The statistics are most impressive: 10 million liters of water and 4 million MREs stockpiled in Texas; 1,300 buses, 130 airplanes and “hundreds” of helicopters ready to go; 10,000 Texas National Guards on standby by mid-week; and contracts already drawn up for relocation housing.

These are the precautions that the Federal Emergency Management Administration and the state of Texas are taking if Hurricane Dean, now whipping itself into a frenzy as it crosses from the Caribbean into the Gulf of Mexico, should turn north toward Texas and present authorities with the problem of evacuating perhaps 100,000 people.

Hurricane Dean could well be a critical test of the new FEMA — whether the agency really is capable of redeeming itself from its miserable response to Katrina.

The head of FEMA is David Paulison, who was named acting head of FEMA in September 2005, replacing an official who got his job largely through Bush campaign connections. Even though Paulison had a career in emergency management, the White House didn’t get around to removing his interim status until the following April.

Paulison’s thorough preparation and his refusal to mince words that others, specifically those who live in the possible path of the storm, should be similarly prepared are encouraging signs of a newly aggressive, pro-active FEMA.

Said Paulison, “I do not see this country allowing another Katrina-type event to happen.” Another monster hurricane hitting the U.S. mainland at some future date is inevitable; another Katrina should not be.

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