Katrina: an unnatural disaster

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 1:17 AM GMT on September 05, 2005

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In comments on Thursday, Sep. 1, in an interview with Diane Sawyer of ABC News, President George W. Bush said, "I don't think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees. They did anticipate a serious storm. But these levees got breached."

In comments to the press on Sep. 3, Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff remarked, "That 'perfect storm' of a combination of catastrophes exceeded the foresight of the planners, and maybe anybody's foresight", and called the disaster "breathtaking in its surprise."

It's not our fault," said Army Lt. Gen. Russel Honore, in charge of the deployment of National Guard troops in New Orleans. "The storm came and flooded the city."

In other words, Katrina was an Act of God no one could have foreseen, and the politicians we elected to protect us from disaster are not responsible for the unimaginable horror we have witnessed this week.

A horror unimagined by anyone, except by every hurricane scientist and government emergency management official for the past forty years and more. It was a certainty that New Orleans would suffer a catastrophe like this. Every 70 years, on average, the central Gulf Coast has a Category 4 or 5 hurricane pass within 80 miles of a given point. Sometimes you get lucky--for a while. New Orleans had gone over 150 years without a strike by a hurricane capable of overwhelming the levees. Sometimes you get unlucky. There's no guarantee that New Orleans won't get hit by another major hurricane this year. We are in the midst of an extraordinary period of hurricane activity, the likes of which has not been seen in recorded history. Hurricanes Ivan and Dennis, which both had storm surges capable of breaching the levees in New Orleans, smashed into Pensacola in the past year. Either of these storms could have destroyed New Orleans, had they taken a slight wobble westward earlier in their track.

Hurricanes are an inescapable part of nature's way on the Gulf Coast. Nature doesn't care about tax cuts and fiscal years and budget crunches. Nature doesn't care that a city of 500,000 people situated below sea level lies in its path. It was certain that New Orleans would sooner or later get hit by a hurricane that would breach the levees. How could the director of Homeland Security not be familiar with this huge threat to the security of this nation? How could the President not know? How could all the presidents and politicians we elected, from Eisenhower to Clinton, not know?

The answer is that they all knew. But the Congressmen we elected and the politicians the citizens of New Orleans and Louisiana elected didn't care about the poor people in New Orleans. Those poor people don't have a lobbyist in Baton Rouge or Washington. Poor people don't make big campaign contributions, and those big campaign contributions are vital to getting elected. In all of the Congressional and Presidential races held over the past ten years, over 90% were won by the candidate that raised the most money.

So there was little effort given to formulate a plan to evacuate the 100,000 poor residents of New Orleans with no transportation of their own for a Category 4 or 5 hurricane. To do so would have cost tens of millions of dollars, money that neither the city, nor the state, nor the federal government was willing to spend. Why spend money that would be wasted on a bunch of poor people? The money was better spent on projects to please the politicians' wealthy campaign contributors. So the plan was to let them die. And they died, as we experts all knew they would. Huge numbers of them. We don't know how many for sure. Since the plan was to let them die, the city of New Orleans made sure they had a good supply of body bags on hand. Only 10,000 body bags, but since Katrina didn't hit New Orleans head-on, 10,000 will probably be enough.

Admittedly, it is very difficult to safely evacuate 100,000 people with a Category 4 or 5 hurricane bearing down on you. There are only a few routes out of the city, and a full 72 hours of warning are needed to get everyone out. That's asking a lot, as hurricanes are very difficult to predict that far in advance. The National Hurricane Center did pretty well, giving New Orleans a full 60 hours to evacuate. The Hurricane Center forecasted on Friday afternoon that Katrina would hit New Orleans as a major hurricane on Monday, which is what happened. New Orleans had time to implement its plan to bus the city's poor out. However, this plan had two very serious problems--it wasn't enacted in time, and it could only get out 20% of the people in a best case scenario.

The mandatory evacuation order was not given until Sunday, just 20 hours before the hurricane. I have not been able to ascertain from press accounts when the busses actually started picking up people. The mayor says 50,000 made it to the Superdome and other "shelters of last resort", leaving another 50,000 to face the flood waters in their homes. Although 80% of the city was evacuated, it is unclear whether any of the city's poor made it out by bus. And it is very fortunate that Katrina did not hit the city head-on, or else most of those in the Superdome and other "shelters of last resort" would have perished. The death toll from Katrina would have easily surpassed 50,000.

Even if the evacuation plan had been launched 72 hours in advance, it almost certainly would have failed. A local New Orleans news station, nola.com, reported in 2002 on the evacuation plan thusly:

In an evacuation, buses would be dispatched along their regular routes throughout the city to pick up people and go to the Superdome, which would be used as a staging area. From there, people would be taken out of the city to shelters to the north.

Some experts familiar with the plans say they won't work.

"That's never going to happen because there's not enough buses in the city," said Charley Ireland, who retired as deputy director of the New Orleans Office of Emergency Preparedness in 2000. "Between the RTA and the school buses, you've got maybe 500 buses, and they hold maybe 40 people
each. It ain't going to happen."

The plan has other potential pitfalls.

No signs are in place to notify the public that the regular bus stops are also the stops for emergency evacuation. In Miami Beach, Fla., every other bus stop sports a huge sign identifying it as a hurricane evacuation stop.

It's also unclear whether the city's entire staff of bus drivers will remain. A union spokesman said that while drivers are aware of the plan, the union contract lacks a provision requiring them to stay.


So, if one does the math, 500 busses times 40 people per bus yields 20,000 people that could have been evacuated in a best-case scenario. Only 20,000 out of 100,000. That isn't a half-hearted effort, it's a one-fifth hearted, criminal effort. We're talking about the lives of 80,000 people or more sacrificed, from a disaster that was certain to happen. By not having a plan to get New Orleans' poor out, the city, state and federal leaders responsible for ensuring the safety of the citizens of New Orleans caused the unbelievable suffering and the needless deaths of thousands of Americans. This was not a natural disaster caused by an act of God, it was an unnatural disaster. In his excellent 2001 book, Acts of God: The Unnatural History of Natural Disaster in America, Ted Steinberg writes: "Calling such events acts of God has long been a way to evade moral responsibility for death and destruction." He shows in the book how countless politicians over the past one hundred years have done their best to evade this moral responsibility when preventable disasters struck. Our current leaders are no different.

The most prosperous and technologically advanced nation in history surely could have done better. Was it really too expensive to have the vehicles, people, and workable plan in place needed to evacuate New Orleans? Yes, the local and state goverments had primary responsibility for the New Orleans evacuation plan, but in an exceptional case like New Orleans, shouldn't the federal government have stepped in with the additional resources needed? "A society is measured by how it treats the weak and vulnerable", said George W. Bush in his State of the Union of Feb 2, 2005. By that measure, the people of this country have responded magnificently. The outpouring of aid, sympathy and prayers for those affected has been tremendous. But by that same standard, our government has failed. Its not just the current administration--every elected government since the days of Eisenhower has failed us. As I've outlined above, the problem is not likely to go away until the amount of money a candidate raises is no longer the primary factor determining who gets elected. Our elected officials won't care for the poor, as long as it is the rich who determine who get elected.

What can we do to help prevent such a disaster from recurring? Well, I encourage all of you to support election reform initiatives such as public campaign financing and Instant Runoff Voting (IRV) over the coming years. Maybe then I can check a box to vote for a candidate who will actually care for the needs of the poor in New Orleans and elsewhere in this county, instead of the usual "lesser of two evils" from the miserable two-party system that let thousands die and tens of thousands more suffer so unbearably.

Dr. Jeff Masters

Flooded city (mudkow60)
Lake Ponchatrain in the background.
Flooded city
Hovering over survivors (mudkow60)
Tried to take a quick shot while I was not at the controls. Had to decide who we could pick up and who we had to leave behind. My heart aches.
Hovering over survivors
Hurricane Katrina Search and Rescue (smithfarms)
I work for Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries. We are in search and rescue mode. Storm damaged and flooded house.
Hurricane Katrina Search and Rescue

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341. yoyoman412
1:07 AM GMT on September 07, 2005
Dr. Jeff Masters

Im kind of new to this hurricane watch activity, and it has almost become an obsession. I find myself everyday checking up on all the new tropical activity and your blog has been a very nice way for me to keep up with everything.

I am very moved by the all the events with Katrina. One of the most powerful hurricanes ever to hit America happens on the year that I started to keep up with hurricanes. I am also very disappointed with the government reaction to the storm, the slowness of everything and how unprepared America was before the hurricane stuck to deal with such a disaster. So I understand certainly your frustration that lies within this blog post. However one thing kind of threw me off that I must express disagreement to. Here is the quotation-

This was not a natural disaster caused by an act of God, it was an unnatural disaster. In his excellent 2001 book, Acts of God: The Unnatural History of Natural Disaster in America, Ted Steinberg writes: "Calling such events acts of God has long been a way to evade moral responsibility for death and destruction." He shows in the book how countless politicians over the past one hundred years have done their best to evade this moral responsibility when preventable disasters struck. Our current leaders are no different.

Maybe the politicians really screwed up, but God certainly did cause this disaster. For whatever reasons, I truly believe that God caused this disaster, whether it be a wake up call that Americans are doing wrong acts, or perhaps to alert the government that they are focusing too less on hurricane disaster procedures. God runs the world, things happen for a reason, reasons which God deems before they take place.

So I guess I am disagreeing with the whole title of your post. This was a natural disaster, caused by the way God runs the world. However, the government and politicians acted wrong to it, lied through their teeth about thinking such a thing could never happen, but I guess they had a point when they used this "moral responsibility" excuse to rather place the blame on God-even though that excuse is wrong in itself, they were still citing a point however that God runs the show.

Basically what I am saying is that I tottally agree politicians have done wrong, but the power of the hurricane, and all its destruction, even the breakage of the levee was caused and deemed by God, like I said before, to teach us some sort of a lesson.

Perhaps you agree with me and I am reading you wrong. Either way, I think it may be important anyways to post this point. And once again, I thank you for your very informative posts and all the pictures. Its a pleasure reading your posts, keep it up!

Yoyoman412
340. DSG2k
3:37 PM GMT on September 06, 2005
I've always liked Dr. Masters . . . though his weather blog entries were less detailed than Steve Gregory's, he also didn't desperately try to impress by using jargon for no reason. After all, trough is six letters . . . TROF is six to eight depending on whether SG was shifting or caps-locking.

However, Steve Gregory had the good sense to keep his political opinions to himself, and not to try to politicize the tragedy.

Jeff Masters did not have that good sense, and thus he's spewed his inane babble for all to see.

Stick to the weather, doc.
339. eastcoastfl
3:09 PM GMT on September 06, 2005
Jelloboy, good job on finding Dr. Masters comments from earlier. It just goes to show we don't always know everything no matter how much we try to predict. Hooked, yes most of us may have insurance but I can tell you after last year's Frances and Jeanne it didn't mean much for my in-laws, 26 years with same company and no claims ever filed and they had to fight for every penny they got from insurance. Ins. claimed they had flooding when it just wasn't possible. They took the entire year to just get new walls (only allowed 4" from the ground to rebuild) and a roof in their moldy house and insurance fought them the whole way. I think people are responsible for themselves and when disaster strikes it is the responsiblity of all human beings to help where they can. We did it for 9/11 why not for these people although it makes it a little difficult to want to go over and help when you might get shot at.
338. labsr4me
2:46 PM GMT on September 06, 2005
Solo,

Your personal insults are even more inflammatory...and far less productive than anything Dr. Masters has mentioned; and I am not an avid supporter of Dr. Masters' apportionment of blame.

Our country encourages free discussion, and you are certainly entitled to your opinion, but useless insults are not necessary and serve to undermine a civil discussion.
337. Solo
1:45 PM GMT on September 06, 2005
Gee, Dr. Masters - thank you for clarifying the problem and where to apportion the responsibility for this epic disaster. It was truly amazing to me to discover that "an act of god" is simply a political decision based on the economic strata of the affected area. WOW, I really appreciate your clear-headed thinking on this. ~NOT~

I'd prefer you stick to meteorology instead of political rant/cant/rhetoric. It's patently obvious that you have nothing useful to contribute to the 'aftermath' circumstances.

As for the rest of the posters on this blog who cannot see Dr. Master's comments for the imflammatory 'junk' that they are, I truly feel sorry for you (and for our country when it allows weak-headed saps like you a voice in governing).
336. tma
1:12 PM GMT on September 06, 2005
http://www.washtimes.com/national/pruden.htm.
335. pslfl
11:28 AM GMT on September 06, 2005
Dr. Masters,
I have tremendous respect for your knowledge as a meteorologist .A knowledge that I do not pretend to have myself. I am however a hurricane survivor of Agnes:1972,NE, Andrew:1992,Dade County, Francis and Jeanne:2004, Port Saint Lucie, Fl. ( Glad I moved my family out of south Fl. Into East Central Fl. in 2002 Huh) and do possess some knowledge of the problems of logistics in dealing with the aftermath of such disasters. What happened in NOLA is nothing short of a horrendous loss of life and my prayers are with them now as they where before Katrina even came ashore.
Your knowledge was immeasurable in helping me plan for Francis and Jeanne
And I and my family are grateful as both storms made landfall on my front door and we were prepared in part to people such as you with knowledge and experience in tracking them.
My respect is now somewhat diminished as I see you have found it necessary
to point fingers at this time, and politicize this blog. You being a scientist I would expect that conclusions should not be drawn until ALL FACTS are collected and weighed.
The framers of the Constitution of The United States of America in there wisdom afforded states certain rights and protections from federal abuses of individual
States to rule themselves in certain issues, Along with those rights are responsibilities
First and foremost in my eyes is why when the mayor had been informed a full
72 hours in advance of the storm did he not issue the mandatory evacuation order till there were only twenty hours left, and only after Max Mayfield pleaded with him to do so. If anyone should know the dangers to the city, He should, as you pointed out the NHC has said for years this could happen. And no one else could give that order according to LA. Statute RS 29:727. It was his and only his responsibility, moral and legal obligation
to get the people out in time. Along with that obligation is the means as set forth to do it.
The idea that there aren’t enough busses is no excuse. Once he ordered a mandatory evac.
The right to procure and commandeer any and all private and commercial vehicles would be his by law ,IE trucks, taxis, delivery vans, cars, whatever he saw needed to accomplish the evacuation. We will never know how many lives would have been saved had he acted when there was 72 hours to work with not 20.and did the job he was elected to do
We live in a society of blamelessness and I am sad to see you fall into that mold, It’s easier to point the finger at the feds than to point to the locals ( a favorite of Mainstream media) for some time.
Just try to imagine what would have taken place had the feds sent in troops to mandatoraly remove people from there homes and the city did not get destroyed.
That’s why it is left in the hands of the locals.
As for the response, logistically it’s a nightmare, above and beyond the normal expected problems of communications, loss of infrastructure, wind and surge
damage. The day after Katrina, even before the levees failed the city went into a state of lawlessness and looting and that only furthered to keep rescuers out. Than the city flooded The NHC recommends food and water and supplies for up to seven days and that’s because thru research they have concluded that is a FACT that in many cases you will not see help for that long. That’s not something that could be controlled that’s a FACT of life
It is ludicrous to think that the federal gov. does not care about the region or it people whether they be black , white, red , or yellow and it is irresponsible to suggest it, If anyone realy wants to point fingers they should read the full text of the statute http://www.legis.state.la.us/lss/lss.asp?doc=85673
334. iflyinit
7:12 AM GMT on September 06, 2005
Dang Doc,

I enjoy reading your scientific opinion and have more than once trusted you with my life, but this time you have allowed your emotions to take you way over the top. This government (and every other bureaucracy) is a bloated warthog and cannot react quickly enough to do what the empowered individual mind has the ability to do -save their own bacon. If people are willing to take a chance and then they loose then they need to see help when it comes as a blessing and not some expected privilege.

When I was eighteen I lived through a revolution in a 3rd world country. After weeks of gunfire and mayhem in the streets I eventually got out with a cousin younger than I and a little brother. I learned and have never forgotten that ultimately I am and will always be responsible for my own security. Every single person at every single time is responsible for their own safety and security and no government can immediately protect you from either the massive eventuality of nature’s fury or the determination of a panicked mob. But I also learned that I can take care of others through my own preparations and planning.

The question for every individual person in every situation is how much am I willing to risk? Do you plan for contingencies or do you let it all ride? Being an American is about freedom of choice and I don’t want you or anyone else limiting my options and freedoms.
Within reason I can live anywhere I want and assume any risk I want. If I want to live in the eruption mudslide path of Mt. Hood I can do it. If I want to live on a gulf bayou I can do it. If I want to live on a fault line I can do it. And if I want to live below sea level I can do it. It is my choice and I had best plan for the risk if I want to survive what may happen. Had I chose to live in New Orleans then I would have the items necessary to survive there. And most of the people in New Orleans planned and did survive –even those who are poor and could not evacuate. Water, beans, rice, an axe, flotation and a camp stove are not that expensive to acquire (and neither is a basic gun and ammo).

Since I was a small child I have known of the risk in living in New Orleans and so did everyone who has looked up on the river to see a boat. Even if the government spent billions on the levees then the laws of predictability would have eventually seen New Orleans flooded. (A boat would have hit a wall, a flood gate would open instead of close, or some one would have sabotaged a levee.) Living in New Orleans is a risk and it is not fair to the rest of the country to ask its taxpayers to make New Orleans “bulletproof” and “totally safe”. The cost benefit was based on category 3 and it was a well published fact. People who stayed in the face of this monster (which appeared was going to hit Category 5 on the western edge of the city with unprecedented girth!) and did not prepare for flooding were really rolling an opponents loaded dice -and they knew it. But this is a free country and they had that choice.

The situation in New Orleans (and my beloved MS Gulf Coast) is tragic, but those were and are the inherent results of risk taking. Now this country and imperfect humans are doing all they can to rescue people who took massive chances and lost the roll of the dice. No one is willingly allowing the innocent to suffer, but they are continually triaging a dynamic situation that is of epic proportions and they are working with factors in which you have no working knowledge or experience. …Factors like mob control, air traffic saturation, resource placement, security, national assets and vulnerabilities and logistics. You are armchair quarterbacking plain and simple by grasping political straws.

In the end we will find things we could have done better and there will be major changes before the next big tragedy. But don’t ever expect the government –any government- to do what the individual has personal responsibility to do. The individual is ultimately responsible for their own short term survival and the short term survival of what they love. Only God can govern perfectly and he’ll never be on your ballet, no mater how many parties are running.

333. JoyWright
4:41 AM GMT on September 06, 2005
Very eloquently put labsr4me....
Member Since: July 13, 2003 Posts: 0 Comments: 2
332. labsr4me
4:13 AM GMT on September 06, 2005
Tryingtimes:

I believe peanut is making the same observation I made earlier about the evacuees at the astrodome and similiar shelters...there have been frantic requests for volunteers to man the shelters for food distribution, cleanup and other services. It's my opinion that there are plenty of volunteers already there in the form of the evacuees...working, volunteering, assisting their own recovery is good for the mind and soul and will help alleviate some of the suffering. A busy mind and body will keep a restless mind and hands occupied.
331. tryingtimes
3:41 AM GMT on September 06, 2005
Peanutali:
Maybe people didn't clean up because there was NO ELECTRICITY nor WATER -- no flushable toilets. Maybe they didn't cook because there was NO FOOD! Jeeeeez ....
330. tryingtimes
3:27 AM GMT on September 06, 2005
Peanutali:
Maybe people didn't clean up because there was NO ELECTRICITY nor WATER -- no flushable toilets. Maybe they didn't cook because there was NO FOOD! Jeeeeez ....
329. labsr4me
3:25 AM GMT on September 06, 2005
COobserver...

"Actually, FEMA does have that ability. From the National Response Plan on the DHS web site: "Notification and full coordination with States will occur, but the coordination process must not delay or impede the rapid deployment and use of critical resources. States are urged to notify and coordinate with local governments regarding a proactive Federal response. Standard procedures regarding requests for assistance may be expedited or, under extreme circumstances, suspended in the immediate aftermath of an event of catastrophic magnitude."

It says they must coordinate their efforts..no where does it say that the govt is granted absolute authority. If there were truly absolute power, why would the governor be required to sign over her national guard to the federal govt...couldn;t the fed just comandeer them? Obviously not. I believe there are state laws that forbid the federal govt from taking over.

The mobile hospitals you reference are two 53 foot mobile trailers...they were held up by LA officals and not allowed to deploy in NOLA...part of the reason being they probably couldn;t get through the floods and would have been stranded themselves. Interesting that the story that refernced this issue states that dysintery was the cause for a shelter being closed in Mississippi...this shelter was in biloxi and there has been no confirmed cases of dysintery, the shelter was closed becasue there was no water or electricity or sewage facilities...this is the team that wanted to come to Biloxi and just swoop in...but we asked for an assessment team and the THEIR assessment team confirmed the docs weren't needed b/c the local hospitals had handled all of the trauma by the time they were able to deploy themselves, their offer was not turned away...it wasn't needed...it had nothing to do with people dying in Biloxi that they could have saved... This caravan is specialized for trauma and so are the physicians who go with the caravan...trauma was over in the first 48 hours...it's now social medicine, btw...hospitals in NOLA, including trauma centers remained operational, capable of doing the same thing the mobile unit could do...Look, they should be deployed somehwere, I agree.

I never expect the govt to be free of beauracracy...if anyone does they are living in a fantasy land...DHS is no exception. I'm just frustrated listening to everyone blame someone else for this tragedy...

I appreciate the civil discussion we are having though...Thanks
328. JoyWright
3:11 AM GMT on September 06, 2005
It's kind of amusing to watch all of the government officials running around like chickens with their heads cut off. They are feverishly working to avoid the accusations that race was the reason that so many people are in trouble in NOLA. However, the fact is that the areas of NOLA that were flooded were predominantly black neighborhoods. THAT is why most of the people there are black! They would have us believe that there was a conspiracy and that all of the white or affluent people were secretly moved out and all of the blacks were left there to perish.

Anyway, I defy anyone to find a major situation in the US where black people were involved and the race card wasn't played at some point. Anytime the race card is played, all of the white people bend over backwards to prove that they are not racists as they deal with hoards of black people that are acting like animals.
Member Since: July 13, 2003 Posts: 0 Comments: 2
327. COobserver
3:10 AM GMT on September 06, 2005
Well, I'm outta here for now. But for those who's immediate inclination is to put all of this on the shoulders of local officials, at least arrive at an informed opinion. Read the National Response Plan that explicitly states what is to be done and who is responsible for what in the event that a national emergency is declared. Especially take a look at pages 42-44.

http://www.dhs.gov/dhspublic/interapp/editorial/editorial_0566.xml
326. bobrulz
3:09 AM GMT on September 06, 2005
Oops, I meant "impossible" in the first sentence of the second paragraph, not "possible".
325. bobrulz
3:05 AM GMT on September 06, 2005
Well, I agree that the government didn't do enough to prepare the city for an evacuation and didn't have an effective or quick enough response.

However, I also think that, no matter how many resources you put into the evacuation effort, that it would be possible to evacuate all 450,000+ people in New Orleans that live below sea level. While hurricanes are certainly some of the most predictable weather events, they are also among the most catastrophic, as you know. Let's say, for example, that Katrina was originally forecast to continue to move northwest and hit, say, along the Texas/Loiuisiana border, where it wouldn't have done nearly as much damage. So, no evacuation of New Orleans is ordered, very few voluntarily evacuate, and there is little discussion of a catastrophic major hurricane strike on New Orleans. However, the storm unexpectedly takes a sharp turn to the north and moves right over New Orleans with, let's say, only 36 hours warning or less. New Orleans gets flooded, tens of thousands of people die, and it does $100 billion dollars in damage. The people would STILL criticize the government for "not knowing that this storm would destroy New Orleans and kill thousands of people," even if they did only have 24-36 hours advance warning. Thousands of people would attempt to evacuate at once, and could get caught on the freeways as the storm approaches, resulting in even more deaths.

However, let's say, just to play it safe, they do evacuate, and the entire city is evacuated as the storm moves off to the west. That's several day's revenue for the city, state, and federal government lost, and perhaps even a few billion dollars in money wasted. Once again, the government would be criticized for performing a completely flawless evacuation that proves to be completely unnecessary, still costing the governemnt perhaps billions of dollars in evacuation efforts and lost revenue. My point is, is that the people would probably blast the government for whatever happens. Even if there was a plan to evacuate the poor from New Orleans, which I still think there should be, I'm not sure that even 72 hours advance would be enough. You'd need thousands and thousands of buses, planes, and boats, and the freeways and highways would be clogged by these buses and by the people who do have cars to evacuate. I'm not sure it would have been possible to evacuate everybody even with a flawless plan to get the poor without transportation out of the city, and hundreds or still even thousands of people could have died, prompting (surprise!) criticizing of the government!

My point is is that people expect the government to have a flawless solution to every problem. And while yes, this has always been a very well-known problem, and yes, I still think that the government was too slow and not well-prepared enough, I still think that no matter what happened, there would still be very extensive criticism of the government from the American public and international sources.
324. HurricaneHarry
2:54 AM GMT on September 06, 2005
Tryingtimes:

Words of wisdom indeed!

Thanks for your post and your sage advice...

HH
323. COobserver
2:51 AM GMT on September 06, 2005
labs--

You leave out the reason Blanco decided not the sign over control. Had she done so on Friday when the request was made, she would've had to turn over coordination of the National Guard to the federal government at a time when they were already on the ground and were successfully restoring order. She reasoned that freezing their activities at that time would be a mistake.

But hey, I'm not defending her. Although the logic makes some sense, it's certainly open to criticism.

My point of view all along is that there were failures at *all* levels. My posts have been focusing on the failures at the the federal level because several bloggers were trying to argue that local officials were the ones who were completely to blame, and they refused to acknowledge any mistakes or shortcomings at the federal level.
322. tryingtimes
2:49 AM GMT on September 06, 2005
I neither belong to nor espouse any religion, but in my old age try to remember this: "There, but for the grace of God, go I." Count yourself fortunate for your fortitude to succeed and have a little compassion for those who don't . We're simply not all the same -- by nature or nurture. Compassion may round the sharp edges you once needed to survive your circumstances. It might also help you better enjoy what you've managed to achieve. Been there ...
321. COobserver
2:43 AM GMT on September 06, 2005
labs--

Physicians and hospitals with assets like the mobile trauma center are frustrated because they have not been deployed when THEY wanted to be deployed...and FEMA correctly requested that they wait until they can be deployed in a manner that maximizes their response.

They're frustrated because they haven't been deployed at all after sitting and waiting for 5-6 days as people are dying just minutes from their current location.

In addition, while FEMA may be directing the relief efforts, I do not believe that they have the ability to remove state and local officials from the decision making tree...

Actually, FEMA does have that ability. From the National Response Plan on the DHS web site: "Notification and full coordination with States will occur, but the coordination process must not delay or impede the rapid deployment and use of critical resources. States are urged to notify and coordinate with local governments regarding a proactive Federal response. Standard procedures regarding requests for assistance may be expedited or, under extreme circumstances, suspended in the immediate aftermath of an event of catastrophic magnitude."

I'd like anyone of you to walk 10 ft in a FEMA manager's shoes during a disaster...and deal with the beauracracy of any government in terms of mobilizing assets and resources under the most extreme conditions that can be thrown at you...

You're getting at exactly what I'm speaking of. You talk about the problem of beauracracy. Well, we were told that the billions of dollars spent on the Department of Homeland Security was supposed to remove much of the beauracracy and lead to speedier, better coordinated responses. But even before this disaster, many insiders were sounding warnings that the beauracracy was actually much worse with the new organizational structure, and that FEMA in particular was getting its funds and infrastructure completely gutted.
320. labsr4me
2:34 AM GMT on September 06, 2005
"You'll note the formal request you cite to FEMA submitted by Governor Blanco is dated August 28 before the hurricane touched the coast. At that time, the magnitude of the tragedy could not be foreseen." Then why was the emergency declared? At that time, Katrina was a Cat 5 headed toward NOLA...couldn't be foreseen? This was less than 24 hours before Katrina made landfall

"We all witnessed her on television after the levee failures and disaster grew to enormous proportions pleading for FEMA to respond." The key word is AFTER the levees broke...mobilizing the resources, manpower and communication needed to deploy what was needed, especially under those conditions, does not happen overnight...

Blanco remained and remains in control of her several thousand national guardsman...can you explain why they weren't deployed immediately? "Blanco has refused to sign over control of the National Guard to the federal government and has turned to a Clinton administration official, former Federal Emergency Management Agency chief James Lee Witt, to help run relief efforts." attributed to Link

Again...we are all part of the problem unless we get involved...I am involved personally, and maybe that's why I have a different perspective. I am willing to learn and understand the logistics of deployment during disasters...and maybe I can make a difference if this occurs in my area...I suggest spewey, if you are not already involved you get involved and learn about the beauracracy that occurs between federal, state and local govt when they need to work together...We are a union of states with a federal govt as a backbone, but I'm not sure absolute federal govt power over state jurisdiction is available...
319. spewey
1:42 AM GMT on September 06, 2005
You'll note the formal request you cite to FEMA submitted by Governor Blanco is dated August 28 before the hurricane touched the coast. At that time, the magnitude of the tragedy could not be foreseen.

We all witnessed her on television after the levee failures and disaster grew to enormous proportions pleading for FEMA to respond. Which they did, but many days too late for many of the people trapped in the city.
318. spewey
1:26 AM GMT on September 06, 2005
All this whining about how the people should have taken responsibility sounds familiar...wait, that's what FEMA said! Shift the blame from the federal government to the victims of the tragedy. Sure, some were trapped travelers with no airline tickets out, some were hospitalized, some were bedridden at home, others had no cars or money to evacuate. Still, they should have TAKEN RESPONSIBILTY FOR THEMSELVES!

Yes, do just like the federal government, blame the victims!

The rest of us recognize this for what it is, a national disgrace.
317. labsr4me
1:20 AM GMT on September 06, 2005
some other interesting "facts"

here is a copy of Blanco's request for assistance from the president...it NEVER mentions peronnel...only funding and debris removal. It also indicates the shelters already opened and those on standby...so the states are responsible for the shelters, NOT FEMA or the federal government.

http://www.gov.state.la.us/Disaster%20Relief%20Request.pdf

316. labsr4me
1:01 AM GMT on September 06, 2005
COobserver...

This is a quote from a Yahoo article on Bush's visit to LA today...

"Blanco has refused to sign over control of the National Guard to the federal government and has turned to a Clinton administration official, former Federal Emergency Management Agency chief James Lee Witt, to help run relief efforts."

So...as you can see...your insinuation that FEMA is running everything is not accurate in this case...State and local officials have asked for help and then responded by staying in control od their own assets, now turning oversite over to someone no longer affiliated with those who are supposed to be in charge...so...you try to manage resources with this kind of cooperation...
315. panzerfaust
12:24 AM GMT on September 06, 2005
Surely, Siesta, we do not - yet - live in a society so brutish that someone’s decision to not leave a hurricane threatened area (for whatever the reason) should be punishable by a week of deprivation in subhuman conditions of unimaginable horror when we, as a society, have ample means to alleviate that suffering.

Why one person makes one decision, and another in the same circumstance, a different one can be obscure and surely should not mean that if either (or both) decisions lead to disaster that the people should not be helped.

I deal every day with people who have made bad decisions and have ended up with AIDS, Hep-C/B, cirrhosis, lung cancer, diabetes, hypertension, renal failure … on and on. Should I simply say “too bad, you made your choice?”, or should I try to help ameliorate the damage they have done to themselves.

If a child ran into the street and were hit by a car – would you simply drag her to the side of the road to die? Is that your vision of how society should be? After all, the child doubtless was told many times to not run into the street. She did. So would you say … fine, leave her there. At what age do you advocate abandoning her to her fate?
Member Since: October 20, 2001 Posts: 0 Comments: 17
314. labsr4me
12:23 AM GMT on September 06, 2005
COobserver, what do you do for a living? Just curious...I am an ex firefighter/EMT and I now work in the hospital field...

Physicians and hospitals with assets like the mobile trauma center are frustrated because they have not been deployed when THEY wanted to be deployed...and FEMA correctly requested that they wait until they can be deployed in a manner that maximizes their response.

A state of MS health dept level 1 trauma team was to be dispatched to the Biloxi area with 90 physicians, mobile trauma center and medical supplies...the Biloxi Regional Medical Center (which has remained open throughout this ordeal) was notified they were on their way...Biloxi Regional Leadership said don't come...please send an assessment team instead...which they did and determined that Biloxi Regional had done a superb job and that a trauma team was not warranted...We have assets on the ground in Biloxi, water, generators, food, ice, even some fuel, and the relief workers who have come in to help are now so numerous that they are creating their own problems because the exisiting infrastructure cannot support the new people coming in...there is no fuel, no accomodations...so while people have the best intentions, their spur of the moment "I'm gonna go anyway," attitude is creating more problems than its solving...this is a first hand account.

Local EOCs (Emergency Operation Centers) have been destroyed in the affected areas...these first responders had and have no way of communicating with state and local officials, so the state officals cannot communicate with FEMA...without this communciation, FEMA does not have a way to determine what assets are needed and where...

In addition, while FEMA may be directing the relief efforts, I do not believe that they have the ability to remove state and local officials from the decision making tree...

I believe that because of the circumstances, where Katrina hit, and her ferocity, that any response would have been unacceptable to those most affected...lives would still have been lost...

This is the worst natural disaster in the history of the United States, unlike ANYTHING we have ever seen, and in the midst of the early stages of recovery, we feel compelled to blame someone and FEMA is a convenient target...remember this is the govt. All this talk about rapid deployment and comparisons to Iraq are comparing apples to oranges....rapid deployments are done after weeks and months of preparations and dozens of full scale "war games" to simulate conditions...I do not recall any city ever performing a full scale evacuation to see of the plans actually work...it's virtually impossible to do.

I spoke with a Katrina survivor from Long Beach, MS, this evening who was so overwhlemed by the response he has rec'd in the past 3 days from the military and FEMA that he broke down and cried when he began talking about his gratitude.

He called them heroes..and they are.

Had a supply drop been ordered at the convention center or the superdome, without the proper authroities to control distribution, many many many more would have died in the ensuing scramble for those rations, and then all of you would have had something else to point fingers at...I know for a fact those choices were made for a reason...

I'd like anyone of you to walk 10 ft in a FEMA manager's shoes during a disaster...and deal with the beauracracy of any government in terms of mobilizing assets and resources under the most extreme conditions that can be thrown at you...if you want to try, contact your local EOC office or EMS/Fire Department and start at the local level as a CERT responder...you'll get a healthy does of reality, and if you stick with it, you may just change the system for the better.

313. peanutali
12:00 AM GMT on September 06, 2005
very well put. i hadn't heard this information before.

those not in a hurricane area: 72 hours of notification is unforseeable. if i were to evactuate (i live in ocean springs, right next to biloxi) everytime there was a chance of a hurricane coming to our area, i would loose too much money on gas, hotel rooms, not working, loose time packing all of my things, and unpacking when i got back... it's sad, but it just isn't affordable to the average joe to pack up and leave because there *might* be a hurricane (of any level) in 3 days. I am educated, work a full time job and go to school, yet i didn't even consider evactuation until saturday evening because of the cost associated with it. now i am in upstate new york, struggling to find a job or get into a school that will scholarship hurricane victims just so i can continue my life and make things better for my family.

food for thought: why aren't the people who are in places like the astrodome being put to work taking care of it? why aren't they the staff persons cleaning the toilets instead of ripping them out? why aren't they in the kitchen cooking food for all the people there? if they have nothing to do but sit there and rot until nola is built up, then they are going to get bored and tear it apart just like they did to nola
312. Siesta5328
11:15 PM GMT on September 05, 2005
Much of the following comments are the result of an article written by Rod Thompson---I think that Mr Thompson is right on:

ASSIGNING BLAME? DON'T. PEOPLE MUST TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR THEMSELVES.

310. mouseybabe
10:13 PM GMT on September 05, 2005
I have another question, not strictly weather related, but certainly one to consider. If this water is so toxic it gave a policeman chemical burns on his legs, what will happen when it's pumped back into the lake? when it runs out into the Gulf? How much more of a disaster will this become? And will the land that's absorbing these toxins be safe to live on afterward?
309. COobserver
10:09 PM GMT on September 05, 2005
The facts:

8/26/05: LA Gov Blanco declares state of emergency
http://gov.louisiana.gov/2005%20%20proclamations/48pro2005-Emergency-HurricaneKatrina.pdf

8/27/05: Bush acknowledges declaration of state of emergency and puts FEMA in charge
http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2005/08/20050827-1.html

8/28/05: President Bush reiterates his acknowledgement that FEMA is in charge
http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2005/08/20050828-1.html

8/28/05: LA Gov Blanco formally requests that the Dept of Homeland Security take charge, following the the National Response Plan
http://www.gov.state.la.us/Disaster%20Relief%20Request.pdf

8/29/05 (day of landfall): FEMA urges first responders NOT to respond unless dispatched by FEMA approval
http://www.fema.gov/news/newsrelease.fema?id=18470

8/29/05 (day of landfall): President declares major disaster for louisiana, formally putting the disaster response under the direction of FEMA
http://www.fema.gov/news/newsrelease.fema?id=18478
308. SecondLaw
9:59 PM GMT on September 05, 2005
Dr. Masters,

I appreciate your editorial on the deplorable crisis in New Orleans, I agree with much of what you said, but it is not the whole story. Poor people do not get the same attention and services as the rich, for sure. But there is also the human tendency not to believe the worst case scenario unless you actually experience it first. I’ve chased 10 or more hurricanes in the 80’s and early 90’s. As the first one I chased, Diana, was heading toward Jacksonville in 1983, the beach was lined with bars throwing hurricane parties. No one was boarding up windows or taking the storm seriously despite predictions it would intensify and head their way. Since they had never had a direct hit, no amount of warning could convince these people to take it seriously. By the time I got to Wrightsville beach where Diana actually hit, everyone had boarded up and left town. They had been hit by other storms recently and therefore understood the risks. This has been a consistent pattern no matter where I’ve been. Every false alarm just convinces people to stay next time.

As for New Orleans, you stated that the 500 busses carrying 40 people meant that only 20,000 people could have been evacuated in the best scenario. That is assuming with 60 hours NWS notice, or the 20 hours evacuation notice actually made by N.O. officials, the busses could only make one run. In all likelihood, the busses would be running continuously making many loops during that time at 20,000 people per loop. If it took 2 hours for each bus to run a complete route on average, then in theory 100,000 people could be evacuated in 10 hours. Since many of the people stranded there had returned after the storm passed, but before the levy broke, local officials would have had to keep the city shut off until all levies were inspected for the evacuation to work in this instance. Had the levy broke a day or 2 later, the city could have been repopulated and the disaster would have been even worse. I do not know what inspection plan they had in place and this will have to be examined. The Levy section that broke had recently been reinforced. So even in we had planned ahead and reinforced the entire levy system, there is no guarantee that the section that did brake would have been included. Any plan is only as strong as its weakest link.

Right now the biggest story seems to be one of a lack of communication and proper command structure to provide sustenance and evacuate people from Tuesday onward. I suspect there are many aspects of this story we will not know for some days or weeks. We need to get all the information before we can formulate solutions to prevent this from happening again. The biggest problem we have is convincing people to plan long term and in conjunction with the forces of nature. Convincing people to make the personal and financial sacrifices necessary is truly a daunting task. If N.O. had been evacuated and there was no major damage, they’d be debating where to cut services to pay for evacuation costs. Many would call for the politician’s heads who “over reacted” since hindsight is 20/20 and human nature is consistent.

Politicians, by the very nature of the system in which they reside, are short term thinkers. Much of the populace is guilty of the same. Those of us who follow the tropics knew what a risk N.O. represented. I do not believe it is(was) our greatest natural disaster risk as Mike Brown, James Lee Witt and most meteorologists contend, however. The New Madrid fault in southeast Missouri produced the largest earthquake in U.S. history in the early 19th century. It redirected the Mississippi River by 12 miles, but caused little loss of life in the sparsely populated area. The nature of the earth’s mantle in the central and eastern U.S. transports quake energy for much greater distances than on the west coast faults. Church bells rang in Boston from the Missouri quake. New Orleans and Chicago both had significant quaking. This fault has an estimated frequency of 200 years and is thus due for another event at any time. The building codes from New Orleans to Memphis to St. Louis to Chicago do not require tolerance for an 8 plus Richter quake. When the New Madrid fault breaks, it will dwarf Katrina by many many magnitudes. As with Katrina, when this happens we will ask why didn’t we start preparing for decades in advance. The same could happen with a Cat 3 hitting just south of Manhattan. Why didn’t we build seawalls around the island?

It’s a sad but true reality, that we do not prepare for potential disasters unless it is a response to a recent disaster. We have a fairly short window of opportunity at each disaster while the audience is captive, to make the case for major change. The management plan of the Mississippi must be examined and adjusted to work with nature. The 2 “once in a lifetime” flooding events in recent years were not so much meteorological events as they were man made events. The loss of wetland hurricane protection was the result of misguided strategies put in place during the 1920’s. We reacted to a massive flooding event by putting in place a disastrous plan for which we are now paying a steep price.

The media will hook onto a theme and bludgeon it to death after the initial crisis here is over. The question is who will shape that theme and will it lead to something constructive or a dangerous over reaction that gives us a sense of justice at the cost of common sense. Those of us in the scientific community have an obligation to pull back our emotions and try to shape the debate using sound science and common sense. There are many potential crises in the offing – major quakes, New York City hurricane, pandemic flu and of course terrorism. 911 raised our focus on most forms of domestic terrorism, and in that area we are probably best prepared. Now is the time to examine how we can transform our disaster preparedness infrastructure to one that can anticipate and respond to the whole range of potential problems in the most efficient way.

As for the electoral reforms you suggest, be careful what you ask for. Public financing places the financial resources and rules of getting elected into the hands of those very elected officials. Over time, they will hijack the system like they have with the power of the gerrymander and the people’s voice will be diminished. Instant runoff elections often act to diminish minority voices. In a city where a vast majority of people are of one dominant political philosophy or demographic, the majority will always rule unchallenged in an instant runoff. With a regular runoff, a crowded field will sometimes produce a second place finisher of a minority point of view. In the final election, the minority candidate has the opportunity for a greater voice in a focused 2-person race. While the minority candidate will usually lose, a different point of view gets through to the public and opens the society to new ideas, evolution and change. As scientists, we should appreciate the advantages of empowering minority viewpoints, no matter how out of sink with the majority they may seem at the time.

Instead of attacking the symptoms of the disease, its time to go the heart of the problem. The politicians have too much power writing the rules that keep them in power. The longer they stay in office, the more difficult it is to get them out. Term limits help stir up the pot and opens the system to new blood. But the most important reform we can call for, in my opinion, is to take the power of writing electoral district boundaries out of the hands of the politicians. Gerrymandering has led to a situation in the country where districts are allocated to each of the 2 major parties, freezing out the populace from having a say in the general election. Primary voters and party power brokers, those on the extremes of the political spectrum, decide who will win elections. The voices of moderation and compromise are being driven to extinction. Without these moderate voices, crisis response consists of nothing more than a blame game from opposing political extremes instead of a cooperative search for solutions.

In the 2004 California election, not a single incumbent congressman, state senator or state assemblyperson lost despite extreme public discontent with our elected officials at all levels of government. Computer software has advanced gerrymandering to such an exact science that only through rapid population shifts can a district become competitive before the next census. We have a ballot measure that will take the power of writing these districts out of the politician’s hands and give it to a panel of retired judges [names pulled by lot]. They will not be allowed to look at party affiliation in determining where to draw district lines. More competitive districts will bring greater turnover, more moderate politicians, and diminish the power of the parties and special interests. It is my hope that California will start a nationwide movement to end gerrymandering.

Sorry for the length of my first post, but I thought the Dr. Master’s political comments warranted a detailed response. I’ll try to keep future posts shorter and on the topic of meteorology.
Member Since: September 5, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 0
307. HurricaneHarry
9:52 PM GMT on September 05, 2005
Kudos on an excellent blog entry relative to the obvious shortcomings of our current two party system, Dr. Masters! I completely agree with your thoughts. My only addition to your suggestion of an IRV-based election system would be the requirement of mandatory competency testing for all prospective presidential candidates. Basic knowledge of geography, history, economics, constitutional law and ethics would be areas to assess. A good argument could also be made for assessing basic English skills as well.

If there is one good outcome of this terrible tragedy, maybe it is that it can serve to remind us all that it is never unpatriotic to question one's government--let alone demand that it be accountable to the people it should serve.
306. COobserver
9:42 PM GMT on September 05, 2005
Nathan--

Yes, alot of people could've been evacuated a couple hours away. But where were the buses going to take them? Just dump them off on the highway? It was the job of FEMA to find an evacuation site and come up with such plans, and the job of local officials to then help implement whatever plan FEMA came up with by finding local buses, drivers, etc. The mayor has no authority whatsoever to set up a make-shift evacuation site in another city; that is the domain of the feds, as very explicitly stated in Homeland Security documents.

And what's with all of your percentages? Have you really thought that through. Of those who stayed, you think that the poor who lacked transportation (1/5th of all NO residents), the elderly without transportation, stranded vacationers, the sick, the homeless, the hospitalized, and those in nursing homes made up less than 10% of those who stayed? You seriously think that?
305. panzerfaust
9:39 PM GMT on September 05, 2005
President Bush is right in saying that we DO have the RESOURCES to simultaneously visit destruction overseas whilst bringing help to those in need at home.

Sadly though, he has also shown that we do not have the WILL to do so.
Member Since: October 20, 2001 Posts: 0 Comments: 17
304. NathanF
9:29 PM GMT on September 05, 2005
I'm not sure why you calculated that only 20,000 could be evacuated by the bus plan. You're assuming that each bus would leave New Orleans never to return. In reality each bus could make a 4 hour round trip 2 hours north of New Orleans and back 5 times in 20 hours. That means each bus could evacuate 200 people in 20 hrs. for a total of 100,000 evacuees. Make it a three hour trip and you can evacuate even more. The city leaders were responsible for executing this plan, and they failed more miserably than if they had planned to fail. The people of New Orleans elected these government officials, so the responsibility is their own. The mayor should be indicted for his miserable failure. When there is a major storm coming you don't hide in a hole by the ocean. You can't make me believe for one minute that more than 10% of the people who stayed in the city had absolutely no means of evacuating. Apparently 30% of them stayed to loot, rob and kill, 30% stayed to party, 20% stayed to guard their stuff because they knew all too well what would happen when the power went out and authorities lost control, and maybe, maybe 10% had absolutely no option to get out.
303. COobserver
9:24 PM GMT on September 05, 2005
Yet another report of a turnaway by FEMA. This time it was a state-of-the-art mobile hospital funded by the Department of Homeland Security who had already traveled to the area and was ready to go:

"We have tried so hard to do the right thing. It took us 30 hours to get here," said one of the frustrated surgeons, Dr. Preston "Chip" Rich of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. That government officials can't straighten out the mess and get them assigned to a relief effort now that they're just a few miles away "is just mind-boggling," he said in a phone interview.

Next door in Mississippi, the North Carolina mobile hospital waiting to help also offered impressive state-of-the-art medical care.

It was developed with millions of tax dollars through the Office of Homeland Security after 9-11. With capacity for 113 beds, it is designed to handle disasters and mass casualties.


The only response from FEMA so far?

An e-mail reply told him to watch CNN that night where HS Secretary Leavitt was to announce a Web address for doctors to enter their names in a database. "How crazy is that?" he said.
302. COobserver
9:18 PM GMT on September 05, 2005
Thanks, panzer, for posting that. Now why, again, did the USS Bataan go unused?

The Bataan's hospital facilities, including six operating rooms and beds for 600 patients, are empty. A good share of its 1,200 sailors could also go ashore to help with the relief effort, but they haven't been asked. The Bataan has been in the stricken region the longest of any military unit, but federal authorities have yet to fully utilize the ship.

"Could we do more?" said Capt. Nora Tyson, commander of the Bataan. "Sure. I've got sailors who could be on the beach plucking through garbage or distributing water and food and stuff. But I can't force myself on people.

"We're doing everything we can to contribute right now, and we're ready. If someone says you need to take on people, we're ready. If they say hospitals on the beach can't handle it ... if they need to send the overflow out here, we're ready. We've got lots of room."

The role in the relief effort of the sizable medical staff on board the Bataan was not up to the Navy, but to FEMA officials directing the overall effort.


http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/chi-0509040369sep04,1,4144825.story?page=2&coll=chi-newsnationworld-hed
301. StormJunkie
9:12 PM GMT on September 05, 2005
Lefty? 79? Anyone out there thinking we really need to keep an eye on what could be 16?
Member Since: August 17, 2005 Posts: 26 Comments: 15634
300. COobserver
9:08 PM GMT on September 05, 2005
Released Aug 29th by FEMA:

WASHINGTON D.C. -- Michael D. Brown, Under Secretary of Homeland Security for Emergency Preparedness and Response and head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), today urged all fire and emergency services departments not to respond to counties and states affected by Hurricane Katrina without being requested and lawfully dispatched by state and local authorities under mutual aid agreements and the Emergency Management Assistance Compact.

That's right, FEMA told first responders that they should NOT respond unless it was requested by the emergency management authorities under the direction of FEMA.

Folks still think this all falls on the shoulders of the locals?
299. panzerfaust
9:02 PM GMT on September 05, 2005
Thank you for your voice of compassion and sanity.

It was FRIDAY - the Second of SEPTEMBER - before my 'Near to NOLA' FEDERAL hospital started getting victims from the disaster. That is a LONG time from Tuesday. We often get injured from Iraq within 72 HOURS, and that is from half a world away.

It gets even worse.

On Tuesday the USS Bataan LHD-5 was on station offshore of NOLA when the city flooded. It had arrived on Monday – having ridden out Kat at sea and followed her landward. Monday her helios had flown recon over the city, and things seemed well. Tuesday, that had changed.

The Bataan is an amphibious assault ship: designed to support a marine landing on a hostile shore. She has 5 helicopters, and two large landing craft (an LCU and an LCAC) all of which could have been used for evacuation.

She has 6 ORs (Operating Rooms), 15 ICU beds, 44 ward beds and 500 overflow casualty berths.

As of 4 September, except for the helios and one of the LCs these facilities sat unused. Yes, patients were dying in the hospitals in NOLA, while 550 hospital beds sat empty a brief helio flight away … but the ship’s captain was not given permission to help.
Member Since: October 20, 2001 Posts: 0 Comments: 17
298. StormJunkie
8:55 PM GMT on September 05, 2005
Alright ya'll. We all know that we can not let this gross neglegence be forgotten, but let me tackit back to the tropics for a minute since we still have to make it throught this season and we already know that most of our resources are tied up right now.

How will TD15 ,likely Nate, effect what looks to be 16?

Any effect on track?
Member Since: August 17, 2005 Posts: 26 Comments: 15634
297. spewey
8:44 PM GMT on September 05, 2005
CNN is reporting that Cuba offered to send over 1500 doctors and 26 tons of supplies to help with the effort, but that there has been no response from our government.

Out nation's handling of this crisis is a disgrace. People are in desparate need and we are not even acknowledging a significant offer of assistance.

CNN: Cuba still waiting on response to offer of aid
296. rustyoldbucket
8:18 PM GMT on September 05, 2005
"Some experts familiar with the plans say they won't work."

Nothing will work if nobody gets off their dead butts and makes an effort. Hopefully Charlie Ireland suffers from not having the guts or foresight to at least TRY to help evacuate.

"It's also unclear whether the city's entire staff of bus drivers will remain. A union spokesman said that while drivers are aware of the plan, the union contract lacks a provision requiring them to stay."

Who gives a rip what the union says when lives are at stake? How short sighted can you be? Human caring should be all the provision they needed to stay and drive the buses.

295. spewey
8:17 PM GMT on September 05, 2005
Not everyone who was trapped in the city was poor. There were hospital patients, travelers whose flights were cancelled, emergency workers at their posts, disabled, etc.

Not all the poor were jobless. Many were workers who even though they worked full-time, still couldn't afford the costs of evacuating, or they had bedridden family members, etc.

This bashing of the city folk who remained behind is just like FEMA's response: blame the disaster on the victims.

Our nation's handling of the crisis has been a national disgrace. We can supply troops all over the world but we can't get water and supplies into one of our cities for days? Disgusting.
294. rustyoldbucket
8:11 PM GMT on September 05, 2005
PRIORITIES --- PRIORITIES

Why can't everyone pitch in and figure out how to do evacuations? They can sure as hell plan MARDI GRAS and other drunken parties.
293. rustyoldbucket
8:07 PM GMT on September 05, 2005
#1. Most of those "po" folks coulnd't have kept a car because some of their lowlife neighbors would have stolen it from them.
#2. The authorities knew where all the nursing homes were. They should have been the first to be evacuated, by the city and state.
292. CHAMP76
7:52 PM GMT on September 05, 2005
Dr. Masters I disagree with your political analysis completely. I respect your weather knowledge but your missive here is not in the least bit constructive. Clearly more could have and should have been done to prepare for this type of storm. New Orleans was founded in 1718 and nothing like this has happened before now. So how much money do you spend in preparation for an event that may occur once every 300 years, or not at all. I suppose that was a factor in any decision made to this point. This is the third year in a row an evacuation was called for the city. I bet many of those who stayed behind this year felt burned by what they believe was chicken little evacuation orders in the past. I don't believe forecasting has come to the point where citizens feel reasonably certain their evacuation is "worth it," though many do anyway. Had this been another false alarm, the percentage of those evacuating would have been much less next time. All this begs the question, though, of just how you evacuate 100,000 mostly reluctant citizens in 48 hours or so. I suggest it is impossible, we know it's improbable, and that is why this scenerio was labeled a catastrophe in the making. Certainly more could and should be done for the levee system. If funded, though, the Corps has estimated it would take 8 years of study and 30 years of construction. If you want to assign blame, please include all decision makers in the last 40 years, for that is the lead time which would have been necessary given the Corps' timeline. Two more things. The levee that failed(17th Street) did so because it was apparently rammed by a runaway barge. The levee had been recently upgraded and was a strong, concrete levee. How does one plan for that? Some have suggested a levee system within the outer levees to "compartmentalize" any flood. That may work but thousands would be displaced by an inner levee system. Second, I personally never felt more threatened in that bowl of a city than in 1973 when record flood waters came down the Mississippi and the river was at the top of the levees. One runaway freighter is all it would have taken to breech the levee, causing a flood that would have made this one pale in comparison. Should the city have been evacuated then? I can tell you it wasn't. So what does all this mean? I don't think it is a matter of black and white, rich and poor, big contibutors and the rest of us. Was the city a national priority? Clearly not, not during administrations of both parties. Should it have been? Perhaps so, but in the tension of politics the mayors and representatives of all cities think their bit of turf should have more than it gets. Are we going to pay a price for the neglect? You bet.
291. johnsonwax
7:27 PM GMT on September 05, 2005
For a long time corruption was synonymous with the south. I won't say that hasn't been true in LA and NOLA in particular.

However, the current Gov and the current Mayor, both in their first term, appear to be a very good step away from that trend. Unfortunately, they weren't equipped for this.

Those two individuals aside, corruption runs deep and city councils, state legislators, etc. may still be rife with corruption. But these are all elected officials. The voter apathy in this country is coming back to haunt us. We reap what we sow.

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Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.