricane hit, he started the Slidell Hurricane Damage Blog from his refuge in Texas because:

“There is so little good information about what is going on in Slidell right now.  I’m going to round up confirmed news reports here.   Not rumors or what someone is saying on forums.  God bless those folks for offering what they know, but there is a bit of the telephone game going on.  So, we’ll round up photos, link to things, etc.  If you have any information, please send it to me at…”

Quickly this blog became the key resource for people in Slidell to reconnect with each other and find out what had become of their homes and city.

Not surprisingly, Brian is trying to use the conference at as a springboard for better disaster preparedness not only in Louisiana but everywhere in the US. He talks some about this in a guest post on Earthling. Brian also recorded a podcast of him and me at the conference and posted it here.  I’m sure we’ll here more about and from Brian.

As Brian points out, there is some good news on Earthling about EarthLink (the owner of the Earthling blog) getting approval to “build-out and support a WiFi Network in New Orleans.”  According to the post:

“The network will have two tiers -- a free (and ad-free) service at up to 300kbps during the city's rebuilding efforts, and a paid service at 1mbps up/down. EarthLink will also allow other providers to offer their services over the network, allowing for open access and competition.”

I suspect but don’t know that the weasel wording “during the city’s rebuilding efforts” are a compromise to keep the telcos at bay.  Unbelievably, according to New Orleans CIO Greg Meffert, another disaster hero, as quoted online by Red Herring prior to the EarthLink announcement:

“The vendors, the BellSouths of this world, are not only going to force us back, making our existing Wi-Fi illegal, but also they want to close a loophole for emergencies so that we would not do this again.”

He said he’ll go to jail if necessary rather than shutdown the ad hoc municipal WiFi network which was so quickly established and which has been a key part of the city’s recovery.

I posted previously about the conference and some plans we made.

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