Tuesday, September 06, 2005

"Après le Déluge"

These are the responses to my September 6 article, "Questions about Katrina." Thanks to all, please continue to provide us with your feedback.

118 comments:

  1. Article on the actions of various Presidents during the aftermath
    of hurricanes

    In September 1999, Hurricane Floyd -- a category 3 --
    was bearing down the
    Carolinas and Virginia.

    President Clinton was in Christchurch, New Zealand -
    meeting with President
    Jiang of China (you know, actually working). He made
    the proclamation that
    only Presidents can make and declared the areas
    affected by Floyd "Federal
    Disaster Areas" so the National Guard and Military can
    begin to mobilize. Then
    he cut short his meetings overseas and flew home to
    coordinate the
    rescue efforts. This all one day BEFORE a Cat-3 hit
    the coast. That is
    how you do it.

    How about this dope's own father during Hurricane
    Andrew? Once again,
    President Bush (41) -- August, 1992 -- was in the
    midst of a brutal campaign
    for re-election. Yet, he cut off his campaigning the
    day before and went to
    Washington where he martialed the largest military
    operation on US soil in
    history. He sent in 7,000 National Guard and 22,000
    regular military
    personnel, and all the gear to begin the clean up
    within hours after Andrew
    passed through Florida. 'Cause, you know, those people
    and their stuff was
    actually where it belonged, rather than being used for
    insurgent
    target-practice halfway around the world in a vain
    effort to make Iraq safe
    for Iranian takeover.

    In August of 1969 when Cat-5 Hurricane Camille hit
    roughly the same area as
    Katrina, President Nixon had already readied the
    National Guard and ordered
    all Gulf rescue vessels and equipment from Tampa and
    Houston to follow the
    Hurricane in. There were over 1,000 regular military
    with two dozen
    helicopters to assist the Coast Guard and National
    Guard within hours after
    the skies cleared.

    Bush 43 - August 2005 - Cat-5 Hurricane Katrina bears
    down on New Orleans
    and the Mississippi gulf. Both states are down nearly
    8,000 National Guard
    troops because they are in Iraq -- with most of the
    rescue gear needed. Bush
    is on vacation. The day before Katrina makes landfall,
    Bush rides his bike
    for two hours. The day she hits, he goes to Johnnie
    McCain's birthday party;
    and lies to old people about the multi-billion-dollar
    pharmaceutical company
    welfare boondoggle. People are dying, the largest port
    of entry in the
    United States (and fifth largest in the World) is
    under attack. Troops and
    supplies are desperately needed. The levees are
    cracking and the emergency
    1-1/2 ton sandbags are ready, but there aren't enough
    helicopters or pilots
    to set them before the levees fail.

    The mayor of New Orleans begs for
    Federal coordination, but there is none, and the
    sandbagging never gets
    done. So Bush -- naturally -- goes to San Diego to
    play guitar with country
    singer and lie to the military about how Iraq is just
    exactly like WWII. The
    levees give way, filling New Orleans with water,
    sewage, oil and chemicals.
    Ten percent of all US exports, and 50% of all
    agricultural exports ordinarly
    go through this port. It is totally destroyed.

    Bush decides he'll end his
    vacation a couple of days early -- TOMORROW --BECAUSE
    HE HAS TICKETS TO A
    PADRES GAME! He goes back to the Fake Farm in
    Crawford, with every intention
    of doing something on WEDNESDAY about this disaster
    that happened starting
    last Sunday night.

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  2. Anonymous6:02 PM

    > To answer question 8 -- the Superdome is a domed structure, with a roof.
    It
    > was rent by the winds, apparently enough to permit leaks and to make
    people
    > underneath it miserable, but possibly not wide enough to lower supplies.
    >
    > No need to attribute this to me. Plus I could be wrong. But I don't think
    so.
    >

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  3. Let's focus on uniting to rescue those still stranded and getting decent shelter, clothing, food and medical care for those already rescued.

    We will have plenty of time later for an acrimonious partisan debate/blamefest.

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  4. > i have no answers, but i do have an additional question, and a musing.
    >
    > 11. Federal offcials said relief was slow to get to the Coast because
    guard
    > units had to be stood up and transport vehicles loaded with relief
    supplies.
    > It takes 3 - 4 days just to get the supplies and units ready to move
    out.
    > Therefore, would it also take 3 - 4 days for the federal government to
    > respond to other disasters, such as a major terrorist attack on NCY or an
    > earthquake in San Francisco? If the feds say I'm supposed to have a
    > backpack filled with water and a flashlight ready to go at all times, how
    > come they don't have a plane filled with food, water, and medical supplies
    > similarly prepared?
    >
    > The musing,
    > Yes, New Orleans and LA should have taken steps ahead of time to evacuate
    > their people. But New Orleans govt is widely known to be corrupt,
    > incompetent, and underfunded, so surely FEMA could plan for local govt
    > failure which was even more predictable than the hurricane. And putting
    > aside what the locals should have done ahead of time, FEMA *definitely*
    > should have expected even the best local govt to be decimated by a Cat 4
    or
    > 5 hurricane heading straight for the levees (which was what this was
    > predicted to be on Saturday). Pointing the finger at a local govt that
    has
    > no electricity, phone lines, food, or water, and which doesn't know where
    > its collective family members are, well, that's pretty low. Does FEMA also
    > expect the NYPD to continue operating after a nuke?

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  5. For a truly cataclysmic event, one which ruptured an entire nation, not just a region, I would nominate one I lived through: The Stock Market Crash of 1929. And I predict that, due to Bush's horrific mismanagement of this nation's finances, we shall endure an economic crash that will make the events after 1929 seem like "the Good Old Times." And that Communists and Fascists will be battling in the streets with NRA's guns.

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  6. Re No. 3:

    Difficult to assimilate with what? It's easy to assimilate with his
    prior, extremely robust vacation habits. In fact, it assimilates
    perfectly. Being president is hard work! Perhaps its Bush who is
    "utterly unqualified for his job." He probably got the job because he
    was friends with certain Florida state officials and five Supreme
    Court justices.

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  7. It is so very strange how we can help so many foreign countries. But when our own coutry is in need and distress, somethings are always lacking. Why is that? I know we don't put
    enough tax money in the politicians' pockets.

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  8. 6. Why didn't the city of New Orleans or the state of Louisiana provide buses to take out the people who had no other transportation? It was obvious that there would be thousands of people with this problem. How can you tell people to leave a city if they have no practical way of doing that?



    My favorite question.

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  9. I have been glued to the TV for a week, and I've been trying to wrap my brain around this tragedy... but your list of questions is the clearest statement of my personal feelings. I would add a question (11) having something to do with allowing levies to fall into such scandalous disrepair.

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  10. Henry: Good questions. I assume you will have read the excellent op-ed piece in today's Wall Street Journal by Bob Williams... I think the opprobrium (sp?) visited on GW Bush is undeserved.

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  11. I would add an eleventh question. During the federal budget process, a conscious decision appears to have been made to build levees capable of withstanding category 3 hurricanes, but not category 4 hurricanes. Cost-benefit analysis appears to have supported this decision. What were the assumptions underlying this analysis? To what extent, if any, were they affected by hostility to government spending or tighter standards for project approvals arising from diversion of federal budgetary resources to entitlement programs, tax cuts, war, and pork barrel spending?

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  12. In point of fact, Brown didn't manage or head the International Arabian Horse Association, as widely reported; he was merely the chairman of one of its committees (the judges committee, to be precise).
    He was forced out of that position due to allegations of financial improprieties (slush funds, to be precise).

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  13. Excellent…I am glad you keep doing this…I believe the performance of all three levels of government in the case is the worst important response performance I have seen in my 30 years of public service…and I am afraid the recovery is already in great trouble. The vast majority of poor residents will probably not return. It is an national tragedy that could have been prevented …and subsequently mitigated…while Americans who could have helped are dying in Iraq.

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  14. SQ,

    Not to be self-centered, but I’ve wondered what this says about the federal response if a “dirty bomb” were dropped on NYC and a chunk of the city became (temporarily?) uninhabitable. I figured the feds were working on how to relocate large numbers of people in an organized way under various scenarios, but I guess not!



    We’re lucky enough that our reasonably competent and activist local (and state?) government could probably pull off a decent response, as they did on 9/11 (fire-police lack of communication aside). But most states and locals are not so sophisticated.



    The whole thing is truly unbelievable. They didn’t even systematically evacuate hospitals and nursing homes?

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  15. Please submit a "list" of ONE natural disaster for which any and all authorities have been prepared and carried out rescue efforts to the full satisfaction of the press. Alternatively, kindly draw up plans for the evacuations of two of this country's 25 largest cities - including at least one situated on a major body of water - and stick around for a roundtable critique of your successes and failures. If, for example, you have ever been on Madison Avenue during a.m. or p.m. hours, you will have concluded that the only way we would be able to be evacuated is by using our feet.
    Rather than reckless second guessing of minute to minute
    actions of governmental officials, why not look to the one failure that led to the New Orleans tragedy: the 20 year (or more) failure to heed the advice of the Corps of Engineers, which stated that the seawalls could not withstand a direct
    hit by a storm exceeding Category 3? Once the water began flowing into the city, there was no way to respond adequately.If you listened to Gen. Honore, you know that military personnel and equipment were moved away from the vulnerable areas. When the storm abated and the lake water was unchecked, the military was unable to move precipitously, as they were confronted with a mass exodus, thereby slowing the response time.But the equipment was available to assist the remaining residents.The demographic profile of New Orleans, unknown to most Americans, provided a vulnerability for which no one could be prepared. As President Clinton said, let's get on with the job and stop sniping for lack of anything constructive to do. Let's also try and plan the reconstruction of a "new" New Orleans that makes both economic and social sense.

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  16. The mayor and governor were, and still are, clueless. The Superdome
    should have been stocked with food, medical supplies and clothing plus
    having depots throughout the city.

    Trains-an excellent point. A great way to evacuate people by the thousands:
    avoiding traffic jams and energy efficient.

    But I must give Mr. LawrenceGuyot, Jesse Jackson's henchman, an award for
    spinning. When O'Reilly mentioned looters taking TVs, Guyot said
    they would probably barter the TVs for food.

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  17. Henry in my life time this has happened again and again.My infantry
    service in WW2 was a mass of disasters.The
    > other side made them too!Think of the Remagen bridge on the Rhine or how
    we had our brains knocked out at the
    > beginning of the Bulge etc.etc,What is wrong is that the National
    Geographic published a series of articles in 2004
    > telling us this might happen! Look it up

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  18. In answer to your question # 7, I am told by my cousin, a refugee from New Orleans, that Amtrak cancelled all service into New Orleans some 72 hours before Katrina arrived. Similarly, the airlines cancelled service into New Orleans (and probably other areas on the Gulf Coast) by Saturday evening, well in advance of the actual landfall. (her family had reservations on Delta leaving Saturday afternoon but were told tough luck.) She is unsure what the bus companies did. Obviously this is a real problem if you are, for instance, a tourist without a rental car or a city resident who can only afford bus fare. I have read that Amtrak will now be bringing in or has brought in trains to take people out of the city.

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  19. > I think Paul Krugman got it in his Monday editorial. If you ACTUALLY hate
    the federal government as a party principle, this is what you can get,
    especially when that hatred evolves into seeing federal agencies no more
    than the kinds of payoffs Mead Esposito used the Board of Education for,
    hiring no-shows in patronage for having done the party some election
    service. If the Democrats are savvy, which is UNIMAGINABLE, this could be
    the death knell for the elephants. But donkeys are known for being stubborn
    and cowardly but rarely for being smart. As an effective administrator, you
    know that in order to serve the people you have to man the machine with the
    very best people or you will be singing a blues with new lyrics,
    > "Katrina, Katrina, what makes your big winds so hard?"

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  20. Sadly the real catastrophe lies in the fact that there are individuals in this society who became such savages that they decided to take an opportunity where they could have done some good for their fellow man and chose instead to rape, loot, and shoot at their rescuers with the guns they had stolen. This is something that was not seen after the tsunami, hugo, andrew or numerous other tragedies that have befallen so many. It is indeed a sad commentary and will probably go down as a shameful chapter in our history

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  21. Déluge


    Excellent piece, as usual, SQ. Some thoughts on 2 of your points below.

    7. Since Amtrak has a station in New Orleans, why didn't they take people out by train?
    >> They did some days later. I just checked out Amtrak's route map which you will no doubt find instructive if you haven't taken a recent look:
    http://www.amtrak.com/pdf/national.pdf

    I actually was surprised to discover that they have 4 tracks leading to/from New Orleans -- which makes it a major transcontinental hub. 3 trains (to Chicago, Florida, and Atlanta) operate daily and the third train in the direction of California operates 3 times a week. I know that service has been cut back a lot outside of the East and West Coasts.

    A lot depends on whether the tracks are electrified or whether the train is running from electrical cables above. It also depends on the schedule. It also depends on where the station is in New Orleans (above or below sea level). Let's say for the sake of the example, that one train just left New Orleans before the storm and another train wasn't supposed to arrive for 7 hours later or so -- only it couldn't get to the station because of the disaster -- thus tying up the tracks. In fact, now that I think about it, we haven't heard any news reports about people being stuck on Amtrak trains for days, have we? So if the tracks were underwater (and electrified) then they would be short-circuited. That leaves coal-powered train engines which may or may not be in the vicinity.
    Eventually, Amtrak did move some of the refugees out (was it on Thursday, I think?) to Houston. I think it was principally a coordination issue. Amtrak is still a (quasi-)Federal agency and it would have had to make its offer available to FEMA and/or to the local government which would have had to accept it and publicize it etc.

    8. Why didn't they airdrop supplies into the Superdome; if it is true that thousands of people went without food and water for days?

    I never saw photos of the inside of the Superdome -- but I did see them for the Houston Astrodome -- and the pictures were of people setting up cots up and down the field. If they had airdropped supplies, the odds of injury people who were presumably on cots in the Superdome is high. And even if they didn't injure any people (let's say for the sake of argument that they all obeyed the directions and bunched up along the perimeter of the field), then a number of the cots would have been destroyed by the packages falling from the air (think of your meteor from 50,000 years ago). Probably the best alternative would have to been to waterproof the supplies and attach something that made them float and drop them outside the Superdome...???

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  22. Henry Stern,

    I’m in total agreement with your questions, comments and concerns, but for one. I think it is not practical to air-drop anything into an enclosed sports dome. If you meant “air drop around or near the dome,” than we are in full agreement.

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  23. Henry - The following paragraph is from John Tierney’s NY Times column this morning:

    In coastal Virginia - which, by the way, has a large black population and plenty of Republican politicians - Mr. Judkins and his colleagues assume that it's their job to evacuate people, maintain order and stockpile supplies to last for 72 hours, until federal help arrives. In New Orleans, the mayor seemed to assume all that was beyond his control, just like the mayors in the 1960's who let the riots occur.



    The President’s first line of defense seems to be that FEMA isn’t supposed to be responsible until after the first 72 hours of the emergency. That would let them off the hook until maybe Thursday if you date the emergency from Monday, when the hurricane hit land.



    But I would argue that the start-date of the emergency should be the first alert of a major hurricane (whatever the law or the rules now say).

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  24. A further question is why the U. S. Army's 82nd Airborne was not immediately deployed to secure New Orleans and provide food and water to those who did not evacuate. This unit boasts that its readiness is such that it can be deployed from Ft. Bragg, NC within 12 hours. Why didn't its commander seek a deployment Order from his chain-of-command? Or if he did, why wasn't it acted upon immediately instead of days later when there were few alive who still needed water and food and when looters were essentially non-existent?

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  25. Dear Henry:The stories of lack of help in N'awlins and other parts of the South are sad to hear.I heard a radio interview with the mayor of Hattiesberg,Mississipi.The reporter asked the mayor if he had asked for FEMA to help.The mayor in his deep drawl,said"What is FEMA?I never heard of it" He admiitted later in the interview to being facetious.There were several truckloads of ice in Hattiesberg,that couldn't be opened for the populous because FEMA didn't give "the word".
    Empty buses went from Houston to retrieve hurricane victims and were turned away.Amtrak and freight cars could have used dedicated tracks as well as freight line tracks ,not destroyed by water, to get the victim's out of harms way.The Feds "yesterday"contracted with Carnival line ships to take on victims in the port of Galveston..........but the victims did not want to leave their families,understandingly.I wonder what the length of the"guaranteed" contact was between the Feds and Carnival.
    NYC's Reverend Al (along with the ubiquitous Houston Congressperson Sheila Jackson Lee)beat Dubya into photo-ops at the Astrodome in Houston.

    Houston's response was one of the bright lite's in its response to this disaster.The preparedness of our city was essentially well organized with a deluge of volunteers providing necessary food and materials for the adults and children.Local drugstores are offering free refills of prescriptions.Physicians and hospitals are offereing free care.

    I've experienced several hurricaines in Houston and Louisiana.The ill effects of these disasters should have been anticipated with some degree of accuracy.Several years ago,a hurricane and floods hit N'awlinds a city below sea level.I believe it was "Betsy".Many folks died because ...as the flood waters rose,they moved into the attic.In these homes,the attics had no windows of escape and with the attics being below sea-level,many good folks perished.

    THe basic feeling from talking to my Houston compradres(Republicans as well as Democrats) was that there was inefficiency,inaction and a state of catatonia,stupidity,cavalier attitudes of our appointed and elected officials in their response of this disaster.Stickball games on Post Avenue were better organized than this fiasco!

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  26. > Hi Henry,
    >
    > I was wondering about the Amtrak question myself. It seems clear enough
    > that spare rolling stock could have been brought in from commuter rail
    > systems along the eastern seaboard and from Chicago-- Between New
    > Jersey, Illinois, Virginia, Pennsylvania and Maryland there is a lot of
    > spare capacity that could have been in New Orleans within 24 hours for
    > evacuation purposes. I think the ultimate trouble may be that all tracks
    > in and out of New Orleans are owned by commercial freight lines that are
    > loathe to live up to their regular obligations to give Amtrak trains
    > right of way (which is why Amtrak is late so often outside of the
    > Northeast Corridor where they own the tracks). I suspect that the
    > commercial freight carriers would not have been interested in allowing
    > their tracks to be occupied for over 24 to 48 hours even if it could
    > have saved tens of thousands of lives in New Orleans and coastal
    > Mississippi. [Indeed, the freight carriers have professed the desire to
    > remove all passenger traffic from their rails so they will not need to
    > maintain their rails to such a high standard-- a ludicrous argument
    > considering the volume of hazardous materials that rides those rails].
    >
    > My big question now is a question about planning for the near term
    > future: So many plans for evacuees involve housing people in very close
    > quarters for an extended period of time. This is a recipe for disaster
    > as the flu season approaches. Why is there no effort underway to get
    > these people flu vaccinations so we do not have a second disaster in a
    > couple of months? This situation has public health implications for the
    > whole nation and is a foreseeable consequence of the housing
    > arrangements that are being made today. Hopefully NYCivic can at least
    > get public health officials in New York to innoculate evacuees who come
    > to New York.

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  27. Ahoy Starquest,

    Thought you would like to learn about the storm surge potential in our fair land. Our OEM has done a pretty good job. I don't know how often you drive north on Ocean Parkway but there are signs, "coastal evacuation route."

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  28. On behalf of my family that discussed this topic at every meal this weekend I would add the following questions to your list:



    - is it true that 30% of the National Guard and half of their equipment is in Iraq? and to what degree did this contribute to the slowness in responding? and does this leave us vulnerable in other ways?



    - if this is how the administration responds to a natural disaster (and a hurricane, mind you, which provided ample warning), how on earth will they respond to an unpredicted terrorist one?



    - who is really responsible for the canals and levees not having been reinforced, considering that New Orleans being hit by a Hurricane was identified in 2001 by an independent commission (?) as one of the top 3 natural disaster possibilities (in context Maureen Dowd's observation in NY Times that about $231 million in fed funds was used to build a small bridge on an uninhabited island in Alaska last year while an Army Corp of Engineers request for $105 million in funds for flood and hurricane programs in New Orleans was reduced to only $40 million)?



    - what will the social and political ramifications of this be given the way the disaster has put a spotlight on the disadvantaged and economic inequalities - not just in Louisiana, but across the country?

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  29. You are right, a thousand time right. Something was rotten regarding New Orleans.



    I have almost finished a Clive Cussler (or is it Tom Clancy) novel: The Lost City and it is wrought with Machiavellian symbolism.



    What is Hurricane Katrina conveniently played into the hands of the Troika? The Seven? The Mega players of the Universe? And it came along at just the right time?



    Just as parcels of land are seized by eminent domain, what if the powers that be saw Katrina as a way to clear out land and people in one fell swoop?



    If there is oil and gas offshore, my guess is that it is on shore as well.



    Bush is into oil. Bush, Sr. is into oil. Cheney is into oil. Halliburton has contracts up the wazoo.



    In a chain of command organization, there is usually a “that is not my job” mentality so, from the top down, there may have been an order to “stand down” and wait.



    Everyone waited for George Bush!

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  30. I am waiting for Bush, Cheney, Frisk and company to announce that the hardships inflicted on the good ( no mention of the not so good) people of New Orleans is a wonderful opportunity for those poor sodden slobs to lift themselves by their own bootstraps and recover on their own, with no whining or handouts from big gov'ment. And to make sure there will be no handouts, Bush and company will impose yet another tax cut on the rich to make bearing the nation's pain less awful for the guys and gals who earn their way. God bless America.

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  31. r.l.f.6:45 PM

    Some thoughts.

    1. The first big failure was at the City level. There was no leadership.
    If NYC's response after 9/11 had been the same as in New Orleans, there
    would have been looting as well. The police, transit and fire departments,
    the guts of any civil authority in a crisis, disintegrated. They had
    ineffective leadership. There was no planning for an event that was
    eminently predictable at the local level. Where were the buses to take
    people out of the City? Why weren't they mobilized? And then the mayor
    fled to Baton Rouge.

    The next big failure was at the State level. The Governor should have
    mobilized the National Guard in advance. The Governor should have
    reassigned State Police to the stricken areas within 24 hours after the
    hurricane had passed through the State. There should have been trucks
    pre-filled with food and water in safe areas, just in case. Coordination
    should have been made with neighboring states. People forget that after
    9/11 there was no effective City government, that the State mobilized state
    police and National Guard within 24 hours, that the State took over
    virtually all command and control until the City could get back on its feet
    and set up temporary offices, with the exception of the City Police
    Department (the State controls the MTA and Port Authority), and that the
    State reached out to neighboring states for administrative and other help.
    Louisiana's governor was inept and clueless.

    Finally, the President must personally accept blame. After Camille, Richard
    Nixon caused the military to be present within 48 hours. Bush didn't even
    think of a military presence until at least three days had passed. The
    military is the only organization designed to be self-sufficient where
    there are no roads, no electricity and inclement weather.

    2. The hurrricane actually took the worst possible route as far as New
    Orleans is concerned. If the eye had passed over New Orleans or to its
    west, Lake Pontrchartain would have flooded on its north side and not its
    south side, where it posed little threat to a populated area. By passing to
    the east, the storm spent hours pushing sea water into Lake Pontchartrain
    with winds out of the east, and as the eye wall approached, the winds
    shifted to the north, striking the mortal blow upon the City in the form of
    a biblical flood.

    Wind damage would have perhaps been more severe, but the number of deaths
    from wind damage would have been far fewer than from flooding.

    3. The President shouldn't need advisors to tell him what to do. He should
    have asked the tough questions in advance. He should have checked to see
    what Nixon did after Camille. You don't need to be a rocket scientist to
    figure out that a storm like Katrina was going to be far worse than anything
    in recent history. And then when he came to New Orleans he had the temerity
    to suggest that New Orleans would rebuild as would Houston. !?1? (and I am
    a Republican)

    4. FEMA was obviously overconfident after having engineered Bush's
    reelection with its efforts in Florida in 2004. Its leader had been there
    long enough to know what to do. That he got caught with his pants down must
    be attributed to the President, not to Mr. Brown, who was over his head
    through no fault of his own. This shows the perils of cronyism for key
    positions.

    5. Chertoff is in a transition circumstance and cannot be judged as
    harshly as his boss. My suspicion is that he, more than anyone, will have
    learned valuable lessons from the mishandling of this affair. One of those
    lessons must be to assure that local governments have the means to
    communicate with their own employees and to coordinate communications with
    State and Federal employees when the power is out. Let's see how he does.

    6. Unthinking mayor.

    7. Unthinking mayor.

    8. They could have trucked supplies in using I-10. No one had assembled
    the water and food where it could be easily moved, it seems. Unthinking
    governor. Unprepared FEMA head.

    9. They'll get jobs elsewhere. Some will return to New Orleans where
    demolition and construction jobs may be plentiful. New Orleans will take
    years to rebuild (and it should not be rebuilt until measures to contain the
    erosion from the Gulf of Mexico have been agreed to and funded).

    10. What if a meteor strikes? What if a nuclear bomb is unleashed on us
    by a terrorist organization. What if we have an east coast tsumami with
    only a few hours warning? What if we have a sustained bio-chemical attack
    on our postal system? There is no way that we can prepare for every
    eventuality. Government has its limits. But local governments must think
    about the most likely risks they face and develop contingency plans.
    Everywhere.

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  32. I love reading your articles which show your intellectual depth, and your knack for political commentary. You're a WISE HEAD!
    This is my comment on Katrina: I was born on the small island of Jamaica, that has seen more than its share of disasters, through hurricanes, earthquakes, floods and mudslides. You probably remember Gilbert the killer! However, at no point have we ever lost an entire city or town! Due to our continued preparedness for the worst, and moving especially our poorest of the poor, our disabled, and our elderly to safe grounds (shelters), just in case we are visited by the EYE, which is always our greatest fear during the storm and hurricane season.

    Having said that, I think our response here was lousy, slow, inept. America is the model for all things that a democracy and a thriving capitalist society exemplifies, and what happened in Louisiana and the Gulf States is simply inexcusable. The loss of lives and property was attributable to more that the hurricane itself - it shows how lousy our response to disasters has been.It will go down in history, and the rebuilding will take years, even after the water is drained from the region.

    I hope that we will all pull together as Americans to embrace our nationals, irrespective of their status, race or religion, and that we will each contribute to the rebuilding of lives and property.

    My best wishes always

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  33. Henry:

    Here's another (compound) question:

    Why weren't steps taken years ago to strengthen the levees surrounding New Orleans in view of the identified risk?

    If the answer is "lack of funds," when will Congress redirect the billions now earmarked for useless bridges in Alaska (and elsewhere) to rebuild the levees? See attached op-ed piece for a refresher on Congressional priorities.

    ReplyDelete
  34. 6. Why didn't the city of New Orleans or the state of Louisiana provide
    > > buses to take out the people who had no other transportation? It was
    > > obvious that there would be thousands of people with this problem. How
    > > can you tell people to leave a city if they have no practical way of
    > >doing that?
    >
    > i think the answer is complicated and multi-faceted, but i can't help feel
    > that all of the reasons are shaded by racism. not the overt, hate-filled
    > venomous kind of racism we associate with the civil rights era, but a far
    > subtler, more insidious kind we see (or actually, FAIL to see)in the era
    > of political correctness. though the cultural climate may be more polite
    > than fourty years ago, political correctness has not as done much to
    > change attitudes as it has to supress people's feelings about race and
    > sublimate them into other forms. it is clear that the goverment of New
    > Orleans is supremely out of touch with the black community, largely
    > unaware of its' needs, and more than that, disinterested. i don't think
    > the failure of the city to evacuate its' citizens effectively can be
    > attributed to a lack of organization or a lack of resources but rather to
    > a COMPLETE LACK OF INTEREST. it almost seems like it didn't occur to the
    > city officials that a huge number of their citizens wouldn't be able to
    > evacuate themselves. don't all of our citizens live in the suburbs and
    > drive SUVs?
    >
    > the hurricane has pulled the pristine veneer from the face of the american
    > city, revealing the true state of race and class in our culture. everyone
    > seems shocked. but guess who isn't surprised? america's black community.
    >

    ReplyDelete
  35. Scott Sala6:59 PM

    I want to expand on your limited statement on our President. While an negative impression is all-too-easy to draw when Bush's time spent is summarized as vacation, it begs some clarification and defense. On Saturday, August 27, before the hurricane hit, Bush wrote a letter to Governor Blanco of Louisiana urging federal assistance via a declaration as a "state of emergency." On Sunday before the hurricane hit, Bush called the governor to appeal for a mandatory evacuation.

    QUOTE:
    http://www.nola.com/newsflash/louisiana/index.ssf?/base/news-18/1125239940201382.xml&storylist=louisiana
    Gov. Kathleen Blanco, standing beside the mayor at a news conference, said President Bush called and personally appealed for a mandatory evacuation for the low-lying city, which is prone to flooding.

    Lawmakers from LA thanked Bush for his federal intervention. Then the hurricane hit.

    You are correct on many other questions, but I find it unfair to insinuate Bush was on vacation when it is repeatedly clarified that in this modern era of technology he can conduct the business of this country from his command stations at his ranch. Had he been in Washington, would the White House air of authority have helped any better?

    His mistake as you mentioned was appointing a bad FEMA leader. But I would look at the local scene before I look at the feds. New Orleans police abandoned their posts. Contrast that to 9/11 NYPD and FDNY. You think people will be wearing NOPD hats for years to come? Their mayor freaked out on TV. Some leader. He and Gov. Blanco assumed a most un-Giuliani-like finger crossing approach, preparing for the average hurricane, not the worst.

    ReplyDelete
  36. As in the tragedy of Katrina, NYS must look to the Feds to clean up
    Medicaid in NYS because the voters have no leverage upon their elected
    officials to investigate the waste of funds upon dubious medical care. In
    Louisiana there were no local officials capable of handline rudimentary
    emergency care and in NYS there is not one bureaucrat ready to address the
    enormous, unwarrented costs and waste in the Medicaid program.

    ReplyDelete
  37. Well said, Henry...your questions are right on. Here's another: is it a
    > joke that they are proposing that Bush head up the investigative
    commission?
    > Please. Also, does he now plan to go full speed ahead on killing the
    Estate
    > Tax, on refusing to raise the minimum wage, and on requiring the people
    > we've been seeing on the screen to select their privatized Social
    Security
    > portfolio? Just wondering

    ReplyDelete
  38. j.d.h.7:05 PM

    The President made a statement today that we have to be better prepared the next time in case we are attacked with WMD. Did anyone else hear that and what are others thoughts on his statement.

    ReplyDelete
  39. On behalf of my family that discussed this topic at every meal this weekend I would add the following questions to your list:



    - is it true that 30% of the National Guard and half of their equipment is in Iraq? and to what degree did this contribute to the slowness in responding? and does this leave us vulnerable in other ways?



    - if this is how the administration responds to a natural disaster (and a hurricane, mind you, which provided ample warning), how on earth will they respond to an unpredicted terrorist one?



    - who is really responsible for the canals and levees not having been reinforced, considering that New Orleans being hit by a Hurricane was identified in 2001 by an independent commission (?) as one of the top 3 natural disaster possibilities (in context Maureen Dowd's observation in NY Times that about $231 million in fed funds was used to build a small bridge on an uninhabited island in Alaska last year while an Army Corp of Engineers request for $105 million in funds for flood and hurricane programs in New Orleans was reduced to only $40 million)?



    - what will the social and political ramifications of this be given the way the disaster has put a spotlight on the disadvantaged and economic inequalities - not just in Louisiana, but across the country

    ReplyDelete
  40. Henry: excellent piece! I am reviewing a new book called "An Unnatural Metropolis: Wrestling New Orleans From Nature" for the Harvard Business School Journal. Sadly the history shows all the missteps in creating a vibrant commercial area, from flood barriers to the environmental inequities that have been the center of this week's news. Will we have the wherewithall and persistence to plan differently in the recovery?

    ReplyDelete
  41. As much as I regard our esteemed Starquest on NY-related issues, the
    > leading questions listed below belie some salient facts about Katrina that
    > get missed among all the finger pointing:
    >
    > - In big storms, people die and property gets destroyed. This was a big
    > ass storm. People are judging Katrina's outcome against Andrew, our last
    > Category 5 storm, where no Americans died as a direct result of the
    > Hurricane. This lucky aberration may, indeed, have resulted in more
    > deaths this time due to complacency.
    >
    > - If New Orleans didn't get flooded due to breaking levees, evacuating 80
    > percent of a major American city might have looked like overkill. To some
    > extent, the bursting of levees was predictable, but that can account for
    > why 80 percent was evacuated instead more normal evacuation rates. Only
    > 20 percent of Miami was evacuated during Andrew. No President had ever
    > before declared a US state a 'disaster area' *before* the storm actually
    > hit.
    >
    > - One can make the case that New Orlean's poorest citizens were the ones
    > most left in the lurch. But anyone could have predicted that they would
    > be the ones most likely to be left in the lurch under any circumstances.
    > The fact that these circumstances happened at all (and were very bad)
    > simply provided another excuse for the usual chorus to wail about
    > inequality.
    >
    > - While there will be many legitimate complaints (not just those arising
    > from hindsight), some of the lingering complaints getting the most press
    > seem petty. I heard on NPR, for instance, that many poorer Hispanics were
    > complaining that the evacuation orders and road signs were in English, not
    > in Spanish. I hate to sound insensitive, but compared to what my recent
    > ancestors have had to deal with, the fact that signs in America are in
    > English does not seem that oppressive.
    >
    > - FEMA may have reacted incompetently, and the selection of "Brownie" (as
    > "W" calls him) as its chief perhaps should be viewed as criminal
    > negligence. But FEMA was acting under considerable, politically motivated
    > constraints imposed by the HSA behemoth. HSA is, of course, the
    > bureacratic response to 9/11. Many things about this disaster may have
    > been difficult to predict, but one thing that will be easy is the result
    > of this post-game, i.e., more power and more money for the Federal
    > Agencies that failed us the most. Can any problem not be solved by more
    > power and more money to the governmment? Watch

    ReplyDelete
  42. Good article. However your comment about Amtrak is an easy one to answer. There would not have been anywhere near enough rail passenger cars around to move any significant number of people out of the city. Amtrak has had so many accidents and such modest funding that they hardly have enough rail equipment to underwrite a trip to Atlantic City, let alone move people out of a major town.

    ReplyDelete
  43. Star Quest: Here are my "Monday morning quarterback" questions and comments on Katrina. If Rudy Giuliani were the Mayor of New Orleans, would the outcome have been different for that city and its residents? What did the current New Orleans Mayor do in securing his own city's agencies' emergency preparedness? How can a publicly sobbing Governor provide any meaningful inspiration and leadership to her State's residents in a time of catastrophe? What did this Governor do prior to the hurricane, to prepare her State's agencies' emergency preparedness?

    Once the President saw the magnitude of the problem by air, he should have called the First Lady from the helicopter, and said to her, " Laura, pack my bags, I'm moving the White House operations to Baton Rouge for the next month to get these two Louisiana public officials out of a pickle, and coordinate massive Federal support to this State and its locals.

    Finally, why rebuild those parts of New Orleans that are 27 feet below sea level ? Why not build a new New Orleans just a few miles up river - at sea level. These hurricanes and their ferocity are not going to go away for several decades. It would therefore seem prudent to plan and build, based on these new realities.

    ReplyDelete
  44. 8. Why didn't they airdrop supplies into the Superdome; if it is true that thousands of people went without food and water for days?



    How is stuff dropped into a dome?

    ReplyDelete
  45. Dear R.L.F.

    Comparing our city's response on 911 and the New Orleans fiasco is not relevent. For all the magnitude of our tragity, a mere 16 acres were affected. In New Orleans by contrast the whole city was affected, including all routes in and out (save one i believe), no power, difficult conditions for transport of man power or food, victims spread out over many miles, etc.

    ReplyDelete
  46. Commentary on your 8th point.
    They couldn't drop supplies into the superdome.It is a closed domed stadium.Ah wonder if you were awake when our P.S.152/52 teachers "learned"
    you about proper grammer!

    Although,taake",I bet with the clever FEMA minds- they would have conceived this idea ...to add a couple of more holes into the Superdome's already hurricaine produced holy roof by dropping heavy food supplies onto it to properly ventilate this facility
    I hear tell that FEMA gave a contract out to Mr. Noah Boudreau of Lafayette,Louisiana to build a 40 cubit ark for the next flood.FEMA,in Houston,are not considered the brightest bulbs in the U.S, Federal Government.

    ReplyDelete
  47. I'm concerned now how people in shelters can live together fairly peaceably and compatibly. One big obstacle for me would be the noise level - loud talking/yelling and loud transistor radios blaring, especially rap and some rock sounds to which I'm allergic. Would it were possible to require head phones for such listening. And for TV, and who chooses the channels or volume?

    Sound petty? I don't think so. Ear plugs should be provided. And maybe kind of ear protectors used for construction work. I got $25 ones when neighbors upstairs did big time renovation. Later I invested in Boze head phones. Let's hope Boze and other ear protector companies provide.

    Would that conversational skills were required in school curriculums, always needed but especially in time of disasters. I hope there are clergy who stress loving one another, getting along, and don't play the blame game. The right kind of music brings people together, the kind that "soothes the savage breast." (or is it beast? or both?)

    Also "a soft answer turneth away wrath;" respect for the rights and needs of others never as needed. And prayer.

    Although I've long believed segregation by age groups is the apartheid we most need to overcome, in a crisis situation like this, elders may need to get away from youthful hyperactivity and high decibel level. At least to sleep.

    Bette Dewing, who may just say some of this in next Our Town and West Side Spirit column, plus something about being more prepared ourselves heed the Ready New York counsel. And doggone it stop complaining about our non-disastrous weather.

    ReplyDelete
  48. Henry:

    You forgot one question.

    When did John Wayneishness turn to xenophobia? When Bush refused help from the Dutch who might possibly know more about draining the land then any "expert" we have (even if you could wake one of them up).

    ReplyDelete
  49. As Paul Krugman wrote in the Times the other day, this is the logical end result of the nearly 20-year Republican assault against government that arguably began with Ronald Reagan declaring that government was the problem not the solution and vowing to get government off the backs of the people. It continued with George Bush pere suggesting the "thousand points of light" alternative to government: solving societal problems through cumulative individual acts of charity - noblesse oblige for the masses. Even Bill Clinton, who at heart was an idealist in the Roosevelt-Kennedy tradition but pragmatic enough to know when to go with the flow, declared the era of big government to be over. For the last 5 years, George Bush fils has probably done more than both his Republican predecessors to undermine government through his tax cuts and his appointment of ultra conservative "government is the problem" idealogues intent on undercutting, hamstringing or even dismantling the agencies they were appointed to lead.

    If the terrible tragedy of Katrina could have a good outcome, it would be to shock all the people who have been persuaded by this constant stream of anti-government propaganda to elect such people to our city, state and federal governments into rediscovering the now discredited belief that government is a force for good, not evil, that paying taxes is the shared sacrifice we all make for a better, safer, more civil society, and that we are not better off entrusting the reins of government to outsiders with little or no experience or demonstrated ability to govern - or worse, who are hostile to the very notion of government.

    As Maureen Dowd recently put it, when you put limited government together with incompetent government you get lethal results. Unfortunately, under the administration of George W. Bush, we have exactly that deadly combination. Up to now the results haven't been so obviously lethal because they have been spread out over time. But like time lapse photography, Katrina has compressed the process so that the deadly results are suddenly plain to see. It remains to be seen whether Karl Rove et al. will be able to cloud the public's eyes and obscure the obvious yet again.

    ReplyDelete
  50. You omitted one important question: why did so many citizens of New Orleans respond to the crisis by looting, pillaging, assaulting their neighbors, and attacking medical and rescue teams?

    ReplyDelete
  51. Henry you are always insightful. Thanks for putting things out there
    directly. We need honest answers to these questions. How can we get
    supplies to Banda Aceh and we can"t get a loaf of bread to Louisiani. There
    are no words

    ReplyDelete
  52. > Dear Friends:
    >
    > In the 1960's I served in a not-too-impressive National Guard outfit
    > with WW II equipment. Our "deuce and a half" trucks could ford 5 or
    > 6 feet of water easily. We could have taken 1000 people out of the
    > SuperDome or convention center every couple hours and dropped them at
    > some awful, but dry, bridge out of town. If you look at the Saturday
    > pictures you see modern trucks fording water but our crummy gear
    > could have forded that same water on Monday before and saved perhaps
    > hundreds of lives or even more.
    >
    > So: here are my questions.
    >
    > 1. Did the Governor try to call up what remained of the Guard [after
    > Iraq], and if so when?
    > 2. Who specifically prevented that order, if it was ever given, from
    > being put into action?
    >
    > Mayors cannot call up anything much, but Governors are another
    > matter. The difference between National Guard and Army Reserve is/
    > was the ability of the State to mobilize the troops. If the LA
    > Governor forgot to call up the Guard, that Governor is not entitled
    > to ever, ever complain about the Federal response. But, if the LA
    > Governor tried and somebody prevented it, that somebody should be
    > well you finish the sentence.

    ReplyDelete
  53. Today Rush read from a "fine" New Orleans planning document; but it didn't specify filling the school buses gas tanks or calling in the drivers (and their families??). Sometime in the future do you think we CCNY alumni will get out of Man. in case of an announced forced evacuation by walking thru the Lincoln tunnel?
    Finally it was an engineering failure that the berms were undermined by the massive storm surge into Lake Pont...

    ReplyDelete
  54. Your questions about Katrina are quite timely. However, as a former Louisiana resident and as both a Tulane graduate and a person temporarily sheltering some of those who had evacuate from New Orleans (after surviving three days without food, water, or electricity), here are my comments - feel free to share them, but please withhold my name.

    While the "blame game" inevitably has to be played, there is way too much to go around. Do we start with Victor Schiro? Ernest "Dutch" Morial? Moon Landrieu? Sidney Barthelemy? Marc Morial? All these gentlement were mayors of the city of New Orleans way before anyone ever heard of Clarence Ray Nagin. These are the individuals who failed New Orleans primarily - their lack of responsibility to bolster canals to withstand greater forces of nature are now being felt by not only The Big Easy, but America as well.
    (Note: Many in the media have reported that the "levees failed." This is untrue. The walls to the Industrial Canal and the 17th Street Canal are the only two that broke. No levees collapsed).

    The New Orleans Police Department shares a lot of blame as well and needs a shakeup. The current Superintendant (equivalent to NYC Police Commissioner of the NYPD) is not the most articulate man possible. In fact, there were several other MORE qualified candidates for police chief who were passed over when Ray Nagin's transition team took over. Nagin beat Richard Pennington for Mayor almost four years ago - Pennington was the city's police chief under the pevious mayor, Marc Morial, who reduced crime (violent and minor) by an astronomical amount (upwards of 30%) using strategies employed by Bill Bratton and Jack Maple in New York City at the beginning of Rudy Giuliani's first term as mayor. Pennington was, of course, outsted from the Crescent City and then-Mayor-elect Nagin chose Compass as his police superintendant over other qualified personnel who applied, several of whom where caucasian, I might add. Compass is not a leader and the recent AWOL of NOPD officers is proof of that. Do you belive any NYPD officer would have abandoned their post on 9-11?

    The Governor of Louisiana, Kathleen Babineaux Blanco - who defeated now-Rep. Bobby Jindal (R-LA-02) for the governor's mansion is another disaster. She is blamed first from many of the New Orleanians who I've spoken to in the past 5 days. She botched the preparations for the hurricane by not delivering supplies to locations before the storm. She botched the National Guard aspect by not putting in a request to the President. She has become an embarassment to the state. Perhaps her only qualification for office is her maiden name indicating her Louisianne roots.

    There are 5 designated district city council seats in New Orleans and 2 at large seats. 6 of the 7 city council members evacuated the city. Only one brave councilmember, to my knowledge, stayed to assist the Mayor post-Katrina. This is an embarassment as well.

    Tulane and Loyola Universities handled the crisis very well. They arranged for any enrolled student to be taken for the semester as a "visiting" student at any one of more than 250 universities nationwide. For the city's largest employer and seventh largest employer, respectively, that was very good. They are also paying their staff members who evacuated while they are shut down.

    New Orleans, in a way, kind of brought this on themselves with the utter incompetance leading the city over the many years. As an involved community activist while I was studying in New Orleans, it never seemed to amaze me how many government officials forgot about their constituents and their city and looked out for themselves. Those actions finally caught up with the city and wreaked havoc on the countless New Orleanians so undeserving of it.

    ReplyDelete
  55. You did not raise the issue of race and how it may (actually did) affected the lack of action....yes, it seems that the State and local Government officials failed miserably to meet their obligations...Equally, the National Government did not meet its' challenge to balance out the scale of justice...Race played a negative role in getting action before many died unnecessarily.

    ReplyDelete
  56. THE kATRINA EVACUATION DISASTER WILL BE NOTHING IN COMPARISON IF NYC HAS TO BE ABRUPTLY VACATED BECAUSE OF A NUCLER MISHAP AT THE INDIAN POINT REACTOR. THE PREVAILING WINDS DOWN THE HUDSON RIVER FROM THERE HEAD DIRECTLY INTO NYC. THE POSSIBLE DIRE CONSEQUENCES OF SUCH AN EVENT SHOULD REQUIRE IT'S IMMEDIATE CLOSING. THERE IS NO PRATICAL EVACUATION PLAN FOR SUCH AN EVENT.
    THE ISSUE OF UNQUALIFIED PEOPLE BEING APPOINTED TO IMPORTANT JOBS WHERE LIVES ARE AT STAKE HAS REACHED AN EPIDEMIC LEVEL. IN ADDITION TO MIKE BROWN OF FEMA FAME, THE PRESENT NYC FIRE COMMISSIONER HAS ABSOLUTELY NO FIRE DEPARTMENT BACKGROUND, AND AT A TIME WHEN FIRE HOUSE CLOSINGS ARE A SERIOUS ISSUE. IT IS RUMORED THAT 20 ADDITIONAL FIREHOUSES WILL CLOSE AFTER THE NEXT ELECTION. A FIRE COMMISIONER WHO KNOWS SOMETHING ABOUT THE NYFD AND ITS OPERATIONS IS NEEDED AT A TIME LIKE THIS. ALSO SEN.CHUCK SCHUMERS WIFE WAS IN CHARGE OF THE NYC TRANSPORTATION AGENCY RESPONSIBLE FOR THE SAFE OPERATION OF NYC FERRY BOATS AT THE TIME OF THE STATEN ISLAND FERRY CRASH, AND SHE HAD NO PREVIOUS EXPERIENCE IN THAT AREA. THANKS FOR A GREAT NEWS LETTER

    ReplyDelete
  57. >
    > Henry,
    >
    > I cannot say that I would have behaved differently
    > if I was in New Orleans in the days prior to the hurricane.
    > I have not left N.Y. since years before 09.11.01, although
    > I had the knowledge that I would have gone immediately to
    > a summer home in Maine if I had had one. But I had no where
    > to go and very little money.
    >
    > So I think the people in New Orleans who were living
    > in the area hardest hit and who were also poor and with
    > little access to somewhere to go, didn't want to leave.
    >
    > Alot of people refused to leave.
    > A lot of people are still in flooded area,
    > recorded in interviews on WBAI,
    > and maintain that they are not moving,
    > that they will remain where they are.
    >
    > Alot of people fled from their homes
    > for a variety of reasons.
    > Some do to the violence and enormity of
    > the disaster, others because they were
    > frantic with uncertainty and the horror
    > of the situation.
    >
    > I think the government wasn't more organzied
    > partly because they couldn't do FORCED evacuations
    > in the days that preceded the hurricane.
    >
    > One of the good suggestions that I did hear
    > voiced on the radio today was to create shelters
    > for refuge now for the future, shelters that
    > will be safe harbors for those who have been
    > unmoored from their life's bearings. Not
    > poorhouses, but places with dignity.
    >
    > In some ways a mini model of this might
    > be the secret shelters that have been created
    > for battered women and children, although these
    > are hardly numberous enough to meet the
    > needs and numbers of the women in our city.
    >
    >
    > Again I don't think the government in New Orleans
    > utilized methods of transport, because they knew
    > that the poorest people wouldn't have come willingly
    > before Or in the immediate onset. Once the floods
    > began, it may be that many would have died in the
    > transports as well.
    >
    > I'd like to say that when 09.11.01 occurred
    > here, my neighbors fled as soon as they could,
    > in any way they were able, and not one looked back
    > or said goodbye or how are you doing. NOT ONE..

    ReplyDelete
  58. Question #6 occurred to me as well and was very briefly addressed in NYT front page article entitled "U.S. Saw Risk of Floods, But not Failure of Levees' (Sept. 2). The article notes that free transportation was provided and publicized via TV, radio people shouting on the streets with bullhorns.

    ReplyDelete
  59. Good Questions! You might add:

    11. Why did no one anticipate the failure of the levees that had been known to have been in a poor state of repair?

    12. Why did no one anticipate the failure of electrical system that powered the pumps needed to keep the waters of Lake Ponchatrain at bay, maintain the water supply system that was crucial to operating the New Orleans fire protection system, and essential to the maintenance of communications that were vital to keeping public order in that city?

    13. Why was the relevant authorities to call in the National Guard, and why was there no apparent plan for getting them in to New Orleans quickly even when, as was highly likely, most of the main roads into the City would be impassable?

    14. Who was responsible for coordinating the responses to the disaster? (While it the damage certainly would have been catastrophic, the appalling consequences, especially in New Orleans, surely would have been substantially mitigated!

    15... and on and on and on...

    ReplyDelete
  60. You've asked all the right questions. Well, not all of them. If, instead of the most callous, reactionary and dumbest President of our time, we had someone of average sensitive, decency and intelligence in the job, the President would have ordered buses to remove all people who did not have or could not afford transportation when New Orleans was told to evacuate, he would have had cruise ships empty their passengers and rush to New Orleans, he would have had helicopters drop food and water wherever there were signs of life, he would have....

    But why go on? Is it possible that these pictures of the poorest of the poor will move Americans to acknowledge that there is no richest country, but only rich people and poor people in the same country? Do we have a plan to house, feed and employ several hundred thousand people who have lost everything they have? Of course we don't, and if it's up to this administration, we won't.

    ReplyDelete
  61. This question will take an army of investigative reporters a few months to
    address. My own impression of my governor is that she needs about 500lbs
    of lead in her shoes to prevent her from floating or being blown away in
    the breezes. A large number of Louisiana National Guard Units are on
    active duty in Iraq at present, although the La. public is not well
    informed about what is left in the state. The gov. is allied with folks
    who want to make an anti-Iraq war point that it was that affair which is
    responsible for the debacle in New Orleans. Where does that leave me? I
    am suspicious of both the gov and the pres. Unfortunately, I have little
    choice but to have my futures affected by the abilities (or inabilities) of
    both.

    I think your unit would have been slower at evacuating superdomes if it was
    under constant sniper fire. I doubt that the gov. is saying the failure
    to anticipate the heavy sniper fire is the cause of the problem because
    that gives the Feds a credible excuse, but you need to watch an emotional
    speech by the NOPD chief (incidentally a black guy) on the effect that
    firing on the boats and choppers and busses had on the relief operations.
    Nobody is explaining why the stay-behinds were firing on the levee repair
    crews and the roof-top refugee rescuers, but it is pretty clear that
    neither the state or federal officials took into account that the
    operations they were called upon to conduct would be conducted in Mekong
    Delta conditions. I wasn't ever in the Mekong, but analogous
    circumstances I experienced in II Corps suggest that the timetables slow
    considerably when lead is flying.

    The white house is saying it did not immediately attempt to shove the state
    and city aside and take control of the operation once the winds touched
    ground zero, but rather waited for a request by the state for assistance,
    and that it granted all the requests promptly when they were officially
    transmitted. Why it took more than 10 minutes to fulfill those requests is
    a mystery to which I entertain no explanatory hypotheses other than my
    distrust of the proposition that politicians (requestors or requestees) can
    be trusted to accomplish anything efficiently. Forty-nine percent of
    their motivation is to take credit for any positive result, fifty percent
    to avoid any blame for any adverse eventualities, and 1% an authentic
    desire to actually solve the problem. (Maybe it's actually 48-48-2. I
    don't want to be accused of being a quibbler.).

    ReplyDelete
  62. You rise many valid points.

    After the 4 Florida Hurricanes last year, for the first time since the 1880's, we have to
    have a "PLAN OF ACTION and COORIDNATION."

    Weather related natural disasters give us extra time which terrorism does not, but
    if we do not make the most of the TIME ADVANTAGE, what good is it?

    ReplyDelete
  63. Talking fault ? Try San Andres and New Madres
    Scientists have warned both these are due;
    any one of them will make New Orleans look like chump change
    my suggestion is why not blame someone now and get it over with
    so more time (and energy ) can be used for the relief effort .We NEED your help NOW
    instead of playing blame cards ..send check to the Red Cross..

    ReplyDelete
  64. Anonymous9:30 AM

    Henry: Brilliant insights, as usual. Sorry I don't have any answers, but I do share your concern. How could it happen in this country? How could they be so dumb and ineffective - all of them?

    ReplyDelete
  65. P.O.C.9:30 AM

    Dear Commissioner,
    I wish I could provide some answers to the questions posed below, then we
    could approach some specter of improvement. As for the local government,
    I'm shocked by their lack of preparation and appalled by its level of
    complacency with the threat of killer, flooding waters imminently looming.
    In Michael Goodwin's column today, he cites Mayor Ray Nagin's comments made
    last July on the possibility of the city ever requiring an evacuation effort
    and the mayor's advice to roughly 134,000 poor souls without transportation
    was, "you're on your own". Is this how the government protects its citizens
    ? How does he sleep at night knowing that 350 city buses along with roughly
    300 school buses sat neatly parked in their slots while people were doomed
    to face such a disaster ? Of course I will cut him some slack in that he
    probably didn't believe the levees would give way; however, that's a hell of
    a miscalculation that he must be held accountable for.
    As for the FEMA response, I'm not surprised at bureaucratic, snail-paced
    action. As for Mr. Brown, whether he's taking a bad rap, is overwhelmed by
    demands, or is just plain incompetent, is something to be addressed during
    the post mortem of "Apres le Deluge". As an old New York police chief
    related to me regarding FEMA and the other government bureauacracies,
    "they're great at pulling out laptops, running figures and stats, but they
    just don't know how the hell to pull the trigger". My sentiments exactly.
    Lastly, I'm struck by critics who complain that the federal rescue
    operation should have begun before the storm hit the Gulf Coast. If that was
    the case, I suppose convoys of troops and supplies would have headed to
    Mississippi where the eye of the storm struck first. These same critics fail
    to account for the lethal traffic logjams military convoys would have
    caused, obstructing the evacuation process. All of these questions and
    suggestions can be hashed over at a future date, America's focus should be
    on the hundreds of thousands of jobless, homeless refugees of New Orleans

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  66. Questions/answers from someone who lives there

    Twice in the last year hurricanes have been predicted and evacuations ordered- Result was a lot of rain and a few shingles blown off

    Unknown to many people New Orleans prior to Katrina had the title of Murder capital of the US (see cops) People are reluctant to leave what little they have , for just a lot of rain so the gangsters can take it. Coast people have seen water rise before the thinking is "It will go back down "

    If the World trade center had been in Bed Sty ,where would you have moved all the people ?

    When a hurricane enters the Gulf ,it is a little like living in a bowling alley , The ball (storm) veers and curves ,slows down and sometimes takes the gutter .Katrina did neither

    The chain of command in state disasters is Mayor /go/National guard / fema /President/dept of defense .
    Like the titanic ,the Mayor had 2,000 school buses to take these folks out of Dodge after the storm
    like everyone else including the national media ,they reported that New Orleans had dodged the bullet and all was well , remember when at the world trade they announced it was ok to go back to your office?

    Should Amtrack have taken everyone out of New Orleans ...your kidding aren't you?

    Heads to roll ..Brown for sure Chernoff tried to micro manage the states resources and found how hopeless that was .
    Fell good stories about Bush reading children's stories during 911 diminish the integrity of your query making for a hidden agenda

    The San Andreas and the New Madre's faults will make New Orleans look like chump change we need your help NOW .give to the red cross Michael Walthall Mississippi

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  67. I'll just answer in general saying that in my opinion that somebody at either Federal or State level or both decided to deal a major blow to one of highest concentration of black voters who are for the most part pro-democratic. The delay in the response almost seems to be done deliberately. This action doesn't do Bush's reputation any good, but this is his last term any way or so he thinks I'm sure, perfect time to step on some toes. But if in reality this happened due to actual ineptness of both State and Federal officials then I feel sorry for our country, because this could happen again any where else in this country, and probably happened on various occasions just not in such magnitude for anyone to notice. Hopefully this doesn't happen here in NY, because NY economy cannot afford to stand still for more than a few days.

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  68. good planning starts at the local level. they apparently did none.
    if the city was doing none, what about the planning of the other local levels of government, parish, county, etc.?

    failing that, what happened to the state planning for such an event?

    the potential for this event was no surprise, even to a new yorker.

    The federal government should be there to provide the “big guns”, and pick up the pieces where the local/state governments plan did not
    work. I don’t believe it is the province of the federal government to be the first line of defense in these kinds of situations. Clearly they should be deeply involved in making sure the local government’s plans meet the “tests”. just as clearly the feds did not double and triple check the plans promulgated for such a contingency by the locals.

    that the plans of the locals did not include plane, trains, buses, truck convoys and riverboats to move the indigent, poor, sick, and otherwise trapped citizens out of harms’ way is criminal neglect for which the locals should have to answer.
    the federal government should have been “in there” 24 hours before they arrived, and they should have been there in multitudes. the feds were asleep at the switch on this one, and they too should have to answer for a slow response. but again the delay was in hours, not days or weeks.
    chertoff is a seemingly fine man. he relied on his FEMA political hack department head to advise him, and the hack gave him poor
    advice. Motivated, the feds could replace those that did not act responsibly, including department heads. unfortunately the bumbling, hapless politicians in Louisiana can only be replaced by the electorate, and they are not known in Louisiana for punishing bad behavior.

    One should contrast Louisiana against Mississippi, a far far far more devastated state (and poorer) and see if any lessons can be learned.
    once on site the feds have proved productive in Louisiana. far more so than one has come to expect from the federal gov’t. the hole in the “17th steet dike” was plugged in about a day once the feds were on site. contrast this to a similar break in the beach at west Hampton beach in about 1991. it took the feds about 6 months to plug the hole.
    Can we do better. Absolutely. Should we do better, Absolutely. Will we do better, Debatable

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  69. No one should be surprised by the inept response to Hurricane Katrina. Don't be surprised that 'Uncle Sam' was MIA.

    A few years back the Times Picayune newspaper of New Orleans reported that the levees surrounding New Orleans, hereinafter NO, would only hold up to a category 3 hurricane. President Bush reportedly withheld the sought after appropriation from the Army Corps of Engineers, sought to re-mediate the problem before a Hurricane struck. Didn't President Bush know that the geography of NO, in terms of being under sea level, was the same geography of NO when his predecessor Mr. Jefferson orchestrated the Louisiana Purchase with Napoleon Bonaparte?

    No one should be surprised that the current director of FEMA, probably an able agency counsel before his elevation to assistant director and then director when his FEMA predecessor departed, is unprepared for the task nature put in his path. Don't be surprised that the director of FEMA and his 'ground troops,' for too long, were MIA.

    You would expect that the nation's leading disaster response person would have some emergency management experience, if nothing more than a 3 year term on the board of directors, let's say, of his local chapter of the American Red Cross. No surprise here from an administration that 4 years after 9/11 can't yet find and bring to justice a tall, probably still bearded Arab of Saudi American extraction who is periodically tethered to a dialysis machine.

    No one should be surprised that the POTUS, seemingly reluctantly, cut short his extended month plus vacation in Crawford while people in the gas/oil/energy industries stood ready to hyper-inflate their product prices in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. To what industry do you think many will return after their federal service? Don't be surprised that the federal response immediately after Hurricane Katrina was MIA.

    From this debacle, it's clear that one other thing is missing, MIA, from the inventory of federal tools. What's still missing, MIA, from the inventory of federal tools is the sign that Harry S Truman used to have on his Oval Office desk....'the bucks stops here.'

    Maybe Karl Rove can find it, since he appears to be readily able to find out the identities of covert CIA operatives, who just happen to be married to former US Ambassadors, the identities of which Bob '3 piece suit' Novak is only to happy to reveal in his Chicago column.

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  70. > I visited New Orleans twice. One of many memories is of the train
    > tracks that run directly through part of the city near the river. I
    > recall this because I had to wait for a long train to pass as I walked
    > to the Hilton and a Pete Fountain concert.
    >
    > Whatever or whenever the state or feds knew or did not know, did or did
    > not do, as Katrina approached and evacuation was called for the local
    > officials KNEW their poor and car-less population was stuck.
    >
    > Thank you for posing questions 6 and 7. Alas, I have no answer but
    > continue to wonder why if I, a mere visitor, remembered the train
    > availability, didn't the local officials opt to get those people out of
    > harm's way using buses and trains that were on-site?

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  71. I think we must first look at all areas affected by the Hurricane so we can compare. New Orleans to Biloxi. How did Mississippi handle the Hurricane? Were they better prepared? Is there Hurricane damage worse over there? We must also realize that matters became many times worse in New Orleans when the levees broke. The person responsible for the State is the Governor. Both the LA & MS Governors need to be evaluated on their handling of the situation. Then we need to review their emergency procedures and communication between Mayor & Governor. States generally take care of their own matters unless they seek/ask for assistance by the Federal Government. It is my understanding that while the Mayor of N.O. was asking his governor to get Federal help, she procrastinated.

    Again, we would need to look at Biloxi. They thought the eye was going to hit N.O. but then the storm veered over to hit them. How preprared were they? Also, the levees didn't break when the storm struck. They broke after.

    The president embarrassed the nation by remaining on vacation. Sec of State embarrassed the nation by buying $400 shoes in New York when people were going without food or water. Where is the Vice President? Is he even alive? It seems every president has a high and a low. If say fifty years from now, terrorism is practically vanished from the earth and we can credit Bush for taking the initiative to end radicalism, he will have a hight. But his response to the hurrican & flooding will be his Iran-Contra affair.

    There is very little we can do to make substantial changes to this. Michael Brown is a disgrace and should be removed. But we are all human and we cannot expect every person to portray a "take charge" approach to every distaster the way Mayor Giuliani did. Remove Brown, pick someone more competent and hope your decision is a better one.


    Homeland Security supposedly "has reviewed and studied how to handle a disaster on New Orleans." Unfortunately, H.S. seems to have had problems getting started. It has come out that Governor Blanco balked on asking the Federal Gov't for help, even after the Mayor of New Orleans was pleeding for help now

    Just yesterday on the news, Ch. 5 reported that an entire fleet of yellow buses sat in a lot flooded and unused. Their helicopter presented the view with images of potential life-saving vehicles. This comes down to the lack of preparation from the Mayor & Governor of the State.


    Hindsight is 20-20. Last year, major storms hit Florida multiple times. You cannot expect the unexpected and believe people will comply. A boy can only howl like a wolf so many times.

    Weren't the copters being shot at?

    Rebuild their lives somewhere else. It appears that Governor Blanco has a lot of work cut out for her trying to figure out what she can do for her residence.

    This is the Global Warming mind-set, which is that we have the ability to prevent major catastrophes. We cannot. Mother nature will do her bidding and we cannot stop it. We cannot stop earthquakes. We cannot prevent volcanoes from errupting. Unless dropping a bomb in the eye of a storm disperses the forces of a hurricane, we cannot change which way the winds blow. We cannot stop or prevent climate change. It will do what it will do. What we need to do is prepare ourselves. Government has shown us that they are not the solution. More government seems to create more problems. Too much government bureacracy prevented New Orleans from actually addressing the problem they had, which was Levees as wide as a street divider. These should have been fifty feet wide! They should have been immediately addressed after 9/11. Can you imagine if this wasn't a hurricane but terrorists unexpectedly flooding the city when no one was evacuated? People spend too much time relying on government to correct things for them. Well that is the wrong approach. Government should address issues and let capitalism take over and invest in our safety. Show me where big government hasn't failed us? Long term or short term, it always will

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  72. I would suggest the Flu of 1918 was more of a natural disaster.

    In 1918, the influenza hit the United States and then the rest of the world with such swiftness that it sometimes went unnoticed until it had already passed. By mid-1919, it had killed more humans than any other disease in a similar period in the history of the world. In the United States a quarter of the population (25 million people or more) contracted the flu; 550,000 died. Internationally, between 20 million and 40 million people died in the influenza pandemic. The "flu"" was unlike other diseases in the types of people it infected. Usually the greatest mortality from flu comes in the very young and the very old. But in 1918, healthy men and women between the late teens and early thirties were the hardest hit. For this reason, even soldiers in excellent physical condition "fell like flies." Medical experts, having recently achieved major victories over typhoid fever, tetanus, and malaria, were at a loss when it came to the Spanish influenza and its deadly companion, pneumonia.

    In September 1918, the nation's newspapers were filled with national news of politics-the U.S. Senate vote on the woman suffrage amendment to the U.S. Constitution; and socialist Eugene V. Debs's trial under the Espionage Act. Though there was great interest in the events of the Great War in Europe, military censorship kept most real news from the front lines- including the rising death toll from influenza in France, England, and Germany-off the front pages of America's newspapers. Only Spain (neutral at the time) reported a rising number of flu-related deaths. (For this reason, other European nations began calling the disease the "Spanish influenza.")
    By the end of September, U.S. military and government officials could no longer deny the growing impact of the influenza outbreak on American soldiers and sailors overseas and at home. The U.S. Army already had sustained more than 9,000 cases of the flu as American troops passed it from camp to camp and across borders. A total of 43,000 American soldiers would die-nearly as many U.S. deaths as in all the battles in World War I.

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  73. > I thought it passing strange that you devoted a lot of criticism to the
    > federal response to Katrina and seemed to have given the New Orleans
    > mayor and Louisiana's governor passes. As a former commissioner in the
    > Giuliani administration you above all ought to know how vital is on the
    > ground competence at the local level. Mayor Nagin and Governor Blanco
    > were completely derelict in their duties. They had a "disaster
    > management plan" on paper only, and did little or nothing to implement
    > it, to develop effective cross-communication, or to anticipate the
    > likely future chain of events. And after the scope of the disaster was
    > apparent even to these clueless time servers, Governor Blanco still
    > refused to establish a unified command structure with the city and the
    > federal government. After meeting with President Bush, she actually
    > asked for another 24 hours to decide whether to put Louisiana forces
    > under the unified control of federal troops.
    >
    > Contrast this state and local incompetence with New York's effective
    > management of the terror attacks on 9/11. Mayor Giuliani was in touch
    > with the White House within minutes, his OEM structure performed with
    > precision, his public statements were candid, direct and reassuring, and
    > the cleanup moved into high gear as soon as the fires were out.
    >
    > If Giuliani is too high a standard to shoot for, just compare Governor
    > Blanco's incompetence with the take charge actions of Mississippi
    > Governor Haley Barbour. And Gulfport, MS took a more concerted punch
    > from Katrina than did New Orleans. Unlike the Louisiana authorities,
    > Governor Barbour recognized immediately the importance of establishing
    > order on the ground to deter looters and to prevent a complete breakdown
    > in rescue operations.
    >
    > Unlike New York, pre-Katrinia New Orleans was still mired in a welfare
    > state mentality. The city's murder rate was the highest among cities of
    > 500,000 or greater population, its overall crime rate was among the top
    > 5 for the six serious crimes the FBI tracks, about 150,000 of its
    > 480,000 population (or 30%) were below the poverty rate, and a politics
    > of business as usual had been in place for generations. New Orleans was
    > noted for systemic corruption, especially in its police force. Its
    > informal motto, "Let the Good Times Roll," was coupled with what one
    > observer calls a pervasive civic fatalism, the view that things will not
    > change or get better.
    >
    > Let's focus on how the rest of the country can assist residents of New
    > Orleans and the Gulf Coast in putting their lives back together. This
    > is a good time for some creative thinking about how best to "rebuild"
    > the Crescent City. Environmental engineers suggest that the system of
    > levees and canals may have exacerbated the structural problems of this
    > below sea level metropolis by impeding the flow and deposit of sediment
    > from the river that build up land and wetlands barriers. Hence New
    > Orleans actually continued to sink deeper because the underlying soil
    > was not replenished. Rebuilding by simply increasing the height of the
    > levee system will compound this problem. Further, the Army Corps of
    > Engineers keeps dredging a channel for the last 30-40 miles of the
    > Mississippi River to the offshore port at Port Fourchon, which also
    > impedes the recreation of wetlands. Better to cut a shipping channel to
    > the east into the Gulf just south of New Orleans and allow the rest of
    > the Delta to recreate itself naturally to act as a buffer for a rebuilt
    > New Orleans.
    >
    > Moreover, New Orleans was called the Crescent City for a good reason,
    > in that its historic development was in a crescent shape along higher
    > ground. In the past 50 years, development has taken place in the
    > deepest part of the bowl (SuperDome, etc.), which added to the city's
    > problems. As Katrina has virtually wiped the slate clean, New Orleans
    > has an opportunity to rebuild in a safer and more environmentally
    > appropriate manner. For example, why not recreate the historic wetlands
    > in the center of the city that were filled and built upon as a new
    > Central Park? How about using oil platform technology to buttress the
    > most historic sections of the below sea level city? Then redevelop the
    > rest of the metropolitan area as a linear city that would be strung out
    > along the west bank of the Mississippi. To jump start this process
    > economically, establish a federal Super Enterprise Zone that would levy
    > no taxes on jobs, property rebuilt to environmental standards, and goods
    > and services. And eliminate New Orleans' corrupt and complacent local
    > government with a state-chartered regional Metro government that would
    > encompass Orleans and Jefferson parishes and other nearby parishes that
    > would be in the zone of the New New Orleans.
    >
    > Katrina was not just a natural disaster, but a social, political,
    > engineering and human disaster, exacerbated by complacency on the part
    > of local and state governments. We have an opportunity to reinvent New
    > Orleans and bring it and its citizens into prosperity and the future.

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  74. One added comment. You question the apparent lack of a take charge attitude
    on the part of DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff, who you describe as "very
    smart." In all of the writing about Katrina someone commented that we are
    seeing the downside of appointing lawyers to positions like DHS and FEMA ¯
    "you can't cross-examine a hurricane." I would much rather have a couple of
    retired armed forces people who understand logistics than a bunch of Harvard
    Law School grads any day.

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  75. >>It appears that the arrival of the hurricane was predicted days in advance and so little was done in preparation
    >>for it. Is there any rational explanation for this apparent lapse?
    >>Was it the responsibility of the state or federal government, or both?

    According to an interview with President Clinton's head of FEMA such a scenario was written
    and practiced in 1995.

    According to The Weather Channel they projected the storm's edge to hit New Orleans two days
    before landfall. The eye was over Mississippi.

    The Federal Government is responsible for disaster mitigation when asked by the state for help.
    This is a States Rights issue.... and therein lies the little white lie.

    First, there was no way for Governer Blanco to ask;

    - Cell sites were dead knocking out the use of cell phones.
    - The telephoen system was dead
    - The state trunked radio system was dead without the telephone interconnects between sites.
    - With no electricity only battery operated transmitters could be used..i.e. handheld radios.
    - These radios depend on repeaters on tall buildings to relay their messages. The repeaters were dead
    because there was no electricity.
    - Satellite telephones work only so long as their batteries keep charge. Then the batteries have to be
    recharged and that is a problem when you have no electricity.

    So, in the end, while the Governer may have WANTED to ask....there was no telecommunications system
    for her to use to ask.

    Catch 22

    The federal government said she didnt ask. She said she asked. I ask how did she ask with no radio or
    telephone system working?

    "Question 2" is a statement of speculation and not a question. The eye didnt hit New Orleans, the death
    toll is not 100,000 so its just speculation on your part.

    Question 4 is interesting. Many political appointees do well because they listen to the professional staff
    that surrounds them. Before you became Parks Commissionare how much did you know about park
    preservation? Wasnt it more important to know how to run the existing system? Making the existing
    system run is what leaders do. Detailed knowledge of existing mechanical, electrical and technical
    systems is what staff does. With a good staff any political appointee can look good without having
    served in that field in any capacity. Its all in knowing who, on your staff, to listen to.

    Question 6 is very interesting. You pose the question without providing the details that make the
    question rather silly in the first place.

    - Few buses are equipped to go through 10 feet of water. If they could they would be called boats.
    - How do you tell the people to leave when you dont have communications. See question 1 above.
    - The only boats in the world that can handle 10,000 people are called Aircraft carriers and they only
    sleep 9,000 people with the air wing fully embarked. No aircraft carrier could navigate the streets of
    New Orleans because of the draft of the keel.
    - Airlifting 10,000 people off of roofs would take weeks. They would die by then with no food or water.
    - The police do not have the boats to "tell everybody" to leave. How do you communicate with people
    living on rooftops?

    Sorry, but this one is pure rhetoric.

    Question 7 begs the answer "how far under water was the station." Before that question is answered
    no other part of your question can be dealt with.

    Question 8 is one that anybody with military training has been asking for days. If a helicopter can
    pick up people off a roof, why couldnt they gently drop pallets of food and water into the Super Dome.
    This would have been a miniature Berlin Airlift and something we learned how to do in Viet Nam.

    Question 9 is actually being dealt with by FEMA, even though some of the issues are horrible to
    face. FEMA requires an address or phone number for applicants. What happens when they have
    no house, no phone, no fax, no means of contact left....THAT is a bigger question to answer.

    Question 10 is in the "have you stopped beating your wife" catagory. With each disaster we learn.
    When all of the communications went down in 9/11 we used ham radio, something that I was
    intimately involved in as one of the network controllers. Ham radio operators are always there
    with additional communications facilities that they lend to governments time after time.

    I ask you just one qustion in response to yours, Henry.

    Take away the telephones, the cell phones, the electricity and then tell me how to communicate with a
    population. Horseback? Semaphore? Flashing light? (oops that takes electricity) smoke signals?

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  76. Bush is ultimately responsible for the Federal response, which has to be one of the worst on record, so no, I don't think you were too hard on him. His management skills have always been lacking; in this case the deficit was costly. The fact is that this was foreseeable and foreseen. A classic 4.

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  77. WASHINGTON (Sept 7) AP...
    The government's disaster chief waited until hours after Hurricane Katrina had already struck the Gulf Coast before asking his boss to dispatch 1,000 Homeland Security workers to support rescuers in the region - and gave them two days to arrive, according to internal documents.


    ATLANTA (Sept. 7) - Hundreds of firefighters who volunteered to help rescue victims of Hurricane Katrina have instead been playing cards, taking classes on FEMA's history, and lounging at a local hotel as they wait for days for deployment orders

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  78. so what can one person do? not just about this, but about the general direction of our political culture?

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  79. Response begins at the local level then state then Fed. See http://www.fema.gov/.


    This appointment seems no different than most appointments at all levels. It can be demonstrated by the lack of licensed engineers heading technical agencies.
    FEMA did a tabletop using New Orleans in October of last year. (See Oct 2004 National Geographic.) Like the levee being designed for Category 3, it was probably decided not to plan for Category 5 because it was too expensive and the probability was low.
    Good question. It was a local responsibility.
    The air resources were being used to rescue. The USCG estimates they were rescuing 100 per hour and totaled over 10,000 in the first days.


    Most of the critics have never operated anything never mind been involved in emergency response. Their biggest emergency was not having air conditioning in their studio. Since there was no communication in New Orleans except for all the TV vans, why didn’t they figure out a way to used them to help the police, fire. etc. instead of looking for victims and looters to publicize?

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  80. The may be a rule 10 factor here

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  81. 81. I can only say that you have perfectly articulated the
    > issues.
    > I am floored by the governmental response to this.
    > I cannot imagine that this white house can come out of
    > this with any ability to govern in general, this when
    > we are facing such problems in Iraq.

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  82. These really aren't answers to your questions as much as glosses on what answers the questions subsume, principally and repeatedly that we are in the hands of idiots. I, too, am more puzzled by Chertoff than by any of the others; arguably he is not an idiot, thus distinguishing himself from his colleagues. But to all practical purposes, he has fit in well. To take up some of your other points:



    I've worked with FEMA, and our State's own SEMO (State Emergency Management Office), principally in the "Great Nor'Easter" of 1993, which wasn't in the same league as Katrina (unless, of course, it was your house that was swept away). I was amazed to see then how those two agencies sprang into action even as the storm raged, bringing many kinds of relief to the victims instantly, including my specialty, which was housing. Much of what the emergency agencies did was organized as the storm approached, according to long-established plans. SEMO and FEMA have only tiny full-time staffs, but with large organizational tables and contacts spread over their respective jurisdictions; when an emergency impends, the people in charge push the appropriate buttons, and legions arise, prepared to do what must be done. I don't know whether Louisiana has its SEMO equivalent, but I want to stress: FEMA/SEMO can do this; why they did not in the Gulf is the question that must be answered.



    It seems that most New Orleans busses drowned; I would guess that Amtrak's tracks became (more) unsafe early.



    I had an answer to the immediate response, now probably out of date, but still a thought: Why not pull the Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama National Guards out of Iraq and put them to work in their home states? Their knowledge of local conditions would make them instantly useful, their governors would be relieved, and their families would get to see a rare sight: Their uniformed relatives saving lives and property!

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  83. 83. Katrina also invites comparison to the prompt and efficient response to the four hurricanes in Florida a year earlier. Ice and water trucks there had been pre-situated So that they could move in rapidly as soon as conditions permitted. What conclusions are we to draw from these two situations?

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  84. 84. This is a wonderful piece, and my wife and my mother-in-law and I have been asking the same questions, together with another: How is the pollution that is going to occur with the rancid fluids being pumped into Lake Ponchatrain going to be handled? The NY Times this morning had a full-page article about the dissipation of such pollutants taking place over time, without any intervention from humans. I cannot but help think about the PCB pollution of the Hudson River and the decades it has taken to remove it from the sediments. Granted that there are tidal movements into and out of the lake, but that presupposes that the waters of the Delta, home to a most important source of seafood, will be healthy enough to repair the damage without a massive kill off of that most important source of income for the fishermen of the area. Your question 3 refers to Cheney and Card. Who is Card? Are you referring to “Condi?”

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  85. 85. we both know how patronage criples a government..if they are not now planning for housing we will be in worse trouble.since some of these folks worked in the casinos perhaps we should start building quonset huts (WORLD war 2 vintage) around cities with casinos .entry level jobs are probably available..in any case the governmoent had better start the process soon.what happened is still unbelievable to me and damages the reputation of our country in the rest of the world..all the local officials as well as the feds deserve a big kick in the posterior if not worse

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  86. 85. Can you imagine how scarry these people could be with bombs in their hands? The desperate people of Iraq can tell you

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  87. 87. It is all so obvious and no one wants to tell the truth. I would not dare to even state what the truth is, although we all know what this "golden opportunity" presents to those who have been looking for it for a long time. Phoenix will rise from the ashes, but it will be a different New Orleans. Everything you stated has an answer, but one we do not want to hear.

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  88. Sen. B.F.12:06 PM

    88. Clearest most concise synopsis of the questions the country should be asking. Thank you.

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  89. 89. Could it be that the Train station was also flooded?

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  90. 90. Another big question is: What if there were another immediate disaster, either natural or from terrorists. How and who would be able to respond when we can't even handly this one?

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  91. 91. Your questions are very much on target. Many reflect what I had on my mind. Moreover, it does put into question how prepared we are for any major terrorist attach.
    Thank you.

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  92. A great deal of shared government ineptitude was needed to cause the response to the New Orleans - Katrina disaster.

    Books and articles will be written. Partisan finger pointing will dominate. A commission will write a report which will be discredited a la the Warren and 9/11 Commissions.

    We can only hope that the levees will be rebuilt in such a way as to prevent a future submersion of a new New Orleans when a serious hurricane strikes.

    Maybe Donald Trump can give some advice on pouring concrete. None of the ten questions in "Apres le Deluge" have answers that absolve government officials, at all levels, from the blame they will receive.

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  93. 93. I am so incensed by the utter ineptitude in all of this that it is
    > difficult to order my thoughts to be reasonably read. Every
    > question is valid and must be answered -- not by yet another
    > panel of airheads convened at the government's behest to
    > study them and respond next year after taking your and my tax
    > dollars to their bank accounts, but at election day by the
    > people -- by all of us who could be all of them! In addition to
    > the mass transit, what about all those massive floating hotels --
    > otherwise known as cruise ships-- that ply waters very near to
    > the disaster. Each one of them has working facilities, clean and
    > private quarters for families to live in and they can be moved to
    > a safer harbor somewhere to dock for as long as they need to
    > be docked. The top decks could be outfitted as hospitals for
    > caring from the needy. The concept of building camps out of
    > the infield and outfield of sports arenas can only be considered
    > very interim. I was shocked by the repugnant quotes I read in
    > today's NY Times with our former First Lady -- mother of this
    > president -- who shares with us that, after all, these people are
    > all, you know, underpriviledged and their accomodations at the
    > Astrodome in Texas are a far better situation than what they
    > had before Katrina hit !!!!!!!!!!!!! Of all the imperious, arrogant,
    > priviledged attitudes to express out loud yet... no sign of
    > compassion, no hint of understanding the plight of all these who
    > have lost in untold, and yet unknowable ways their entire
    > world. Yes she provides a hard and unvarnished look at the
    > reasons why the levees were left unrepaired in the face of
    > known vulnerabilities. Utter arrogance -- it is not my personal
    > worry -- they are not My people -- or worse, these are
    > politically insignificant areas and not worth attention. It's not the
    > first time we have seen this. Nero fiddles while Rome burns.
    > The absolute corruption of absolute power. Bring the people to
    > the White House lawn to park. Move them into the rotunda and
    > the halls of Congress. And remember that November comes
    > and all those responsible for this debacle and tragedy must be
    > made to hear our anger, our disappointment, our shame, our
    > RESOLVE to CHANGE and repudiate the wrong-headedness of
    > those who defend this deplorable record as the acceptable
    > behaviour of honorable devout pillars of this civilization! Pack
    > their bags and send them all to New Orleans!

    ReplyDelete
  94. Anonymous7:58 PM

    The federal Department of Homeland Security claimed, well before Hurricane Katrina existed, that "In the event of a terrorist attack, natural disaster or other large-scale emergency, the Department of Homeland Security will assume primary responsibility..."

    Even if local officials failed to evacuate, FEMA should have been at the ready. Later, when babies were drowning in floodwaters or dying of dehydration, they should have had resources to get there immediately. It is unacceptable. Chertoff & Brown should be fired and prosecuted for mass manslaughter. Bush should be impeached. This is a national disgrace and its equally disgraceful that the most incompetent president, for his time, that this nation has ever had is being in any way defended by anyone.

    ReplyDelete
  95. H. Lewis10:29 PM

    I was living in Miami in 1992 when Hurricane Andrew struck. Bush the Elder sent in the Army after 3 days, but lost the state of Florida to Clinton in the November election that followed, in part because of complaints that his handling of the aftermath of the hurricane had been slow and inept.

    As an attorney, I worked on disaster relief projects in Miami in the aftermath of Andrew (half my law partners’ homes were destroyed, all of them south of downtown in Kendall and Homestead). It was very, very bad. Many people didn’t have power restored for almost eight months. In theory, local and state officials are the “first responders” after such a hit. They have an emergency plan which they follow, but no one can predict exactly how bad the storm will be, or what things will look like in the aftermath. FEMA and the feds provide the backup response at the request of local and state authorities, coming in to buttress local and state efforts. My memory is that everything seemed to take too much time. The response was slow. Power was out, fallen trees blocked roads and crushed roofs and cars, and thousands of boats had sunk at their moorings or washed hundreds of yards inland. The wind had knocked down street signs and traffic lights, making driving impossible. Armed guards protected my high-rise building on the waterfront from looters. Our five story underground garage had flooded (we had moved the cars to the highest level, and they were spared). Half my neighbors’ windows had been blown out, and their furniture sucked out of their apartments by tornado force winds. Three days later, I saw sofas and tables floating in Biscayne Bay and in our pool, a dozen yards away. A foolish neighbor had refused to evacuate the building, and described fleeing his 28th floor apartment in terror when the plate-glass picture windows blew out, sending his furniture and pictures swirling around in a blizzard of flying glass and debris as they smashed huge holes in his walls, and then disappeared through his windows. He spent the rest of the night cowering in the internal fire escape in the dark as the building swayed fifteen feet back and forth.

    Thousands of homes in Kendall and Homestead were wrecked by the winds. Andrew was a small, fast-moving storm compared to Katrina, with very high winds, but relatively little rain. It was bad enough. Disaster recovery took many months. Full recovery took six years.

    The Wall Street Journal’s detailed coverage of what went wrong with the response to Katrina seemed fair and balanced to me. In short, the local and state authorities had an emergency response plan, but the sheer size of the catastrophe overwhelmed them. Opportunities were missed (the mayor’s failure to deploy the city’s school buses to evacuate the poorest citizens seems most obvious—your idea about trains is clever, but passenger rail is NOT a major transportation asset in the South, unlike New York), and flaws in the plan were exposed by the catastrophe that ensued when two flood walls (not levees) ruptured in the aftermath. At least one of those walls had been recently reconstructed with reinforced concrete, and was neither old nor ill-maintained. One caller who identified himself as a New Orleans refugee on talk radio noted a “boy that cried wolf” syndrome where previous false alarms had jaded much of the city’s population, and local and state politicians, wary of the political consequences of yet another false alarm, were less than enthusiastic about the mandatory evacuation order. President Bush called the Louisiana governor in advance of the storm to beg her to declare a state of emergency.

    In a crisis like this, the competence of local and state officials is severely tested. The best (like Giuliani) show off their profound talents. In his autobiography, Giuliani himself noted that he had painstakingly built a team, of whom you were one, of very talented people, and that the team performed brilliantly on and after 9/11. Most important, they were trained and in place to serve the people of New York in a crisis. New Orleans clearly lacked such a local and state infrastructure. The second and third stringers choke in the clutch. Louisiana had third stringers, and they choked. The local authorities should have provisioned and secured the initial shelter in the Superdome for a week. The Louisiana National Guard (controlled by the governor) should have been ready to move into the city in the immediate aftermath to restore order. Local and state authorities should have identified staging areas for emergency workers, and prepared them with provisions and sleeping quarters. And of course, the feds should have moved much faster to back up overwhelmed local and state officials when the scale of the catastrophe became obvious. I won’t repeat what the Wall Street Journal already has reported about FEMA being gutted by its absorption into the Department of Homeland Security, with its emphasis on terrorism rather than conventional natural disasters. The juxtaposition of its director declaring everything under control with the televised scenes of chaos and crime broadcast from the Superdome was pathetic. The hurricane was racially unbiased, injuring innocent citizens of the tri-state area (Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana), of all races, who suffered for the incompetence of their government at all three levels, local, state, and federal. There’s only one silver lining in this dark cloud: it exposes the flaws in the emergency response network here at home, and is an opportunity to do better in future.

    ReplyDelete
  96. See last year's National Geographic at http://www3.nationalgeographic.com/ngm/0410/feature5/

    r.a.

    ReplyDelete
  97. 97. We must look at New Orleans' history of responses to the ongoing conditions and the immediate crisis in comparison to NYC's 1977 and 2003 blackouts, Y2K and 9/11.

    We all know governments plan for crisis. CBS News reports the 400+ page plans on FEMA's web site are excellent. The problem was they were poorly executed. There was no effective evacuation operation in the 48 hours before the storm for those least able to leave New Orleans. The Superdome was the wrong place for shelter because there was a good chance the electrical power would be knocked out for days by a condition 4 or 5 hurricane. What did the local government plan to do to provide the transportation? Why did that plan fail? Why didn't the state or FEMA jump in before the storm to remove those in danger?

    The media served us poorly when they prematurely declared the worst was over immediately after the storm ended. This created an atmosphere where people were not looking to continue the evacuation out of the city.

    This led to the calamity of the flood and the total absence of an organized response for almost 48 horrific hours. At least Mississippi jumped in immediately after the storm to begin the rescue efforts in Biloxi and the rest of the Gulf Coast. Much could be learned by analyzing what they did right during those same seven days.

    In NYC, we have seen the fruits of emergency planning. While we weren't prepared for 9/11, most civilians in the WTC at the moment of the first attack were evacuated before the towers collapsed. More first responders would have been spared if the communication equipment worked properly. All levels of government responded quickly. The cooperation continued for days and weeks afterwards among the gargantuan bureaucracies that needed to create emergency systems to replace the communications networks destroyed in the collapse.

    We also see the differences between the 1977 and 2003 blackouts. Today's NYPD is more inclusive, better educated and technically superior. They were effectively dispatched immediately after the lights went out, thereby preventing the atmosphere of fear looters require to start their riots. Some would pat ourselves on the back and say we're more civilized today, but that's a false assumption. Effective government not only responds well to problems, it also works to eliminate those conditions before they create these problems

    ReplyDelete
  98. 98. It is also so dumb that with all the barges in Baton Rouge that not one barge of potable fresh water and food was taken by River down stream to the Convention Center and the Super Dome.. That was totally stupid.. since the barges were just sitting there with the tug boats.. Gary Kent Keyes.. a union carpenter who helped build the Convention Center and the World's Fair in New Orleans in the eighties.. now in Traverse City, Michigan.. and what about the animals left behind?.. I have sent money and adopted a human being.. so I challenge anyone to get real and open up their homes to these human displaced people who have no where to go.. thankyou.. maybe if the Red Cross could put up a web site for people to volunteer to be a part of opening up their homes and this could happen.. more people will not die of contageous disease at the shelters..

    ReplyDelete
  99. 99. Instead of dumping on Bush, how about calling out the NO mayor and the
    > LA governor? Why did they not implement evacuation plans? In fact, had
    > Bush not insisted on evacuation, even more people would have died.
    > Numerous school buses were outside the Superdome. Why didn't NO's
    > authorities employ them to evacuate residents? It's always a lot easier
    > to blame Bush than for people to take responsibility for themselves. I
    > guess Bush armed the looters, too.

    ReplyDelete
  100. 100. The New Orleans police department is wanting on a good day. The corruption in the New Orleans Police Department is infamous. Why was their leadership so poor that nearly 1/3 went AWOL? Why did the Mayor not use the school buses? This was in their disaster plan to evacuate the city. Why did the Governor not call out the National Guard, which she had the power to do. They did not use their published disaster plan at all. This was a failure, but not the Federal Governments. It is the liberal, welfare State that failed. Waiting for the Mayor or Governor to act was waiting for Godot, it never came. Where was the responsibility of the local Government? Rudy did not wait to call up the police, our Governor the National Guard. Rudy did not wait to effect the NYC disaster efforts and put a well rehearsed disaster plan in effect.

    In our form of governance it is the local government that should respond in a disaster, then the State government when they cannot or will not. FEMA is for mop-up, such as cash reimbursement and long term re-building.

    Liberal Losers are now blaming our President when in fact the blame is the wimp welfare state bureaucrats, of the local Louisiana Democratic party. The Third World incompetence is not our President but rather the inaction of the New Orleans Welfare State. This type of story would have been New York City, if our loser Democrats were in power during 9/11

    ReplyDelete
  101. 101. Your questions touch on a number of issues that, clearly, are disturbing to many Americans, epsecially New Yorkers, like myself, that witnessed firsthand the bureaucratic quagmire that FEMA (and the National Red Cross) found itself during the crotical weeks post 9-11.
    I was a Red Cross volunteer during that period for 6 weeks transporting medical supplies and personnel to the Respite centers in and around Ground Zero. FEMA, in particular, was the umbrella agency that dictated policy and logistics at Ground Zero during this period (yes, OEM eventually got established but FEMA was at the helm for the critical first two weeks after 9-11.
    FEMA, and the National Red Cross, are structured after a post WWII military models that lack any semblance of efficiency, expeditious coordination and, in many cases, common sensical policies in effecting coordinated services.
    Specifically, I can remember being blocked by FEMA on Chambers Street, while I was enroute to delivering emergency provisions to the St. Johns University location at Ground Zero (Respite Center 2?) on night. The block was totally unnecessary and caused me to have to detour and circumvent the road block. It may seem like a minor inconvenience but, to me, it was much more than that. It was power being exercised for absolutely no logical reason.
    This was one of many incidents that I would witness firsthand with FEMA. As an experienced tech security expert, with over 35 years experience, we were on standby, upon the request of the NYPD Command, to do forensic audio services in hopes of finding victims in the rubble at Ground Zero. FEMA blocked this critical rescue function as it chose only its designated audio experts to do the job. I still have nightmares of the number of lives that we might have been able to save during those critical days.

    Having said that...
    and regarding the Katrina crisis...
    First and foremost there are a few facts that should be introduced into the onging debate as it pertains to the forewarnings stated prior to Katrina's arrival.
    I grew up in a poor neighborhood here in Mahattan. And what the pundits DON'T know is that poor people have very few possessions and belongings. So whatever one has is of great value to them. Leaving one's household, regardless of any emergency crisis, translates to becoming a possible victim of looting and loss of possessions by other entities WITHIN the community. This is not conjecture. It is fact. My point being that it is easier for middles and upper class citizens to evacuate their communties because, for the most part, material possessions are insured and can be replaced. Poor people are not of that mindset.
    Inject into this scenario the fact that the media oftens sensationalizes potential natural disasters with a gloom and doom palette, and more often than not, the outcomes are short of any catastrophic consequences, makes poor people...people in general...skeptical of any potential forewarnings and emergency-related procedures. In short, the media is directly responsible for the "cry wolf" perception by many citizens, especially the poor that have the most to lose in an evacuation.

    The government spinmeisters are in a frenzy to finger point and absolve themselves of any responsibility in the incompetence that surfaced in the Gulf region in recent days. This should not be a political issue as much as a wake up call to the American people that our government, local, state and Federal are simply incapable of protecting us BEFORE an event (9-11) and AFTER an event (Katrina). This is a sobering realization to many of us, and that's just what it should be...a realization. Any expectations that a bureaucratic, politically squabbling government can protect us during a major catastrophy should be pretty much dead by now.
    Sure, having a president remain on vacation during a catastrophic event is totally unacceptable and should be a matter of the greatest concern to all of us.. Turning the page and focusing on the Department of Homeland Security is even more disconcerting. After all, Mr. Cherthoff and his department are charged with protecting us, the citizens. And that clearly did not happen during the critical days following Katrina's devastating affect. If anything, it showed us that shortly after a catastrophic event, whether natural or man made, the rule of thumb is pretty much "every man/woman for his/herself" or risk an untimely, albeit fatal, demise.
    And, for once, please spare me the "there are many dedicated people doing their best to protect us". Tell that to the remains of a grandmother on Route I10 in New Orleans.

    Regarding local and state government...
    The lack of response, planning and execution of any preparedness plan by local and state officals in the Gulf region pretty much says it all. They didn't believe that Katrina was going to be as lethal as it tuened out to be, and that misperception was the primary cause of the ensuing events. Even if local and state authorities are well meaning and prepared to execute a plan, their resources are so limited that any well-intentioned plan would fall short of any positive results. Resources are the one thing that the Federal government has, which is why communication between the three levels of government is so vital. Clearly, this wasn't in place prior to Katrina, and unfortunately I don't have much faith that such communication will be addressed anytime in the near future.

    Solutions?
    After 9-11, when I was president of the 20th Precinct Community Council in my area, I wrote a 14 page report with recommendations to 1 Police Plaza for the need to establish training programs in our communities in Emergency Medical procedures, Ham Radio training for communications (after 9-11 over 400 amateur radio operators came to NY from all over the US to help establish communications in our city among key agencies and respite centers. I know this for a fact. I transported many of these amazing people to OEM and Ground Zero. NOTE: Since then I myself have become an FCC licensed operator in Amateur radio...HAM...communications ).
    Unfortunately, 1 Police Plaza ignored my report.
    Finally, events in recent years have given great cause for focus on, and justification in, the development of a new, contemporary form of "Civil Defense". Sadly, this concept has fallen on deaf ears and will continue to do so. Elected officials and emergency managers continue to embrace an arrogance that squelches the demands and ongoing legitimate fears of their citizens. And so, we find ourselves, once again, reliant on the concept of "government knows better".

    Clearly, 9-11 and Katrina have proven this doctrine wrong. Very wrong.

    ReplyDelete
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