The angry left is desperately trying to blame President Bush and FEMA for the slow response to the problem in New Orleans.
Update 9/5: What advance notice did the Governor and the Mayor have?
On June 3, 2004 an IEM Team to Develop Catastrophic Hurricane Disaster Plan for New Orleans & Southeast Louisiana involved James Lee Witt Associates. Make note of that name, because we will see James Lee Witt later
December 21, 2004 the Louisiana Board of Regents received the Assessment and Remediation of Public Health Impacts Due to Hurricanes and Major Flooding Events which reported
The 2004 Hurricane Pam Catastrophic Hurricane Planning Exercise demonstrated the strong need for a scientific basis for casualty estimates. This scenario-based exercise was constructed around the scenario of a strong Category 3 hurricane striking New Orleans, inundating Orleans Parish and major portions of surrounding parishes. The contractor creating the exercise developed casualty estimates for the NOAA-provided storm surge conditions. Their initial estimate was well over 80,000 fatalities. When this was presented to FEMA and state and local emergency managers during a pre-exercise development briefing, it was met with much skepticism and disbelief. Based on complaints from these groups, the figure was reduced to something on the order of 60,000,
That is a fantastic way to plan for problems. If the estimates show more damage than you are prepared to accept, lower the estimates.which was still highly controversial.They certainly had a lot of plans. Did they follow them?
Update 9/5: As NOLA.com reported 8/28 10:48 am a mandatory evacuation was ordered Sunday for New Orleans by Mayor Ray Nagin. Acknowledging that large numbers of people, many of them stranded tourists, would be unable to leave, the city set up 10 places of last resort for people to go, including the Superdome.
As JunkYardDog shows, the New Orleans school system owns 205 buses, and elsewhere we learned there were 364 buses owned by the New Orleans public transit. Why did the Mayor not make use of these buses to send people from the Superdome (and elsewhere) to Houston, or any other major city?The mayor called the order unprecedented and said anyone who could leave the city should. He exempted hotels from the evacuation order because airlines had already cancelled all flights.
Why exempt the hotels? Was it ok for the tourists to die, but not New Orlenas residents, or did he deliver them supplies of water and food so they could survive in the hotels?"We are facing a storm that most of us have long feared," Nagin said. The storm surge most likely could topple the city's levee system, which protect it from surrounding waters of Lake Pontchartrain, the Mississippi River and marshes, the mayor said. The bowl-shaped city must pump water out during normal times, and the hurricane threatened pump power.... He told those who had to move to the Superdome to come with enough food for several days and with blankets. He said it will be a very uncomfortable place and encouraged everybody who could to get out.
Since he anticipated flooding, which would mean power failures, loss of water pressure, and hence inability to flush the toilets, did he provide Port-a-poties?What is FEMA's responsibility in the City of New Orleans Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan? As I read the document:
- The ATO shall either utilize materials prepared by other agencies such as the Louisiana Office of Emergency Preparedness, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), or shall develop materials directed at the specific needs or concerns of our local population.
- These sites shall be established at geographically strategic sites, providing all affected citizens with access to available programs, and shall provide representatives from numerous federal, state, local, and private relief agencies. Locations of the centers, as well as information on FEMA's teleregistration program, shall be made known via ESF?14, Public Information, and all other available information outlets
- At the briefing, public officials shall be oriented on available assistance and procedures, and shall receive "Notice Of Interest" forms to be filed with state and federal officials. Subsequent "Project Applications" shall be filed with FEMA for further processing. State and federal authorities will evaluate the project applications and determine justification for assistance.
- Applications for LOEP/FEMA courses will be submitted to the Director, Office of Emergency Preparedness for approval and submittal to LOEP.
- The Director of the Office of Emergency Preparedness shall endeavor to take full advantage of courses offered by the Louisiana Office of Emergency Preparedness (LOEP), the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the Louisiana Emergency Preparedness Association (LEPA) and other agencies, as well as conferences, seminars and workshops that may from time to time be available, most notably state hurricane conferences and workshops and the National Hurricane Conference.
On August 28, she sent a letter to George Bush requesting a declaration of a major disaster, which George Bush did on 8/29 The press report for that is dated 8/27 and it said the aid was to begin on 8/26. It is a little unclear exactly what date to assign it, but Bush certainly acted before the storm hit.
She also said that she had directed execution of the State Emergency Plan
Which has two references to FEMA:, she asked for Hazard Mitigation for eligible applicants that have a FEMA Approved Local Hazard Mitigation Plan, and asked for some more monetary funding, and help with debris removal. She did not authorize active duty military, reserves, or National Guard from other states.
- Alert FEMA of the situation and advise that the State may need Federal assistance.
- Request FEMA send representatives to coordinate and prepare for possible deployment of the Advance Emergency Response Team.
She issued a number of executive orders which recognize that "under the provisions of Louisiana Homeland Security and Emergency Assistance and Disaster Act, and R.S. 29:724 in particular, the governor (not the President) is responsible for meeting the dangers to the state and people presented by emergencies or disasters"
- Sept 1 Emergency Occupation Of Hotel And Motel Rooms
- Sept 1 EMergency Evacuation By Buses
- Sept 2 Emergency Evacuation By Buses
- Sept 2 Public Health Emergency Declaration
On 9/2 she said she "previously requested significant federal support to include: an additional 40,000 troops; trailers of water, ice and food; commercial buses; base camps; staging areas; amphibious personnel carriers; deployable morgues; urban search and rescue teams; airlift; temporary housing; and communications systems." but I find no indication of that request on their website, but in this letter she did request the return of her National Guard that are in Iraq (which obviously would take some amount of time), but she did request a number of other items, which arrived the same day.
WaPo reported on 9/3 that Shortly before midnight Friday, the Bush administration sent her a proposed legal memorandum asking her to request a federal takeover of the evacuation of New Orleans, a source within the state's emergency operations center said Saturday.
The administration sought unified control over all local police and state National Guard units reporting to the governor. Louisiana officials rejected the request after talks throughout the night, concerned that such a move would be comparable to a federal declaration of martial law. Some officials in the state suspected a political motive behind the request. "Quite frankly, if they'd been able to pull off taking it away from the locals, they then could have blamed everything on the locals," said the source, who does not have the authority to speak publicly.
A senior administration official said that Bush has clear legal authority to federalize National Guard units to quell civil disturbances under the Insurrection Act and will continue to try to unify the chains of command that are split among the president, the Louisiana governor and the New Orleans mayor.
Louisiana did not reach out to a multi-state mutual aid compact for assistance until Wednesday, three state and federal officials said. As of Saturday, Blanco still had not declared a state of emergency, the senior Bush official said.
"The federal government stands ready to work with state and local officials to secure New Orleans and the state of Louisiana," White House spokesman Dan Bartlett said. "The president will not let any form of bureaucracy get in the way of protecting the citizens of Louisiana."
Blanco made two moves Saturday that protected her independence from the federal government: She created a philanthropic fund for the state's victims and hired James Lee Witt, Federal Emergency Management Agency director in the Clinton administration, to advise her on the relief effort. Remember where we heard that name before?
Update 9/5: Commenters speculated that the appointment of James Lee Witt, the former director of FEMA, may have been an effort to prevent George Bush riding in on a white horse and stealing all her headlines and accolades for the rescue response, and that maybe he made an ill-advised suggestion to Governor Blanco to reject Bush's proposed legal memo to federalize the state and local evacuation procedures prior to Katrina's arrival? In other words the was willing to sacrifice the safety and security of Louisiana residents to cover up for her failures to protect her citizens
It seems pretty clear that Blanco was doing everything possible to avoid asking for the help that the President is now being blamed for not providing immediately after Katrina struck.
Since 1878 Posse Comitatus has prevented the the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines from operating on US soil. An exception is made for National Guard troops under the control of state governors, and I believe the governors can request military support (such as National Guard troops from other states), but they must explicitly request them.
Does anyone want the President of the United States [Democrat or Republican] to decide to deploy active duty military, reserves, or National Guard from other states without the specific request and approval of the Governor of that state?
Some are trying to blame the Bush administration for not funding the levee repair. Chicago Tribune reported The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said Thursday that a lack of funding for hurricane-protection projects around New Orleans did not contribute to the disastrous flooding that followed Hurricane Katrina.
In a telephone interview with reporters, corps officials said that although portions of the flood-protection levees remain incomplete, the levees near Lake Pontchartrain that gave way--inundating much of the city--were completed and in good condition before the hurricane.
However, they noted that the levees were designed for a Category 3 hurricane and couldn't handle the ferocious winds and raging waters from Hurricane Katrina, which was a Category 4 storm when it hit the coastline. The decision to build levees for a Category 3 hurricane was made decades ago based on a cost-benefit analysis.
"I don't see that the level of funding was really a contributing factor in this case," said Lt. Gen. Carl Strock, chief of engineers for the corps. "Had this project been fully complete, it is my opinion that based on the intensity of this storm that the flooding of the business district and the French Quarter would have still taken place."
Strock also denied that escalating costs from the war in Iraq contributed to reductions in funding for hurricane projects in Louisiana, as some critics have suggested. Records show that corps funding for the Louisiana projects has generally decreased in recent years.
Several critics, including a former head of the Corps of Engineers, suggested in a Tribune story Thursday that the flooding in New Orleans could have been less severe had the federal government fully funded projects to improve the levees and drainage in the city.
Congress in 1999 authorized the corps to conduct a $12 million study to determine how much it would cost to protect New Orleans from a Category 5 hurricane, but the study isn't scheduled to get under way until 2006. It was not clear why the study has taken so long to begin, though Congress has only provided in the range of $100,000 or $200,000 a year so far.
Al Naomi, senior project manager in the corps' New Orleans District, said it would cost as much as $2.5 billion to build such a system, which would likely include gates to block the Gulf of Mexico from Lake Pontchartrain and additional levees. If the project were fully funded and started immediately, Naomi said it could be completed in three to five years.
A project to build up the levees to withstand a Category 3 hurricane was launched in 1965 after Hurricane Betsy and was supposed to be completed in 10 years, but it remains incomplete because of a lack of funding.
If a project launched in 1965 and supposed to be completed in 10 years is still not completed, due to funding cutbacks in many administrations, hopefully no one is stupid enough to suggest that the above $2.5 billion project would make any sense at all. New Orleans should be moved, not rebuilt in placeIn recent years, funding has dropped precipitously, which some officials attributed in part to the escalating costs of the Iraq war. Funding for a drainage project in New Orleans went from $69 million in 2001 to $36.5 million in the current fiscal year, while funding for such hurricane-protection projects as levees around Lake Pontchartrain declined from $10 million in 2001 to $5.7 million this year, according to figures provided by the office of Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.).
Funding for these projects has generally trended downward since at least the last years of the Clinton administration. Congressional records show that the levee work on Lake Pontchartrain received $23 million in 1998 and $16 million in 1999. It was not clear how much the drainage project received in 1998, but records show it received $75 million in 1999.
Neither the White House nor the Corps of Engineers would confirm the numbers, nor would they provide funding levels dating to previous administrations.