September 3, 2005


Category 5 Katrina barrels toward New Orleans (MARC CAPUTO, DAVID OVALLE AND ERIKA BOLSTAD, 8/28/05, Knight Ridder Newspapers)

Katrina's threat was so acute that President Bush joined the chorus of officials who urged New Orleans Mayor C. Ray Nagin and Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco to order a mandatory evacuation, issued Sunday morning after lower-lying areas outside the city were cleared Saturday.

In New Orleans, old timers like 58-year-old Joseph Bentley remember Hurricane Betsy in 1965 as if it were yesterday. That was a mere Category 3 storm - compared to Katrina's Category 5 status - and busted the levee on the Industrial Canal, making evacuation possible only by boat in his Ninth Ward neighborhood just down the street from the home of jazz great Fats Domino.

"This is no Betsy. This is a nightmare," Bentley said.

Bentley headed to the Superdome Sunday morning, just like most of the city's low-income residents who had nowhere else to go. New Orleans is one of the poorest cities in the nation.

By afternoon, the Superdome descended into sweaty chaos. About 10,000 refugees arrived under the vigilance of the Louisiana National Guard.

The frustrated line to get into the stadium stretched the length of several football fields. People sucked at empty water bottles, lugged their belongings in plastic grocery bags, fanned themselves in the humid air, brought their beer and cigarettes and braced for what could be a two-day stay as torrents of rain started soaking them about 4 p.m.

Officials had already confiscated weapons, including guns, raising fears of the unrest that took place at the dome in 1998. Then, 14,000 people waiting out Hurricane Georges, caused $10,000 in damage and looted another $8,500 in property. In anticipation of the massive flooding, people in the shelter would likely not be allowed to leave until Tuesday, when they would then be relocated by federal authorities, said Terry Ebbert, New Orlean's director of Homeland Security.

Portable bathrooms had not been set up inside, and the dome's water system could be affected by the storm. "That's why these people are going to be very uncomfortable," Ebbert said.

Looking beaten, Tim Duchene, 48, grimaced as he stood near the front of the line. He had waited three hours and tried in vain to take his medication to ease a ruptured disk in his back.

"Nobody brought us water. I tried to get one from them but they told me to get back in line," Duchene said. "They weren't prepared for this. I'd like to know how they're going to feed all these people."

Leon Moore, 55, the left side of his body paralyzed for the past 12 years because of a stroke, pulled his weathered red truck up to the Superdome and angrily decried Mayor Nagin. "The mayor of the city didn't make preparations for the handicapped," he said.

The criticisms of Nagin came from above as well. Numerous officials urged him to evacuate the city, but he worried about the legality of ordering people out when New Orleans has few safe hurricane shelters for them to evacuate to. Also, National Hurricane Center Director Max Mayfield in Miami called Nagin at home Saturday night and told him: Get people out of New Orleans.

"I could never sleep if I felt like I didn't do everything that I could to impress upon people the gravity of the situation," Mayfield said. "New Orleans is never going to be the same."

When a grim Nagin issued the mandatory evacuation order Sunday, he said: "We are facing a storm that most of us have feared. ... God bless us."

In Jefferson Parish, south of Orleans Parish, officials also issued an evacuation order - which also enables them to seize boats and buildings - and prepared for widespread suffering.

"Let's watch. Let's pray. Let's leave," Jefferson Parish President Aaron F. Broussard said at a news conference.

Katrina is on one of the worst possible tracks for New Orleans as it aims for Lake Pontchartrain, a 40-mile-wide shallow reservoir whose waters are already above the city. The lake will likely top the levees if not smash them, spilling water into the wide shallow bowl that is the city, which was established by the French in 1718.

If the levees hold but the water spills over, the water will be almost impossible to remove, considering the pumps will be swamped and shutdown. Some of the city's pumps sit in houses made in the 1890s, said Stevan Spencer, the Orleans Levee District's chief engineer.

"It all really makes you wonder what the French were doing when they built this place," Spencer said.

It's a shame that Bush Derangement Syndrome has led the Left to try and turn a disaster into a political issue, but the President and the Federal response certainly come out of the whole story better than the historically Democratic and corrupt city and state governments.

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 3, 2005 4:32 PM

What the heck happened to the Great Debate we were having here?

Posted by: Matt Murphy at September 3, 2005 6:18 PM

Nagin should consider himself lucky if he escapes indictment for criminal non-feasance.

Posted by: ghostcat at September 3, 2005 7:16 PM

Mayors are more important than Presidents. In New Orleans everyone from the Mayor to the city council is involved in some sort of criminal enterprise. In short, this is a city run by criminals. It coddles and glorifies the criminal culture. Do you really expect a criminal culture to do things like research the number of people too poor to evacuate in case of disaster. Do you expect a bunch of criminals to devise plans to evacuate in case of emergency? Do you expect the criminal government to take Homeland Security money and not stick it in their pockets? New Orleans here There is also a Corps of Engineers study that showed it would take thirty years to build a levee capable of withstanding a category 4 hurricane. And there is this old piece from the AP

And then this one:

New Orleans has one of the highest murder rates in the country. By mid-August of this year, 192 murders had been committed in New Orleans, "nearly 10 times the national average," reported the Associated Press. Gunfire is so common in New Orleans -- and criminals so fierce -- that when university researchers conducted an experiment last year in which they had cops fire 700 blank rounds in a neighborhood on a random afternoon "no one called to report the gunfire," reported AP. It's the mayor of New Orleans, stupid. And he should be tried for the murder of all those people.

Posted by: Howard Veit at September 3, 2005 11:18 PM

This is one lynching I could support.

Posted by: obc at September 3, 2005 11:57 PM

Like the Plaime scandal, the plastic turkey scandal and so many others, Bush is going to get pounded on this for a while in the media, because so many of them want it to be true. But then sometime next year, the Blue Ribbon committee report will come out, and it will show the biggest failures were in the pre-planning level locally, and in the immediate aftermath of the levys breaking on Tuesday.

At that point, you'll see Democrats, who have been railing about things like the Patriot Act and other laws giving more power to the executive branch, declare that Busb was derelict in his duty by basically not locking Gov. Blanco in a closet and federalizing the National Guard while immediately calling out all available military forces, and then having them shoot the snipers/rapists/murderers on site beginning Wednesday, when the first reports of rescue helicopters being shot at came out.

Truth is, that's probably what Bush should have done, given what everyone knows about the corruption/incompetence of Louisiana government. But that's not where the Democrats' criticism is coming from -- they're just content to say Bush hates black people and wants them to die, and hope that message goes over with the general public.

Posted by: John at September 4, 2005 12:54 AM

Five-Part Series published by The New Orleans Times-Picayune June 23-27, 2002, LEFT BEHIND By John McQuaid and Mark Schleifstein

Hurricane evacuations rarely go as planned. Storm tracks are hard to predict, and roads are not designed to handle the traffic flow, so huge traffic jams are a common result. In 1998 it took six hours for people leaving the New Orleans area in advance of Hurricane Georges to reach Baton Rouge, 80 miles away. The following year, Hurricane Floyd's constantly changing course spurred evacuations and bumper-to-bumper traffic on highways from Florida to North Carolina. ...

Like every coastal area vulnerable to hurricanes, south Louisiana faces these challenges. But the Louisiana delta also has it worse than other coastal areas. Because the entire region is susceptible to storm-surge flooding, hurricanes pose more danger to those left behind than in places where the coastal
profile is higher.

"Evacuation is what's necessary: evacuation, evacuation, evacuation," Jefferson Parish Emergency Preparedness Director Walter Maestri said. "We
anticipate that (even) with refuges of last resort in place, some 5 (percent) to 10 percent of the individuals who remain in the face of catastrophic storms are going to lose their lives.

The region's sinking coast and rising flood risk also make the task of getting people out harder than it is elsewhere. South Louisiana presents some of the most daunting evacuation problems in the United States because:

  • The region's large population, including more than 1 million people in the New Orleans area, requires a 72- to 84-hour window for evacuation, well ahead of the time that forecasters can accurately predict a storm's track and strength.

  • Few north-south escape routes exist to move residents away from the coast, and many of those include low-lying sections that can flood days before a hurricane makes landfall.

  • Evacuees must travel more than 80 miles to reach high ground, meaning more cars on the highways for a longer time as the storm approaches.

  • A large population of low-income residents do not own cars and would have to depend on an untested emergency public transportation system to evacuate them.

  • Much of the area is below sea level and vulnerable to catastrophic flooding. Based on the danger to refugees and workers, the Red Cross has decided not to operate shelters south of the Interstate 10-Interstate 12 corridor, leaving refuges of last resort that offer only minimal protection and no food or bedding. Emergency officials say they have made improvements since Hurricane Georges, but the changes have yet to be tested under real-world conditions, and many obstacles remain.
  • ...


    Louisiana braces for Hurricane Katrina
    Residents evacuated as storm strengthens in warm Gulf waters
    Sunday, August 28, 2005
    Mary Foster

    ... Katrina was expected to strengthen to a Category 4 monster with winds of at least 131 mph before hitting the Gulf Coast on Monday. A hurricane watch extended from Louisiana to the Florida Panhandle, but forecasters are predicting that it will hit shore near New Orleans. At 11 p.m. yesterday, the eye of the hurricane was about 335 miles south-southeast of the mouth of the Mississippi River, the National Hurricane Center said. It had turned to the west-northwest and was moving at nearly 7 mph, with maximum sustained winds of 115 mph. ...

    The storm formed in the Bahamas and ripped across southern Florida on Thursday [8/25/05], causing seven deaths, before moving into the Gulf of Mexico. It was expected to grow in strength over the gulf because surface water temperatures were as high as 90 degrees -- high-octane fuel for hurricanes.

    Katrina could be devastating to New Orleans because the city sits below sea level and is dependent on levees and pumps to keep the water out. A direct hit could submerge the city in several feet of water. Making matters worse, at least 100,000 people in the city lack the transportation to get out of town. Mayor Ray C. Nagin said the Superdome might be used as a shelter for people without cars, with city bus pickup points around New Orleans. ...

    New Orleans' worst hurricane disaster happened 40 years ago, when Hurricane Betsy blasted the Gulf Coast. Floodwaters approached 20 feet in some areas.
    Fishing villages were flattened, and the storm surge left almost half of New Orleans under water and 60,000 homeless. Seventy-four people died in Louisiana, Mississippi and Florida.

    Katrina was a Category 1 storm with 80 mph wind when it hit south Florida on Thursday, and rainfall was estimated at up to 20 inches. Risk modeling
    companies have said early estimates of insured damage range from $600 million to $2 billion. ...


    Big Easy gets off easier than predicted
    Cool air, change in path help prevent worst-case scenario
    Tuesday, August 30, 2005
    Lee Bowman

    Waves of computer-model projections and dire warnings of Hurricane Katrina's potential path and destruction preceded it for days, but a slight jog
    to the north and a shot of cool air kept the "worst-case scenario" from hitting New Orleans yesterday. Katrina goes down as the fourth-most-intense Atlantic hurricane in modern times upon reaching its top sustained winds of more than 160 mph. But the storm didn't maintain its catastrophic strength before making landfall 60 miles south of New Orleans, thanks largely to cooler air from another weather system late Sunday. Katrina turned course just enough that the low-lying city did not get the storm surge that everyone feared would wash over levees and submerge it in 20 to 30 feet of water.

    Wednesday, August 31, 2005
    Brett Martel, David J. Phillip

    NEW ORLEANS -- Rescuers along the hurricane-ravaged Gulf Coast pushed aside the dead to reach the living yesterday in a race against time and rising waters, while New Orleans sank deeper into crisis and Louisiana's governor ordered storm refugees out of this drowning city.

    Two levees broke and sent water coursing into the streets of the Big Easy a full day after New Orleans appeared to have escaped widespread destruction from Hurricane Katrina. An estimated 80 percent of the below-sea-level city was under water, up to 20 feet deep in places, with miles and miles of homes swamped.


    The important thing here is that this was a two stage disaster, and the second stage occurred on Monday morning, just when most of us thought N.O. had dodged the bullet.

    I don't think that it is time to do lessons learned yet. But, Clearly, N.O. should have had an evacuation plan in place and should have begun executing it on Friday. But even if they had they might not have been able to evacuate everybody, if we credit the 84 hr number above.

    Second the N.O. police were clearly out of their league and unable to respond. N.O. is not a well run city. It never was. Its police dept. was under-maned and undisciplined, which may explain why N.O. is a high crime city.

    I think we can safely save the blame-storming for a few weeks and then work on that.

    Posted by: Robert Schwartz [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 4, 2005 1:38 AM

    Utterly preventable disaster claims countless lives. Many people clamoring for water, food and basic care. American response? Send in the troops.

    Nice one, mates.

    Posted by: Dutch at September 4, 2005 3:37 AM


    They're American troops--they save lives.

    Posted by: oj at September 4, 2005 9:36 AM

    Dutch - the troops are there to a) help distribute the aid to the people and b) stop the looters/other criminals from preventing other aid workers from helping the victims.

    In fact, as pointed out on this blog many times, the US military can be considered one of the largest aid/relief organizations in the world due to the aid and assistance they give relating to natural disasters (i.e. like the tsunami)

    Posted by: AWW at September 4, 2005 11:05 AM

    Stick it Dutch!

    Posted by: Genecis at September 4, 2005 11:20 AM

    WE have ships w/the capability to make 90K gallons of water a day. We sent 3 to your neck of the woods, mate - IF you're from down under.

    How many do you have?

    People clamoring for water who EVERY YEAR get reminded that hurricane season is starting and they should stockpile certain items like water.

    I'm in IL, we have tornado season. 1st tues of every month of tornado season, 10 AM tornado sirens go off. Kids have tornado drills in school every year. The TVS and radios get white noise and beeps with the National annoucement of which station to turn to for information in case we get them.

    NO and LA had a plan dated 01/00, you can read it yourself. They didn't follow the plan. AND the levee that broke had recently been upgraded.

    There's a reason our FF based US on self-reliance. The King can't save everyone.

    Posted by: Sandy P at September 4, 2005 1:38 PM

    Yes, a very effective effort, when a Canadian responder team gets into Bernard Parish FOUR DAYS before your beloved FEMA, etc, who insisted no one got through. Turns out the fire dept in Bernard parish lowered the US flag and raised the Canadian one while they saved 138 people in four days, when FEMA finally sauntered in to help.

    Something your media (nevermind your numbskull president) will ever admit.

    Bush is the one who's saying to use force against the holdouts protecting the last of what they have left in this world??? Ignorance begins with your president. Even Honore is refusing to abide by that 'stuck on stupid' decry.

    Posted by: observer at September 11, 2005 8:53 PM

    Hey, Canadians are useful when there's no enemy to face.

    Posted by: oj at September 11, 2005 8:58 PM