The storm that crashed into New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf Coast four years ago wreaked a shocking $80 billion in damage and resulted in 1,836 confirmed fatalities. But since then, its overall legacy has broadened and, one hopes, has not been all bad.
•Volunteers matter a lot in a time of crisis.
•FEMA's mission has shifted from a top-down to a bottom-up approach.
•New appreciation has emerged of the need to retain and restore wetlands to help absorb storm surges.
•Storm-tracking capabilities have advanced in ways that improve public safety.
•Hurricanes have moved to the center of the climate-change debate.
1. Sidney wrote:
Yeah, but they missed the thing they should have done: bring in about a billion tons of fill to bring the city above sea level for the first time in a few hundred years, or just abandon the city altogether.
So, we’ll pay for it all over again one day.
August 29, 7:40 pm | [comment link]
2. Sarah1 wrote:
I dunno. I’d rephrase a bit.
“Fema is a massive failure.”
“We’ve had demonstrated all over again just how incredibly undependable—not to say damaging and harmful—the State is in local crises.”
“Hurricanes have moved to the center of the climate-change rhetorical hysteria.”
August 29, 8:20 pm | [comment link]
3. art+ wrote:
One thing all states must realize also is that the federal government cannot send troops into a state or provide fema assistance until the governor requests them, which in LA.‘s case took almost 2 weeks.
August 29, 9:02 pm | [comment link]
4. nwlayman wrote:
Darn, Sidney said it first. I wonder if there’s anywhere in the US other than there that I could get a building permit to put up a house, a bank to lend me money and government assurance of security in that house if I wanted to build it in the flood plain of a river in the dry season. An Arroyo in New Mexico, perhaps? If not, why?
August 30, 12:06 am | [comment link]
5. DonGander wrote:
They could also have added the fact that it has been learned that it is easier to read text when that text has at least some amount of illumination (light on the page).
What the article proves is that absolutely nothing of substance has been learned at all.
August 30, 3:15 am | [comment link]
6. Irenaeus wrote:
The federal government cannot send troops into a state or provide fema assistance until the governor requests them, which in LA.‘s case took almost 2 weeks.—#3
This is flat-out false. The governor declared an emergency on Aug. 26 and on Aug. 27 requested that President Bush do the same. Katrina made landfall on Aug. 29.
August 30, 3:49 pm | [comment link]
7. art+ wrote:
Declaring an emergency is not the same as requesting the federal government to send in troops to an area. The governor must request federal troops to assist in an emergency and it must be after the fact, not if there might be a problem.
August 30, 5:56 pm | [comment link]
8. Irenaeus wrote:
Art [#7]: Bandy words if you like, but you’re still pursuing a falsehood. FEMA’s disastrous response to Hurricane Katrina reflected its own incompetence, not some failure by the governor to make the requisite requests.
Perhaps you confuse FEMA assistance with federalizing the National Guard or using the Army to provide police protection. But those steps have nothing—nothing—to do with FEMA’s authority to provide assistance.
August 30, 7:34 pm | [comment link]
9. art+ wrote:
Here is the procedure to enable FEMA to act fron FEMA’s website
The Major Disaster Process
A Major Disaster Declaration usually follows these steps:
•Local Government Responds, supplemented by neighboring communities and volunteer agencies. If overwhelmed, turn to the state for assistance;
•The State Responds with state resources, such as the National Guard and state agencies;
•Damage Assessment by local, state, federal, and volunteer organizations determines losses and recovery needs;
•A Major Disaster Declaration is requested by the governor, based on the damage assessment, and an agreement to commit state funds and resources to the long-term recovery;
•FEMA Evaluates the request and recommends action to the White House based on the disaster, the local community and the state’s ability to recover;
August 30, 9:27 pm | [comment link]
•The President approves the request or FEMA informs the governor it has been denied. This decision process could take a few hours or several weeks depending on the nature of the disaster.
10. Jeffersonian wrote:
Funny we didn’t see the same Thunderdome-level mayhem and chaos where the worst of Katrina was felt. Of course, Ray Nagin and Kathleen Blanco weren’t in charge of those places.
August 30, 9:27 pm | [comment link]
11. Jackie wrote:
I experienced Katrina first hand.
There are a ton of reports of “what really happened” but one of the most telling is this report by NBC.
Myers: “A key criticism, the governor’s slowness in requesting federal troops. She told the President she needed help, but it wasn’t until Wednesday that she specifically asked for 40,000 troops. That day, in a whispered conversation with her staff caught on camera, the governor appears to second-guess herself.”
Blanco: “I really need to call for the military.”
Unidentified female aide: “Yes, you do. Yes, you do.”
Blanco: “And I should have started that in the first call.”
Myers: “Another key mistake, experts say, Blanco’s lateness in getting the Louisiana National Guard, which she commands, on the streets to try to establish security.”
I think all can agree that NBC is not a voice for the Bush Administration.
Next I can tell you beyond a shadow of a doubt that Blanco did not put the Louisiana Guard on alert. I know this because my son has been a member of the Louisiana Air Guard for about 10 years. He was never put on alert and when he inquired if he could evacuate he was told no problem. It was not until almost 2 days later that he was told to report “by any means” available to a location in North Louisiana.
Here is a quote from Blanco at noon on August 29, 2009.
We keep getting reports in some places that maybe water is coming over the levees… We heard a report unconfirmed, I think, we have not breached the levee. I think we have not breached the levee at this time.
Now also keep in mind that news reports were coming out that NO had “missed the big one.”
I would also like to remind everyone that it was Blanco who refused to allow the guard to be armed. Our troops were told that it would not “look good” to have armed troops roaming the streets.
I will not give any of our officials high marks during this time and will highlight some of the more egregious - Jefferson Parish President, New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin and Governor Kathleen Blanco. The officials of the lower areas such as Plaquemines and St. Bernard deserve accolades along with then Congressman Bobby Jindal.
August 30, 9:50 pm | [comment link]
12. Jeffersonian wrote:
Let’s face facts and admit that if you are a mayor or governor and are relying on a massive, distant bureaucracy 1,100 miles away to be your first and best responder to a dire emergency, you’re an accomplished idiot. If you don’t give a tinker’s damn about your own constituents, why do you think FEMA is going to care more?
In Katrina, we saw the workings of a government laid bare, a government where virtually the entire apparatus had been geared to cronyism, wire-pulling, shakedowns and pocket-stuffing…a criminal enterprise in all but name. When it came time to exercise the legitimate powers allocated to it in the face of an emergency, it acted like the sleazy nest of snakes it was and the rotten ediface collapsed.
August 30, 10:05 pm | [comment link]
13. Irenaeus wrote:
Art [#9]: Your lengthy quotation from FEMA’s website
in no way substantiates your earlier assertion [#6] that FEMA could not provide assistance because the governor would not make the requisite requests. The governor, FEMA, and the president completed the entire process outlined in your quotation two days before Katrina made landfall. Not two weeks after, but two days before.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _
Post-Katrina lawlessness in New Orleans [#10-11] is a legitimate issue but not the point I’m disputing with Art. He asserted the governor delayed for two weeks in making a request that was a precondition for FEMA assistance [#3]. That’s false: FEMA had the authority it needed but not the competence.
August 30, 10:28 pm | [comment link]
14. Irenaeus wrote:
In Katrina, we saw the workings of a government laid bare, a government where virtually the entire apparatus had been geared to cronyism, wire-pulling, shakedowns and pocket-stuffing…a criminal enterprise in all but name. When it came time to exercise the legitimate powers allocated to it in the face of an emergency, it acted like the sleazy nest of snakes it was and the rotten edifice collapsed.—#12
Quite a contrast to the competence FEMA demonstrated under President Clinton.
August 30, 10:38 pm | [comment link]
15. Jeffersonian wrote:
Quite a contrast to the competence FEMA demonstrated under President Clinton.
Or anywhere else it responded under Bush, including where the eye of Katrina hit in Mississippi.
I was speaking of the political subdivisions of New Orleans and the State of Louisiana.
August 30, 10:59 pm | [comment link]
16. Jackie wrote:
Behind the scenes, a power struggle emerged, as federal officials tried to wrest authority from Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco (D). 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.
Here is another report. State rebuffs Relief efforts.
August 30, 11:12 pm | [comment link]
17. Irenaeus wrote:
Note the correction at the top of the Post article quoted at length in #16:
Correction to This Article
August 30, 11:35 pm | [comment link]
A Sept. 4 article on the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina incorrectly said that Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco (D) had not declared a state of emergency. She declared an emergency on Aug. 26.
18. Sarah1 wrote:
RE: ” . . . it wasn’t until Wednesday that she specifically asked for 40,000 troops.”
Jackie—what day did the hurricane occur? So that we can know how many days it took for her to request the troops that Art states took “almost two weeks” to request?
August 31, 12:05 am | [comment link]
19. jkc1945 wrote:
Does anyone remember Hurricane Rita? It hit the Texas coast just a couple of weeks or so after Katrina rolled around the edge of New Orleans. Why don"t we hear anything about Rita? I am pretty sure it caused large amounts of damage to property in Texas. Is the Texas coast still in ruin? Did the people of Texas ever return to their damaged property and rebuild? What is the difference between the two areas’ situations? These are not rhetorical questions—I really would like to know, and I don’t.
August 31, 7:03 am | [comment link]
20. Jackie wrote:
Katrina hit Monday, August 29, 2005.
August 31, 11:25 am | [comment link]
Blanco declared state of ER, Friday, August 26 (although some reports dispute that she did not release it until August 27)
Blanco requested that Bush declare a national state of emergency for Louisiana on Saturday, August 27 which he did.
Here is a document (particularly pages 7-8) which may clarify the issue for those who are interested. If you follow the links I provided earlier, the news media has Blanco on tape admitting she should have asked for troops. And of course, the other problem is she failed to mobilize the Louisiana Guard.
As far as I am concerned, and many other citizens of Louisiana as attested to by the public opinion polls, Blanco allowed herself to be frozen into incompetence by her willingness to play politics during this disaster. Considering she had Ray Nagin, the King of incompetence involved, well, what can I say. I would urge you to read the NBC article again.
21. Irenaeus wrote:
Aug. 24: Katrina became a tropical storm over the Bahamas.
Aug. 25: Katrina, now a category 1 hurricane, made landfall north of Miami. National Hurricane Center projected that Katrina would also strike the Florida Panhandle.
Aug. 26: Katrina, located off SW Florida, had winds of 70-75 mph.
That afternoon, that National Hurricane Center projected that Katrina would strike the Mississippi/Louisiana coast. The governor declared an emergency. (Scroll down the alphabetical list in the left column and click on “Executive Orders through 9 16 05.”).
Aug. 27: The governor asked President Bush to declare an emergency, which he did. Katrina became a category 3 storm.
Aug. 28: Katrina became a category 4 storm.
Aug. 29: Katrina made landfall as a category 3 storm.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
—- The governor declared an emergency the day after Katrina crossed Florida and entered the Gulf of Mexico. This was 3 days before Katrina struck Louisiana.
—- The governor requested and the president issued a federal disaster declaration 2 days before Katrina struck. FEMA had full authority to provide disaster assistance. (And for those who may be interested, the federal government had authority to use federal troops for any purpose other than law enforcement.) FEMA’s fiascos occurred because of FEMA’s own incompetence.
—- After FEMA’s failures became a national scandal, anonymous Bush Administration blamed FEMA’s failures on the governor. They told reporters that FEMA was all ready to help but that the governor refused to sign the necessary disaster-declaration request. This accusation received wide play in the national news media. Many commenters on T19 and Stand Firm echoed it repeatedly and dogmatically, false though it was. (That’s why I’ve responded very specifically once the accusation reappeared in comment #3.)
—- The accusation lost all mainstream credibility after Congress held extensive hearings on Katrina. If the governor’s critics had any evidence that FEMA’s problems resulted from paperwork delays by the governor, they had every incentive to come forward with the evidence. They did not because they could not.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
The mayor and governor failed to do their part to maintain public order in New Orleans. The mayor was the epicenter of the problem, but the governor could and should have taken timely corrective action herself (e.g., by ordering the National Guard to shoot looters). But that was separate from FEMA’s failings.
August 31, 8:42 pm | [comment link]
22. Jeffersonian wrote:
I think you miss the point, I: It’s not what Blanco and Nagin did, it’s what they didn’t do, or didn’t do until it was far too late. Virtually every tragic story coming out of New Orleans stemmed from a failure to prepare, a failure to evacuate, a failure to provide security in the aftermath.
Of course, the private sector outstripped anything bureaucrats could muster at any level.
August 31, 10:02 pm | [comment link]
23. Jackie wrote:
The governor must also implement the state’s emergency response plan, for example, by activating the state’s National Guard units under state control (in which case the PCA does not apply to them), and provide information regarding the resources that have been committed.
Your timeline is exactly in line with what I’ve stated earlier. What is also clear, without any doubt whatsoever, Blanco failed to activate the Guard. Of course, that is only one of her failings.
I’ll be the last person to defend FEMA either the one under Bush or Clinton. Or Bush, Sr. or Carter for that matter.
August 31, 10:08 pm | [comment link]
Criticism of FEMA
Flooding in Greenville, North Carolina on the Tar RiverThe Hurricane Floyd disaster was followed by what many judged to be a very slow federal response. Fully three weeks after the storm hit, Jesse Jackson complained to FEMA Director James Lee Witt on his CNN program Both Sides Now, “It seemed there was preparation for Hurricane Floyd, but then came Flood Floyd. Bridges are overwhelmed, levees are overwhelmed, whole towns under water ... [it’s] an awesome scene of tragedy. So there’s a great misery index in North Carolina.” Witt responded, “We’re starting to move the camper trailers in. It’s been so wet it’s been difficult to get things in there, but now it’s going to be moving very quickly. And I think you’re going to see a—I think the people there will see a big difference [within] this next weekend!”
24. Irenaeus wrote:
I think you miss the point.
I’m making my own point, and I’ve made it consistently throughout this thread. Many T19 and Stand Firm commenters repeatedly propagated the falsehood that FEMA’s fiascos occurred because the governor refused to make the requisite declarations and requests. Commenters clung to that error even as its falsity became increasingly plain. The error reared its head again on this thread. I hope we won’t see it again.
September 1, 1:29 am | [comment link]