Aardy R. DeVarque (aardy) wrote,
Aardy R. DeVarque

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Hurricane Katrina federal response analysis

Some paraphrased and summarized points from a lengthy front-page article in Sunday's Chicago Tribune.

(Paraphrased from: "Blueprint for disaster : flawed storm plans, timing errors doomed New Orleans" by Andrew Martin, Cam Simpson and Frank James. Chicago Tribune, Sept. 11, 2005, Sec. 1, p. 1 & 6.)

  • The Hurricane Pam exercise estimated there would be a bit over 61,000 deaths from a catastrophic hurricane. The plan that resulted from the exercise supposedly provided for 800 search & rescue personnel to quickly find & evacuate anyone stranded by a hurricane.

  • In July, New Orleans officials announced that they would be unable to transport residents who lacked transportation out of town before a hurricane. The New Orleans Times-Picayune reported that that month, city officials also produced DVDs that would warn residents of this fact, to be distributed in low-income neighborhoods.

  • In the post-Hurricane Pam plans, a fast-moving Category 3 storm or anything less (what the New Orleans levees were designed to withstand) would be to be left to the local government to handle; for slow-moving Category 3 storms and higher, it would be up to the state governor to declare a state of emergency and seek federal assistance. The governor of Louisiana submitted a letter to President Bush on Aug. 27 and another on Aug. 28 asking for federal help, using specific language that was supposed to trigger the Dept. of Homeland Security to designate the storm an "incident of national significance," which would bring to bear the full force of the federal government. President Bush declared an emergency, but did not go so far as to trigger the "indicent of national security" measures. The storm was not given that designation by Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertikoff until 32 hours after the storm made landfall, even though the law specifically gives the Homeland Security Secretary the ability to make such a designation before an impending disaster actually strikes.

  • FEMA Director Michael Brown told a television reporter that the FEMA response didn't come sooner because local authorities hadn't asked for assistance.

  • Based on the results of the Hurricane Pam exercise, local authorities prepared to deal with storm aftermath for 2 to 2 1/2 days, afer which time FEMA would take over. The federal government may have technically "taken over" operations on Aug. 31, within that time frame, but they didn't actually arrive in _force_ until Sept. 2.

  • New Orleans disaster plan called for the Superdome to be primarily used for people with special medical needs, and as a "last-resort refuge" for people to ride out a storm and then either go home or be transported to more permanent shelters outside the city after a storm had passed. The Hurricane Pam plan indicates that if a major storm were to hit, last-resort refuges could be turned into long-term shelters, but does not provide any further details on what that would entail or how to go about that.

  • Hours before the storm made landfall, the emergency management director of Jefferson Parish requested that FEMA send extra medical personnel with their first wave, and also requested two generator packs to provide power for sewage pumps. The generator packs arrived on Sept. 9.

  • According to the Associated Press, about 5 1/2 hours after the storm made landfall, FEMA Director Michael Brown put the agency into action, proposing at that time that 1,000 Homeland Security officials be sent to support rescuers in the region. He estimated that they would arrive in two days.

  • At the time FEMA's forces were being mobilized, the main storehouse for emergency supplies was at Camp Beauregard in Pineville, Louisiana. According to various media reports, there were 3,000 National Guard troops there at that time, as well as food, water, and cots for 10,000 people. Pineville is about 4 hours from New Orleans.

  • The day after the storm, the levees broke and flooding began in earnest; by midday, widespread looting was being reported. A Pentagon spokesman claimed there were already enough National Guard troops on hand to handle the emergency, even though there was not yet very much federal presence in the city.

  • Two days after the storm hit, within the 48-60 hour window after which local officials expected the federal government to take over, the military set up Joint Task Force Katrina at Camp Shelby, Miss., and mobilized 10,000 additional National Guardsmen, but they were still 48 hours away from the disaster zone. By this time, the Superdome held around 23,000 people.

  • Despite multiple news reports of thousands of people stranded at the New Orleans convention center (which was not designated as a "last-resort refuge"), Michael Brown said he didn't know that there were any survivors there.

  • On Sept. 2, while President Bush toured the area and praised FEMA's efforts so far, federal rescue workers arrived in New Orleans.

The Bush Administration would hand-wave the above away by calling it a useless exercise in fingerpointing, but that doesn't make it so. Even if you discount all quotes from local officials as complete lies, there's still too much that's easily corroborated. (And even Bush has said that the federal response was unacceptable.) So you'll know that any eventual bipartisan or independent commission that studies the Hurricane Katrina disaster relief effort that ignores the above is a whitewash job at best.

Feudalism: Serf & Turf
Tags: hurricane katrina

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