City, state, and federal responses to Katrina

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Amidst all the finger-pointing about the mismanagement of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, the blogosphere is digging for the facts.

Don Singleton has been tracking down the emergency response plans, and the timeline of official actions and responses. I haven't had time to wade through it all, but he's put it together here. Bottom line is that New Orleans wasn't prepared to execute and didn't execute its own plan.

Don links to JunkYard Blog, whose site has maxed out its bandwidth. JunkYard Blog has aerial and satellite photos showing hundreds of New Orleans school buses that were abandoned to the flood waters, rather than being used to evacuate NO residents before the hurricane hit, as the hurricane plan called for.

Since JYB's site is down, I'll point you to the key photos. This is a photo of the New Orleans Regional Transit Authority's bus facility, less than a mile from the Superdome, with 146 buses, enough to ferry at least 9,000 passengers out of the city before the hurricane, if city officials had followed the evacuation plan.

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This photo is of 255 New Orleans school buses, a site that's been dubbed the Mayor Ray Nagin Memorial Motor Pool. There are enough buses here to have carried 13,000 to 17,000 passengers out of New Orleans (depending on bus capacity) prior to the hurricane.

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JunkYard Blog has maxed out its bandwidth, but you can find the information in Google's cache for now.

UPDATE: Be sure to read W.'s comment on why the buses weren't used.

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2 Comments

W. Author Profile Page said:

I did some checking, and the school-bus or transit-bus evacuations out of town wouldn't have worked. New Orleans had a terrible time getting folks out of the city during a mandatory evacuation last year. The traffic out of town was so bad, there was no guarantee the buses would have gotten their occupants out far enough to safety. Also, such a plan was dependent on getting enough volunteer drivers -- which there was no guarantee. Plus when you have an estimated 140,000 residents without a car, such an evacuation by bus would have been hopelessly inadequate.

So they tried to formulate something different. They decided to use buses during a mandatory evacuation to ferry people to the Superdome and Convention Center, which they did. They also urged carless residents to get to those facilities, ride it out there the best they could and wait for the calvary to arrive. Not an ideal situation, but the best they could manage with the time available.

New Orleans realized some problems with the evacuation last year and tried to find improvements on the fly, without knowing how well they'd work until the situation presented itself.

Also, the president declared a state of emergency in Louisiana on Aug. 26 -- well before the hurricane struck land. The declaration "authorizes the Department of Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), to coordinate *all* (my emphasis) disaster relief efforts which have the purpose of alleviating the hardship and suffering caused by the emergency on the local population, and to provide appropriate assistance for required emergency measures, authorized under Title V of the Stafford Act, to save lives, protect property and public health and safety, or to lessen or avert the threat of a catastrophe ... Specifically, FEMA is authorized to identify, mobilize, and provide at its discretion, equipment and resources necessary to alleviate the impacts of the emergency."

In other words, FEMA was given full authority to take whatever action was necessary before, during and after the storm. Once FEMA steps in, the ball's essentially in their court to run the show. Plus you had local officials receiving repeated assurances from the feds. Unfortunately, many Louisianans realized too late that federal help was slow in coming.

Mr. Snitch! said:

So what you're trying to say is, "My dog ate my homework".

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on September 5, 2005 12:16 AM.

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