September 10, 2005


New Orleans ignored its own plans (Audrey Hudson and James G. Lakely, 9/09/05, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)

The city of New Orleans followed virtually no aspect of its own emergency management plan in the disaster caused by Hurricane Katrina.

New Orleans officials also failed to implement most federal guidelines, which stated that the Superdome was not a safe shelter for thousands of residents.

The official "City of New Orleans Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan" states that the mayor can call for a mandatory citywide evacuation, but the Louisiana governor alone is given the power to carry out the evacuation, which Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco has yet to do. She "begged" people to leave before the storm and is still asking the few thousand holdouts to evacuate the flooded city.

Small-scale evacuations, according to the plan, are to be handled under the standard operation plans of city firefighters and police officers.

"However, due to the sheer size and number of persons to be evacuated, should a major tropical weather system or other catastrophic event threaten or impact the area, specifically directed long-range planning and coordination of resources and responsibilities must be undertaken," the New Orleans plan says.

The plan does not say how such an evacuation should be executed, but states that a full evacuation of the city would take 72 hours, and that the city knows that there are "approximately 100,000 citizens of New Orleans [who] do not have means of personal transportation."

The guidelines of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which has little jurisdiction to act on its own but is designed to work with local authorities, suggests that local evacuation plans "coordinate the use of school buses and drivers to support evacuation efforts."

New Orleans Mayor Faces Tough Questions: Some Say Feisty Leader Lost Control (Robert E. Pierre, 9/10/05, Washington Post)
[W]ith federal forces providing security in a largely vacant city and attention turning toward what it will take to rebuild, it is Nagin who is getting the tough questions.

Should there have been a better plan to evacuate those without cars? Was his police force up to the task? Why weren't there supplies for the legions of people directed to the Superdome? Why were all those city buses left in low-lying areas? Why did so many of his officers leave their posts as the city descended into a chaos that left many residents afraid that either thugs or the elements would kill them?

On conservative talk radio, especially, Nagin has been characterized as an irrational and incompetent local official who lost control of his city, his police force and, ultimately, his senses when he publicly dressed down the president. Even some of his underlings think the critics may be right.

"He should have evacuated the place earlier," said one city firefighter, echoing a mostly whispered sentiment here as the collection of dead bodies begins in earnest. The firefighter asked not to be identified for fear of retribution.

Determining what could have been done better, and what mistakes were made, will take months and perhaps years. Bush is among those vowing to do some accounting. In one recent interview, the mayor said that everyone, including him, shares the blame for the untold numbers of dead lying under the fetid waters that now cover 60 percent of the city. Pressed on the criticisms, Nagin shot back at a news conference this week: "To those who would criticize, where the hell were you?" he said. "Where the hell were you?"

Not in a city that needed to be evacuated?

MORE (via Gene Brown):
Mary, Mary, Quite (To The) Contrary (9/9/2005, Investors Business Daily)

[M]ary Landrieu said of President Bush, "I might likely have to punch him — literally" if he or members of his administration made any more disparaging remarks about local authorities and their pre- and post-Katrina efforts. Some are and were family.

Brother Mitch Landrieu is lieutenant governor of Louisiana. Father "Moon" Landrieu was not only mayor of New Orleans, but also later became secretary of housing and urban development under President Carter.

If anyone had clout in Washington, it would be this family and this swing-state senator. She could easily have traded her vote on a key issue or nomination for needed funding, a common practice in Washington. If funding for levee repairs was less than adequate, she was in a position to get more.
Likewise, ex-Sen. John Breaux was arguably the most influential senator in Washington during the Clinton years, and could easily have gotten more funding, if nothing else, in an effort to break the growing GOP hold on the South.

But if all money ever asked for was appropriated, as Breaux himself has said, everyone knew that the levee system was designed for a Category 3 hurricane, and not for a "once every hundred years" storm that could put New Orleans under 20 feet of water. And the track record of how money that was appropriated was actually spent is not good.

Despite Landrieu's complaints of budget cuts and paltry funding, the fact is that over the five years of the Bush administration, Louisiana has received more money — $1.9 billion — for Army Corps of Engineers civil works projects than any other state, and more than under any other administration over a similar period. California is a distant second with less than $1.4 billion despite a population more than seven times as large.

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 10, 2005 12:00 AM

Where were the critics? Waiting for Nagin to do his job. Watching as he didn't. Hoping he would shut up and get out of the way.

And filling the gap.

Clearly, the hurricane was overwhelming. Nagin deserves some measure of sympathy and understanding. But (at the least) he failed to follow the city's own planning. The pictures of the drowned buses (at several locations) will be his legacy.

And had he done right from the start, he could have headed off a lot of the carping. Instead, he and Blanco embarrassed themselves and hurt their people. I'll bet that none of his subordinates (police chief, emergency people, etc.) fall on their swords for him, when their turn to talk comes.

Posted by: jim hamlen at September 10, 2005 9:22 AM

Speaking of pet peeves, here's a new one I'm rapidly developing: all this talk about levees failing. All of the levees in New Orleans held. Not a single levee failed. Until we talk about what actually happend and how (and whether) it could have been prevented, we're just spinning our wheels.

Posted by: David Cohen at September 10, 2005 9:47 AM

David, do you think it's possible the breach in the wall could have been an act of man and not an act of God (or nature)?

Posted by: erp [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 10, 2005 10:14 AM

I think that water spilled over the wall and undercut it. If foreseen, that is a much easier problem to fix then upgrading levees.

Posted by: David Cohen at September 10, 2005 11:37 AM

The Democrats in and around Louisiana seem to be coming to the creeping revelation that someone is going to have to take the fall for this among local voters, even if the national party keeps trying to pin everything on Brown, Chertoff and Bush. Nagin really doesn't have true ties to the state's 75-year-old party spoils system the way Blanco or Landrieu do, and with his past history as a GOP donor, expect him to be the odd man out, which means the failures of the city will be played up in the ensuing weeks, while the failures at the state level or by the state's representatives in Washington will be muted.

Posted by: John at September 10, 2005 11:43 AM

Who in the entire state has clean hands?

Posted by: oj at September 10, 2005 11:47 AM

And not just Breaux. If it weren't for Larry Flynt, the Speaker of the House would have come from Lousiana for at least a couple of terms, and probably still be from there. As Eastern Washington can attest from its Foley days, having your Congresscritter be the Speaker means getting all sorts of things funded. But even before his aborted Speakership, Livingston had to be in a position to "get things done."

Posted by: at September 10, 2005 12:40 PM

Brian Williams, I think it was, asked Nagin about buses & other evacuation possibilities on their "Blame Bush for Katrina" special last night. Nagin's exact words were "you'll have to ask someone else about that."

Posted by: Timothy at September 10, 2005 1:22 PM

Did Williams follow up and ask his Honor who should be asked since it was his job to deploy the buses.

Posted by: erp [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 10, 2005 1:39 PM

Initially the question was "New Orleans had a Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan, why wasn't it followed?" but now it's going to be "Why did the city of New Orleans lie and say there was a Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan when there really were hardly any plans at all?"

Posted by: carter at September 10, 2005 2:31 PM

Nagin can whine all he wants. He's just getting crisper.

If Rudy had acted like this during 9/11, the good people of NY would have chewed and spit him out right quick. Imagine Abe Beame in office on that day, or David Dinkins. Or John Lindsay.

Posted by: ratbert at September 10, 2005 10:29 PM