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September 05, 2005


There would be no reason to have FEMA if FEMA wasn't supposed to help state and local governments with major projects like evacuations. I'm really stunned that this role would even be questioned. If fact it is so obviously a Federal responsiblity that there might not be a site that says FEMA does evacuations for the same reason that there is not likely to be a site that says "during the day the sky is often blue.".
To me the bottom line is that Bush had a responisibity to put a competent person in charge of FEMA, and he failed to do it. FEMA's screwups flow from the bad appointment. The levee breakage isn't, at least to my knowledge, clearly Bush's fault--partly it's the fault of administration decisions, but there are other decisions over many many years that contributed. The failure to get the people out before the storm appears to be mostly FEMA's fault, for not completing their plans as sited above. Local authorities could plan ways to get people out of town but the logistics of where to take them and how they are to be sustained out of town is beyond the scope of a mayor or city concil, so a pre-storm evacuation by bus would have to planned by the state or the Feds.
The biggest screwup is the delay in rescuing people who had found their way to high ground. I really can't see how FEMA and Bush can dodge the responisbility for that.

At risk of not Not Properly Laying The Blame, I'd like to observe that if I live somewhere, particularly an entire region, which is, we fear, likely to be relatively largely wiped out and made unlivable in 48 hours, I'd like my city government, my state government, and the federal government to all do the utmost in their power to get everyone in the region, including me, out of here.

If any of the three screw up, I will hold them faulty, and I'm really not interested in the question of which of the three, per se, has "primary" responsibility, because my perspective is that the responsibility to do what is within their power should be primary for all.

Questions about who has what power are another matter.


First, " You're looking at single seasons. I'm thinking that trends are not made of single seasons."

but from Anarch's data, it would appear that if you took the decade 1995-2005, there are only two years (97 and 99) that aren't in the top 13.

Secondly, I don't know if you read RealClimate, but I'd advise you to check out that post for the actual theory on how "anthropogenic forcing" can affect the climate.

Katrina was the most feared of all meteorological events, a major hurricane making landfall in a highly-populated low-lying region. In the wake of this devastation, many have questioned whether global warming may have contributed to this disaster. Could New Orleans be the first major U.S. city ravaged by human-caused climate change?

The correct answer--the one we have indeed provided in previous posts (Storms & Global Warming II, Some recent updates and Storms and Climate Change) --is that there is no way to prove that Katrina either was, or was not, affected by global warming. For a single event, regardless of how extreme, such attribution is fundamentally impossible. We only have one Earth, and it will follow only one of an infinite number of possible weather sequences. It is impossible to know whether or not this event would have taken place if we had not increased the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere as much as we have. Weather events will always result from a combination of deterministic factors (including greenhouse gas forcing or slow natural climate cycles) and stochastic factors (pure chance).

Due to this semi-random nature of weather, it is wrong to blame any one event such as Katrina specifically on global warming - and of course it is just as indefensible to blame Katrina on a long-term natural cycle in the climate.

Yet this is not the right way to frame the question. As we have also pointed out in previous posts, we can indeed draw some important conclusions about the links between hurricane activity and global warming in a statistical sense. The situation is analogous to rolling loaded dice: one could, if one was so inclined, construct a set of dice where sixes occur twice as often as normal. But if you were to roll a six using these dice, you could not blame it specifically on the fact that the dice had been loaded. Half of the sixes would have occurred anyway, even with normal dice. Loading the dice simply doubled the odds. In the same manner, while we cannot draw firm conclusions about one single hurricane, we can draw some conclusions about hurricanes more generally. In particular, the available scientific evidence indicates that it is likely that global warming will make - and possibly already is making - those hurricanes that form more destructive than they otherwise would have been.


Hurricane forecast models (the same ones that were used to predict Katrina's path) indicate a tendency for more intense (but not overall more frequent) hurricanes when they are run for climate change scenarios.

Quoting the whole thing would be pointless, but that's what links are for. In any event, I would really think twice before writing something that put me on the fingers-in-ears side of the "Is Global Climate Change Real?" debate.

"You are, I think, driving people away."

Is that via pre-cognition, or are the lurkers supporting you in e-mail?

Meanwhile, demonstrating that the apple didn't fall too far from the tree, the repugnant Barbara Bush weighs in with some words of unparalleled empathy. Said she of the refugees in the Houston Astrodome:

"And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this--this (she chuckles slightly) is working very well for them."

Monstrous woman.

Oh, indeed: a fitting Agrippina for our own little Nero.

Sheesh. At the opposite end of the spectrum from Barbara Bush...

Slartibartfast, I apologize for lumping you in with those federal officials actually responsible for the deaths of our fellow citizens.

For me, it comes down to this. The current administration is willing to spend countless hours finessing language and finding legal ways to torture potentially innocent people for iffy military intel. On the other hand, it believes the Federal government is sadly -- tragically! -- bound by the fine letter of the law to let its own citizens die in a sewage-infested hellhole.

Imagine how many lives might've been saved if such daring legal know-how had been applied in this case.

First, about ken's comment: consider me. I write long answers to questions (this will be one), that have sub-parts a, b, c, etc; long parenthetical remarks on unrelated topics like Turkish pronunciation, ludicrous examples, and so on. If one could assume that I would behave exactly the same way in an emergency as I behave on this blog, then any of you might say: hilzoy, in the time it takes you to answer a simple question, hundreds of people could drown. Maybe thousands. -- But so what? There's no reason at all to make the crucial assumption.

As it happens, I have one of two reactions in crises: either I am efficient and level-headed (and terse), or my brain shuts down and I can hardly speak, let alone do anything useful. But I never act the way I act here.

About the law: here is the section of the Homeland Security Act laying out FEMA's responsibilities. It includes the following responsibilities:

"(1) All functions and authorities prescribed by the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (42 U.S.C. 5121 et seq.).

(2) Carrying out its mission to reduce the loss of life and property and protect the Nation from all hazards by leading and supporting the Nation in a comprehensive, risk-based emergency management program—

(A) of mitigation, by taking sustained actions to reduce or eliminate long-term risk to people and property from hazards and their effects;

(B) of planning for building the emergency management profession to prepare effectively for, mitigate against, respond to, and recover from any hazard;

(C) of response, by conducting emergency operations to save lives and property through positioning emergency equipment and supplies, through evacuating potential victims, through providing food, water, shelter, and medical care to those in need, and through restoring critical public services;

(D) of recovery, by rebuilding communities so individuals, businesses, and governments can function on their own, return to normal life, and protect against future hazards; and

(E) of increased efficiencies, by coordinating efforts relating to mitigation, planning, response, and recovery.

(b) Federal Response Plan

(1) Role of FEMA

Notwithstanding any other provision of this chapter, the Federal Emergency Management Agency shall remain the lead agency for the Federal Response Plan established under Executive Order No. 12148 (44 Fed. Reg. 43239) and Executive Order No. 12656 (53 Fed. Reg. 47491)."

(Note explicit reference to response plan, and explicit endorsement of FEMA's lead role.)

So, you might ask, what is the law referred to in the first bit? It's here. In this chapter, the basic laws governing emergency response are laid out. They include: definitions :

"(1) Emergency.— “Emergency” means any occasion or instance for which, in the determination of the President, Federal assistance is needed to supplement State and local efforts and capabilities to save lives and to protect property and public health and safety, or to lessen or avert the threat of a catastrophe in any part of the United States.

(2) Major disaster.— “Major disaster” means any natural catastrophe (including any hurricane, tornado, storm, high water, winddriven water, tidal wave, tsunami, earthquake, volcanic eruption, landslide, mudslide, snowstorm, or drought), or, regardless of cause, any fire, flood, or explosion, in any part of the United States, which in the determination of the President causes damage of sufficient severity and magnitude to warrant major disaster assistance under this chapter to supplement the efforts and available resources of States, local governments, and disaster relief organizations in alleviating the damage, loss, hardship, or suffering caused thereby."


"(a) Request and declaration
All requests for a declaration by the President that an emergency exists shall be made by the Governor of the affected State. Such a request shall be based on a finding that the situation is of such severity and magnitude that effective response is beyond the capabilities of the State and the affected local governments and that Federal assistance is necessary. As a part of such request, and as a prerequisite to emergency assistance under this chapter, the Governor shall take appropriate action under State law and direct execution of the State’s emergency plan. The Governor shall furnish information describing the State and local efforts and resources which have been or will be used to alleviate the emergency, and will define the type and extent of Federal aid required. Based upon such Governor’s request, the President may declare that an emergency exists.

(b) Certain emergencies involving Federal primary responsibility
The President may exercise any authority vested in him by section 5192 of this title or section 5193 of this title with respect to an emergency when he determines that an emergency exists for which the primary responsibility for response rests with the United States because the emergency involves a subject area for which, under the Constitution or laws of the United States, the United States exercises exclusive or preeminent responsibility and authority. In determining whether or not such an emergency exists, the President shall consult the Governor of any affected State, if practicable. The President’s determination may be made without regard to subsection (a) of this section."

(Note: others have already linked to Larry Johnson's version of Gov. Blanco's request pursuant to this law; it's on the LA state web site here. I can't find the text of the President's declarations just now, but Scott McClellan describes them here. So this procedure was followed, and its requirements satisfied.)


"(a) Specified
In any emergency, the President may—

(1) direct any Federal agency, with or without reimbursement, to utilize its authorities and the resources granted to it under Federal law (including personnel, equipment, supplies, facilities, and managerial, technical and advisory services) in support of State and local emergency assistance efforts to save lives, protect property and public health and safety, and lessen or avert the threat of a catastrophe;

(2) coordinate all disaster relief assistance (including voluntary assistance) provided by Federal agencies, private organizations, and State and local governments;

(3) provide technical and advisory assistance to affected State and local governments for—

(A) the performance of essential community services;

(B) issuance of warnings of risks or hazards;

(C) public health and safety information, including dissemination of such information;

(D) provision of health and safety measures; and

(E) management, control, and reduction of immediate threats to public health and safety;

(4) provide emergency assistance through Federal agencies;

(5) remove debris in accordance with the terms and conditions of section 5173 of this title;

(6) provide assistance in accordance with section 5174 of this title; and

(7) assist State and local governments in the distribution of medicine, food, and other consumable supplies, and emergency assistance.

(b) General

Whenever the Federal assistance provided under subsection (a) of this section with respect to an emergency is inadequate, the President may also provide assistance with respect to efforts to save lives, protect property and public health and safety, and lessen or avert the threat of a catastrophe."

So I think it's pretty safe to say that when the President declares an emergency, the NRP goes into effect, and FEMA leads the emergency response, including the coordination of federal and state agencies.

In the event of a terrorist attack, natural disaster or other large-scale emergency, the Department of Homeland Security will assume primary responsibility on March 1st for ensuring that emergency response professionals are prepared for any situation. This will entail providing a coordinated, comprehensive federal response to any large-scale crisis and mounting a swift and effective recovery effort.

I hope it goes without saying that New Orleans is in fact equipped with an evacuation plan (not to mention an catastrophic disaster plan), and that the above doesn't say anything at all about FEMA being responsible for making sure that New Orleans adheres to it.

God forbid we should identify exactly what screwups were committed; the consequences for even trying can be pretty severe.

(ken: cross-posted with you. Thanks.)

If anyone is interested in looking up laws themselves, the easiest way I've found is to use the Table of Contents here, since for some reason search engines don't seem to work for me, as far as the US Code is concerned. The code is handily arranged by topics, so it's usually possible to find what you're looking for without undue effort.

Slart, it is called the Stafford Act and it is cited in the letter that the Governor of LA wrote to Bush via FEMA on August 28, requesting assistance, just like she was obliged to do under the Stafford Act. 42 U.S.C. ss5121-5260. see also regs implementing same at 44 C.F.R 206. And if you want more information than that my charges for legal work are $200 hour, as I am an attorney w/ almost 30 years experience. Let me know and I'd be happy to do the research for you.

I hope it goes without saying that New Orleans is in fact equipped with an evacuation plan (not to mention an catastrophic disaster plan), and that the above doesn't say anything at all about FEMA being responsible for making sure that New Orleans adheres to it.

When FEMA previously wargamed the scenario of a powerful hurricane striking New Orleans, how many people did they estimate would still be in the city after such an evacuation plan was put into action? Did FEMA ensure that emergency response professionals were prepared for that situation? You might also want to look up the word federal. It is not clear from your post that you understand what it means in the context it is being used in.

Slarti: if you don't feel like paying hrc's fees, the Stafford Act is what I cited (not the first law cite, I think, but the others.)

Shockingly, I have in fact heard of the Stafford Act. Also shockingly, I've read pretty much all of it, as hilzoy was kind enough to have left links to it above.

Yes, the Governor did request emergency assistance from the federal government. Believe it or not, I was actually aware of this before you (or, earlier, hilzoy) mentioned it on this thread. What this request has to do with FEMA directing evacuation, though, I have no idea.

Slart, I think you are a pretty smart guy.

Did you even read the links you gave. New Orleans did not have the resources to evacuate the estimated 140,000 people without transportation. Their plan, such as it was, was to open the superdome as the refuge of last resort and to provide bus transportation to it before any hurricane hit. That is what they said, that is what they did.

Where exactly is the screwup? The made the plans based upon the resources they had.

Do you make plans to vacation for a week at the Ritz Carlton when you only have enough money to pay for a single night at Motel 6?

hilzoy, cross :)

So I think it's pretty safe to say that when the President declares an emergency, the NRP goes into effect, and FEMA leads the emergency response, including the coordination of federal and state agencies.

The complicated part is that the NRP explicitly lays out powers according to Federal, State, and local/tribal jurisdiction. This explication, however, is more or less moot in the event of an INS wherein the State or local authorities are "overwhelmed", under which I think the coordination devolves as described above but it's not entirely clear. Can anyone help me out here?

In re hurricance recording prior to the weather service, this implies pretty strongly that what's changed of late is incidence of landfall, not frequency or strength of hurricanes.

Table 5, which lists hurricanes by decades since 1900, shows that during the twenty year period 1960-1979 both the number and intensity of landfalling U.S. hurricanes decreased sharply! Based on 1900-1959 statistics, the expected number of hurricanes and major hurricanes during the period 1960-1979 was 36 and 15, respectively. But, in fact, only 27 (or 75%) of the expected number of hurricanes struck the U.S. with only 10 major hurricanes or 67% of that expected number. The decade of the eighties showed little change to this trend. Even the decade of the nineties, showed below average landfall frequencies. It could be noted that of the most recent four decades, only the 70's and 90's were significantly below normal.
Did you even read the links you gave. New Orleans did not have the resources to evacuate the estimated 140,000 people without transportation.

So you're saying that even though they had an evacuation plan, they knew they couldn't execute it. Interesting. You'd think that someone would have mentioned that beforehand, and requested assistance.

Anarch, I read the whole thing and the language seems to be couched in terms of assistance, with even the direct (as opposed to financial) assistance being done at the direction of the local and state authorities. But what do I know?

To the extent that state laws or local plans contradict federal statute, federal statutes pre-empt. I find the argument that the President had his hands tied legally utterly implausible.

As far as NOLA's lack of an evacuation plan:
they made it sound like the main Red Cross shelters were not far away, just up I-10. I think it should have been possible to give dibs at those shelters to those relying on buses, but who knows if it really was. I agree that without shelter lined up in advance, you don't just start packing buses and sending them onto the roads. Safer in the Superdome than the interstate.

I also don't see the inadequacy of the evacuation plan as solely the local government's failure. The state and federal authorities were well aware. If it was a question of money--and it sounds like it was--they should have been able to get it from the feds. There is no city in the United States that needed an evacuation plan like New Orleans did. In many cases it would be stupid and not cost effective, but the hurricane-hits-NOLA was known to be THE most realistic scenario for more or less losing a U.S. city--and unlike the other nightmare scenarios, the giant California earthquakes and the nuclear attacks on NY or DC, there is advance warning. If we can afford the Don Young bridge to nowhere and the various luxurious amenities for Homeland Security in Wyoming and North Dakota, we can afford some damn buses for this. And even if THAT were not possible FEMA had ample notice that a lot of people were going to be left behind, that the levees might break, and that things could get very bad very quickly for a whole lot of people. So while I think the city and state could havedone much better, especially on the evacuation front, it doesn't really exonerate the administration or FEMA to me.

I haven't been back to this thread for a few hours, but I'm really unhappy that a few posters have turned Slartibartfast into a cardboard stand-in for (whatever). Enough is not known that a little politely phrased second-guessing from a regular deserves better treatment.

The main reason I read ObWi is that it tries really hard not to be partisan. Slartibartfast was asking devil's advocate questions of a consensus that was rapidly forming among more liberal commentors. I suspect that one of the reasons that his comments have become more terse and cryptic is that he feels that commentors here will leap all over any extended and more committed comment.

I'm sure Slartibartfast can defend himself, but I'd like to plead to my fellow liberals to remember why they're here rather than at the avowedly Democratic sites. Even if your only goal is to shame and smash Republicans of any stripe, driving Republicans/conservatives away from this site will hardly be effective: they will simply go elsewhere, convinced that there's no use arguing with leftists.

And lo, Slartibartfast defends himself. I retire, hoping for reality-based comity.

Anarch: I'm working now not from the NRP, but from the implementing regs which hrc was kind enough to direct us to. (hrc: if you ever need an ethics consult, just ask.) Here is the table of contents for 44 C.F.R 206. In it we find:


"(a) Federal Coordinating Officer. Upon a declaration of a major disaster or of an emergency by the President, the Director, or in his absence, the Deputy Director, or alternately, the Associate Director shall appoint an FCO who shall initiate action immediately to assure that Federal assistance is provided in accordance with the declaration, applicable laws, regulations, and the FEMA-State Agreement."

Then this:

"(a) Following a declaration of a major disaster or an emergency, the FCO shall:

(1) Make an initial appraisal of the types of assistance most urgently needed;

(2) In coordination with the SCO, establish field offices and Disaster Application Centers as necessary to coordinate and monitor assistance programs, disseminate information, accept applications, and counsel individuals, families and businesses concerning available assistance;

(3) Coordinate the administration of relief, including activities of State and local governments, activities of Federal agencies, and those of the American Red Cross, the Salvation Army, the Mennonite Disaster Service, and other voluntary relief organizations which agree to operate under the FCO's advice and direction;

(4) Undertake appropriate action to make certain that all of the Federal agencies are carrying out their appropriate disaster assistance roles under their own legislative authorities and operational policies; and

(5) Take other action, consistent with the provisions of the Stafford Act, as necessary to assist citizens and public officials in promptly obtaining assistance to which they are entitled.

(b) The SCO coordinates State and local disaster assistance efforts with those of the Federal Government working closely with the FCO. The SCO is the principal point of contact regarding coordination of State and local disaster relief activities, and implementation of the State emergency plan. The functions, responsibilities, and authorities of the SCO are set forth in the State emergency plan. It is the responsibility of the SCO to ensure that all affected local jurisdictions are informed of the declaration, the types of assistance authorized, and the areas eligible to receive such assistance."

Wow. I have to say I didn't expect that, Jackmormon. I thank you, and affirm that you're pretty much dead on.

Anarch: on p. 4 of the NRP, an example of an 'Incident of National Significance' is a major disaster or emergency as defined under the Stafford Act, which Katrina is. So I think it counts.

Here it is! I knew I'd seen this somewhere, and finally found it:

"Pursuant to 44 CFR ? 206.35, I have determined that this incident is of such severity and magnitude that effective response is beyond the capabilities of the State and affected local governments, and that supplementary Federal assistance is necessary to save lives, protect property, public health, and safety, or to lessen or avert the threat of a disaster. I am specifically requesting emergency protective measures, direct Federal Assistance, Individual and Household Program (IHP) assistance, Special Needs Program assistance, and debris removal.

- From Gov. Blanco's letter of August 26, 2005, in which she declared a state of emergency and requested Federal assistance.

So. The state Governor makes a formal declaration of a state of emergency, and formally asks for Federal assistance, and cites the Federal law that pertains to same.

How is it possible that, that being done, there is any doubt that the Federal goverment is required to, in fact, assist?

Is there some odd little gap in the law perhaps? One that states the declaration of emergency and request for Federal assistance, even if done according to the relevant Federal law, doesn't actually count unless the Federal government invokes some other CFR?

Is requesting disaster assistance from the Federal Government, in other words, kind of like playing Simon Says?

Maybe Slarti can answer this question.

Here it is! I knew I'd seen this somewhere, and finally found it:

A little reading upthread might have saved you some work. Here's the original, just in case.

How is it possible that, that being done, there is any doubt that the Federal goverment is required to, in fact, assist?

With cleanup? With unemployment assistance? I'm sorry, exactly what part of the letter do you need help with? Maybe you can help me, in turn, with the location of those parts of the letter that are salient to your point.

Jackmormon- I can't speak for everyone, but I get angry when Slarti gets like this. Longer comments from him would be much less likely to get me upset.

Slarti- Despite repeatedly asking for evidence you seem to not be willing to provide it yourself.

Where is your evidence that Nagin didn't follow the N.O. evacuation plan. Where is your evidence that the evacuation failed?

I ask because I have already said the plan was successful.

from Brad Delong's site:
City, state and federal emergency officials are preparing to give the poorest of New Orleans' poor a historically blunt message: In the event of a major hurricane, you're on your own. In scripted appearances being recorded now, officials such as Mayor Ray Nagin, local Red Cross Executive Director Kay Wilkins and City Council President Oliver Thomas drive home the word that the city does not have the resources to move out of harm's way an estimated 134,000 people without transportation.

In the video, made by the anti-poverty agency Total Community Action, they urge those people to make arrangements now by finding their own ways to leave the city in the event of an evacuation. "You're responsible for your safety, and you should be responsible for the person next to you," Wilkins said in an interview. "If you have some room to get that person out of town, the Red Cross will have a space for that person outside the area. We can help you. "But we don't have the transportation."

Officials are recording the evacuation message even as recent research by the University of New Orleans indicated that as many as 60 percent of the residents of most southeast Louisiana parishes would remain in their homes in the event of a Category 3 hurricane. Their message will be distributed on hundreds of DVDs across the city. The DVDs' basic get-out-of-town message applies to all audiences, but the it is especially targeted to scores of churches and other groups heavily concentrated in Central City and other vulnerable, low-income neighborhoods, said the Rev. Marshall Truehill, head of Total Community Action. "The primary message is that eachperson is primarilyresponsibleforthemselves, for their own family and friends," Truehill said.

In addition to the plea from Nagin, Thomas and Wilkins, video exhortations to make evacuation plans come from representatives of State Police and the National Weather Service, and from local officials such as Sen. Ann Duplessis, D-New Orleans, and State Rep. Arthur Morrell, D-New Orleans, said Allan Katz, whose advertising company is coordinating officials' scripts and doing the recording. The speakers explain what to bring and what to leave behind. They advise viewers to bring personal medicines and critical legal documents, and tell them how to create a family communication plan. Even a representative of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals weighs in with a message on how to make the best arrangements for pets left behind.

Production likely will continue through August. Officials want to get the DVDs into the hands of pastors and community leaders as hurricane season reaches its height in September, Katz said.

Believing that the low-lying city is too dangerous a place to shelter refugees, the Red Cross positioned its storm shelters on higher ground north of Interstate 10 several years ago. It dropped plans to care for storm victims in schools or other institutions in town. Truehill, Wilkins and others said emergency preparedness officials still plan to deploy some Regional Transit Authority buses, school buses and perhaps even Amtrak trains to move some people before a storm.

An RTA emergency plan dedicates 64 buses and 10 lift vans to move people somewhere; whether that means out of town or to local shelters of last resort would depend on emergency planners' decision at that moment, RTA spokeswoman Rosalind Cook said. But even the larger buses hold only about 60 people each, a rescue capacity that is dwarfed by the unmet need. In an interview at the opening of this year's hurricane season, New Orleans Emergency Preparedness Director Joseph Matthews acknowledged that the city is overmatched. "It's important to emphasize that we just don't have the resources to take everybody out," he said in a interview in late May.

In the absence of public transportation resources, Total Community Action and the Red Cross have been developing a private initiative called Operation Brother's Keeper that, fully formed, would enlist churches in a vast, decentralized effort to make space for the poor and the infirm in church members' cars when they evacuate. However, the program is only in the first year of a three-year experiment and involves only four local churches so far. The Red Cross and Total Community Action are trying to invent a program that would show churches how to inventory their members, match those with space in their cars with those needing a ride, and put all the information in a useful framework, Wilkins said. But the complexities so far are daunting, she said.

The inventories go only at the pace of the volunteers doing them. Where churches recruit partner churches out of the storm area to shelter them, volunteers in both places need to be trained in running shelters, she said. People also have to think carefully about what makes good evacuation matches. Wilkins said that when ride arrangements are made, the volunteers must be sure to tell their passengers where their planned destination is if they are evacuated. Moreover, although the Archdiocese of New Orleans has endorsed the project in principle, it doesn't want its 142 parishes to participate until insurance problems have been solved with new legislation that reduces liability risks, Wilkins said. At the end of three years, organizers of Operation Brother's Keeper hope to have trained 90 congregations how to develop evacuation plans for their own members.

Meanwhile, some churches appear to have moved on their own to create evacuation plans that assist members without cars. Since the Hurricane Ivan evacuation of 2004, Mormon churches have begun matching members who have empty seats in cars with those needing seats, said Scott Conlin, president of the church's local stake. Eleven local congregations of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints share a common evacuation plan, and many church members have three-day emergency kits packed and ready to go, he said. Mormon churches in Jackson, Miss., Hattiesburg, Miss., and Alexandria, La., have arranged to receive evacuees. The denomination also maintains a toll-free telephone number that functions as a central information drop, where members on the road can leave information about their whereabouts that church leaders can pick up and relay as necessary, Conlin said.

If you want to claim or imply that Nagin didn't ask the state and the feds for resources to do better by his people provide some evidence. He has arlready said otherwise.

Internet has been in and out today, so several comments compressed into one
I strongly suspect that one reason, maybe the main reason, the state/city didn't send all available busses into NO as the storm approached, was that there was no place to put the people.

A wargame for a 'Hurricane Pam' predicted all of this, and the followup was to plan emergency services for those evacuated to the Superdome. Federal funding for that followup was cut.
Some comments from the NO police chief at the Times-Picayune's weblog

"Not one of my deputy chiefs left," said Compass, who was accompanied by the Rev. Jesse Jackson in Baton Rouge. "We had 150 officers trapped in eight feet of water. It wasn't 150 desertions. We were fighting odds that you could not imagine. We had no food. We had no water. We ran out of ammunition. We were fighting in waist-deep water."


Compass also blasted anyone who thought he was out of town during the storm or its aftermath. "I have an 8-month pregnant wife and a 3 year-old daughter who I evacuated in my police car to Denham Springs," he said.
The police chief, who came from the ranks of NOPD to lead the department once plagued by corruption and outrageous law-breakers wearing badges, said New Orleans was overwhelmed by a tiny contingent of the worst kind of criminals -- not the masses of city residents who took shelter from the storm.

I think this will be one of the big stories to be picked out, especially since the Mayor is arranging vacations for NO first responders. Note how this article focusses the point, making it seem unreasonable, but Las Vegas is an obvious destination because the infrastructure and casino links to New Orleans guarantee donations of rooms, etc.
Party discipline kicks in. Sen Vitter is on CNN and just said that Bush was focussed on the crisis, but 'the bureaucracy under him failed'.

second data point

Boustany three days ago:

Rep. Charles W. Boustany Jr., (R-La.), said he spent the past 48 hours urging the Bush administration to send help. "I started making calls and trying to impress upon the White House and others that something needed to be done," he said. "The state resources were being overwhelmed, and we needed direct federal assistance, command and control, and security -- all three of which are lacking."

Boustany today:

BOUSTANY: Most of the red tape and problems have been at the state level. I have to say that the federal response has been focused on New Orleans with search and rescue operations which is going very, very well at this stage. But we've had a completely ineffectual state response and this is being borne by the local communities to help now. and I have asked the president to take this into consideration, consider that the state response is completely ineffectual and the full range of social and health care needs needs to be met.

Some predictions about stories

Two airlines are about to go bankrupt, Northwest, followed by a second one, because they can't handle increased fuel costs (Northwest is in particular troublt because they are already hanging by a thread and have a fleet of relatively inefficient jets because they have postponed purchasing new ones)

A long series of lawsuits will take place over access to admin deliberations over the disaster and national guard deployment questions, with the admin declaring that they can't be released because of national security.

A diaspora of New Orleanians will not only change the political landscape, but will result in more activism/discontent with the right in the communities they relocate to.

Aaron Broussard. Gutsy decision to open up Jeff Parish will make a difference in people and the city getting back up.

Foreign workers, especially on the Coast casinos. This article underestimates the number who were employed, I think.

Unlike many people in parish government, Broussard has been in the lower depths of hell before. He was mayor of Kenner when a catastrophic flood washed over southeast Louisiana on May 8, 1995. Earlier, on July 9, 1982, just eight days after Broussard was sworn in as mayor, Pan American World Airways Flight 759 stumbled on takeoff from New Orleans International Airport and smashed into an east Kenner neighborhood, killing 154 people, including eight on the ground.


"Ten days after the Pan Am crash, we had cleaned up the site and buried the bodies," he said. "I want to return this parish into a place that people will recognize in three weeks. I know that's ambitious, but I'm going to do everything I can to make that happen."

A rather painful (in retrospect) speech from 2004 by Tom Ridge

Here we are in New Orleans, birthplace of jazz. Imagine if a quintet of musicians was asked to play a big concert. But each one was given a different page of sheet music from which to learn a big musical number. And say that they were thrown together for the concert and were not able to meet to practice.

You could have the best jazz musicians in the world, but if they are playing from different song sheets, if they each are playing five different songs, then all you’re going to get is noise. Or, what you’ll get with great musicians is after awhile they will make it work; they’ll improvise and figure out a way to get the job done.

That’s how we feel about our first responders and interoperability. We believe the first responders in this nation are world-class, talented, persistent, and devoted to their craft. And their craft happens to be to save lives.

But if they are pulled together by an event – whether a catastrophic event, or a smaller incident – and if they cannot communicate together; if they did not practice together and prepare; if they don’t have integrated, compatible equipment, then they will face exceptionally difficult challenges.

But because our first responders are talented and devoted, they, too, will improvise, adapt and figure out a way to get the job done. But in the business of saving lives, that’s not good enough.

So it’s the Department of Homeland Security’s job to help coordinate and lead the national effort to ensure that first responders have the ability to communicate clearly in the case of a major emergency.

and here is the DHS allocations to Louisiana

Homeland Security Grant Program: $17,679,253
Law Enforcement Terrorism Prevention Program: $6,428,819

Urban Area Security Initiative Allocations (UASI)

* Baton Rouge: $5,226,495
* New Orleans: $9,305,180

Other Grants Programs: $4,030,041

Anarch: on p. 4 of the NRP, an example of an 'Incident of National Significance' is a major disaster or emergency as defined under the Stafford Act, which Katrina is. So I think it counts.

I know, I've cited it elsewhere. The problem was that I didn't have the Stafford Act at hand, and the NRP is deliberately couched in "companionable" language (as now Slarti and I have both noted). I assumed, for a number of reasons, that an INS invoked as per CaseyL's cite above would supercede the "companionability" clause on simple pragmatic grounds, but it's nice to have this confirmed.

Oh no! embedded blockquotes!

CaseyL: the President can refuse the request for assistance. But in this case, he granted it. Under both the regs and the NRP (see p. 15), the feds coordinate the response in any Incident of National Significance, of which this is one. NRP, p. 7:

"all Presidentially declared disasters and emergencies under the Stafford Act are considered Incidents of National Significance"

Hang in there, LJ. Storm should pass soon, if it hasn't already done so.

Anarch: since I posted about half the Stafford Act, it should always be at hand now ;)

A diaspora of New Orleanians will not only change the political landscape, but will result in more activism/discontent with the right in the communities they relocate to.

Just heard on the local news that Madison's going to be picking up about 500 (?) evacuees from Nawlins. Go us!

And on that note, I heard on MSNBC, I think it was, earlier today that due to absorbing refugees a number of states are now eligible for Federal disaster aid that weren't otherwise eligible. They specifically mentioned Colorado and Florida as getting funds but not Minnesota, Massachussetts or (now) Wisconsin. Anyone got a list of the states now eligible?

I politicize (with bonus attempted New Testament reference!) a non-politicization of Katrina (all content in second link).

Jackmormon- I can't speak for everyone, but I get angry when Slarti gets like this. Longer comments from him would be much less likely to get me upset.

Two things: I am as I have always been (same as it ever was...), and...ok, and the second one is just petty. Consider this an effective self-editing.

Slarti- Despite repeatedly asking for evidence you seem to not be willing to provide it yourself.

You know, I think I'd look pretty goddamned silly if I were asking for that which I already had. Wouldn't I?

from Brad Delong's site:

You know, sometimes I feel a kinship with Gary Farber: if I hadn't cited this very thing upthread, maybe you could assume that I hadn't laid eyes on it before.

Where is your evidence that the evacuation failed?

Aside from the numerous claims here that it did? I thought that was one point we were all in agreement on: that the evacuation was a failure. Well, here's the plan; you tell me if you think all the steps were followed. I can point out a few things that didn't happen, but since this isn't a particularly well-written plan, there's a bit of wiggle room. I suppose that at some point, Mobilize parish/local transportation to assist persons who lack transportation or who have mobility problems may have been executed to some small degree.

slarti- Small degree? They filled the stadium and sent ~25,000 people to a secondary shelter. Supposedly 80% of New Orleanians left town. The best they had ever done before was 60%. What do you want from the guy?

Just to make it clear:

"The overall strategy for dealing with a catastrophic hurricane is to evacuate as
much of the at risk population as possible from the path of the storm and
relocate them to a place of relative safety outside the projected high water
mark of the storm surge flooding and hurricane force winds."

Everyone who got to the stadium or the convention center was sucsessfully evacuated acording to plan.

Is that via pre-cognition

Indeed. The doctors say the pineal gland in my brain is unusually sized. It's that,'s possibly via reading the comments on this website and making an educated guess.

Hence "I think". Which, btw, is the sort of turn of phrase Slartibartfast might use.

Regardless, he has clarified that he is indeed asking these questions, repeatedly, out of sincere ignorance of the subject and my pineal gland is silent as to the truth of the matter.

Of course the question as to whether the survivors should have followed the plan by going to the designated sites is a completely different one. I would have to answer in the negative.

Probably no US evacuation in the future will be as sucessful as this one since now the survivors will know that they will be on their own.

The best they had ever done before was 60%.

For Georges. A Category 2. I'm thinking there's not much of a comparison, here.

What do you want from the guy?

It's not important or even relevant what I want from the guy, Frank. I do think when assembling the blame team, though, that it's important to include a few representatives who are actually responsible.

I suspect that one of the reasons that his comments have become more terse and cryptic is that he feels that commentors here will leap all over any extended and more committed comment.

Actually, my pineal gland is telling me that it's because of terse and cryptic commentary that,, not "turn on", but rather no longer feel inclined to listen.

Perhaps if you feel you're are being misunderstood then maybe terseness and crypticism are not the way to go?

But this is all pre-cog nonsense.

That's just me, though.

Hopefully, the urge to eat human brains* is one you can resist, 2shoes.

Frank, that Times-Picayne article is hardly support for a strong civic evacuation drive. DVD warnings to the poor? Matched with a statement that some local churches felt that parallel plans would be better? This article doesn't *prove* much except that certain weaknesses were foreseen, that the local authorities hoped to use busses in the event of an evacuation, and that everybody hoped to use church networks as a subsitute for government. (Yay, Mormons evacuated their own. They also have a parallel welfare system funded by a ten percent tax on their members.)

Where I agree with what I imagine you're arguing: 80% is really an amazing evacuation rate, if it's indeed true. (I remain agnostic about all numbers coming out of this disaster zone.)

It's the next part that deserves argument, and it deserves civil argument, particularly now that we have reason to hope that federal relief has finally kicked in. I'm as pissed off as anyone about the week that New Orleans drowned, but it's worth our while to think clearly about how responsibility and authority sorts out.

What kills me is that nobody seemed in control, that chain of command wasn't clear, that available and willing resources weren't tapped while NO drowned. This fiasco needs honest sorting out so that it can never happen again. It seems clear to me, sitting safely in my NYC apartment, that some cities simply don't have the resources to save their populations. I would like such cities to be able to call in federal support. I would also like such callings-in to have a clear line of authority so that everybody knows who's in control. That process is what is really in debate, I think.

I'm out for good now.

Slarti- Well no doubt. There is no one more responsible than Bush and he is always the Captain of the blame team.

I'm going to bed. My cause and I bid you all a fond adieu.

I hesitate to wade into this, but there was Ivan
In New Orleans, Mayor Ray Nagin declared a state of emergency and strongly recommended that residents evacuate immediately.

A hurricane warning was issued from Grand Isle, south of New Orleans, to Apalachicola, Florida. A hurricane warning means hurricane conditions will likely affect the area within 24 hours.

A hurricane watch remained in effect west of the warning area, from Grand Isle to Morgan City, Louisiana.

"[New Orleans] basically sits like a bowl, and most of the city is under sea level ... so if we get a storm like Ivan to hit us directly" there could be 12 to 18 feet of water in the city, Nagin said.

If people can't get out of New Orleans, the mayor said, they should do a "vertical evacuation."

"Basically, go to hotels and high-rise buildings in the city."

Mandatory evacuations have been issued for St. Charles and Plaquemines parishes. Officials strongly urged residents of Jefferson Parish to begin leaving.

Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco declared a state of emergency Monday, and in a news conference Tuesday urged coastal residents in designated areas to leave immediately.

However, Katrina was the first time a mandatory evacuation was ordered, so it was unprecedented. I was in Mississippi on from the 8/19-8/22 and all of the New Orleans stations were discussing the steps taken to prepare the Superdome, as well as 10 other shelters of last resort.

Indeed, while the power was working, staying in the Superdome was not too problematic.

The Superdome opened its doors at noon Sunday, and New Orleans' most frail residents got priority. The stadium is by far the most solid of the Big Easy's 10 refuges for the estimated 100,000 city residents who don't have the means, or strength, to join a mandatory evacuation.

"They hadn't opened up and let us in here, there'd have been a lot of people floating down river tomorrow," said Merrill Rice, 64. "If it's as bad as they say, I know my old house won't stand it."

Residents lined up for blocks, clutching meager belongings and crying children as National Guardsman searched them for guns, knives and drugs. It was almost 10:30 p.m. before the last person was searched and allowed in. Thornton estimated 8,000 to 9,000 were inside when the doors closed for the 11 p.m. curfew.
Thornton worried about how everyone would fare over the next few days.

"We're expecting to be here for the long haul," he said. "We can make things very nice for 75,000 people for four hours. But we aren't set up to really accommodate 8,000 for four days."

There is also this

Gov. Kathleen Blanco this morning urged evacuees to sit tight and try not to rush back home to the New Orleans area when Hurricane Katrina begins to pass later today.

At about 9:30 a.m., the storm was about 30 miles southeast of New Orleans and heading north.

"It will be impossible for you to get where you need to go - undoubtedly," she said as roadways flooded and tress came down across south Louisiana.

"Too many people stayed as far as we are concerned," she said. "Please be patient and stay away. Be safe."

The governor said evacuees should wait for an all-clear from their parish officials.

Both of these suggest that Blanco and Nagin succeeded in providing the first line of defense, but it was the breeched levee, coupled with the absence/inability of Guard response that takes the main blame.

Also look at this link and the date.

The National Guard's solid response to Hurricane Katrina demonstrates that the Guard is still fully capable of responding to stateside emergencies while supporting the war in terror overseas, the chief of the National Guard Bureau told the American Forces Press Service today.

Army Lt. Gen. H. Steven Blum described the thousands of Army and Air National Guard troops called to active duty in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida and other states to support hurricane operations as a testament to the Guard's ability to carry out its federal and state missions simultaneously.

Guard members along the Gulf Coast are performing a variety of missions, from providing security at the emergency shelter at the New Orleans Superdome, where thousands of local residents are seeing refuge from Hurricane Katrina, to assisting with emergency evacuations.

As the storm's fury begins to wane, the Guard will begin providing a wide range of other support: helping law enforcement agencies with security and traffic control; transporting and distributing food, water and ice; conducting searches and rescues; providing generator support; and carrying out other missions to support live and property.

This roundup points out the preparations made and the grinding poverty of those who were trapped.

So you're saying that even though they had an evacuation plan, they knew they couldn't execute it. Interesting. You'd think that someone would have mentioned that beforehand, and requested assistance.

No, that's what you're saying. I'm saying that, instead of ensuring that emergency response professionals were prepared for any situation (and you have cited information that claims this is their responsibility), FEMA did not even ensure that emergency response professionals were prepared for entirely predictable situations forecast well in advance. They did not ensure that emergency response professionals were prepared to deal with courses of action they themselves recommended. They didn't do their damn job.

The reasons? Nothing new, just the incompetence and ideology of the Bush administration.

Come back after a few days away and you find just insane stuff - Derbyshire on the greater need of African-Americans for moral guidance, via Atrios. Glad at least ObWi hasn't burned down.

OK, let me get this straight. The reason that Bush is not to be blamed here is because the Mayor and/or governor didn't fill out a 27B/6? Good luck with that one guys.

More politicizing Katrina from RedState.

Just in case anyone is curious, and hasn't already figured it out, Google has recent (31 Aug) satellite snaps of New Orleans. For example, a different perspective on the famous school bus photo: before and after. Also, yachts. (Won't someone think of the yachts?)

Thanks for the troll-pointing, J, and hope you don't mind that I cleaned up your comments with theirs. I figured they were disposable, having served their purpose.

Thanks for the troll-pointing, J, and hope you don't mind that I cleaned up your comments with theirs.

Of course not. Thanks for the cleanup work.


Conversely: non-politicization of Katrina.

This isn't about politics. This is about all of our safety. Katrina, and the response to Katrina, has become a national security issue – maybe the biggest one the country has faced since 9/11. As the editor of a website devoted to the future of national security, I can't – and won't – avoid something so important. It wouldn't be right.

After the September 11th attacks, the Department of Homeland Security was put together with two major goals in mind: deter further terrorist strikes, and respond to disasters, both natural and man-made -- since the evacuation plans, medical responses, and the like are largely the same in either case.

Four years and countless billions of dollars later, we've seen a clumsy, ten-thumbed response from DHS. Ships and troops were delayed for days before they were ordered to the disaster zone. Tens of thousands were left stranded, without food or water or medical care, while relief agencies were turned away.

All this, after a disaster everyone knew was coming. Now, imagine what would have happened after a surprise attack. Al Qaeda operatives have to be wondering the same thing. It's as if we've hung a giant "kick me" sign around the nation's neck.

Jes: I just cleaned up one of your spam pointers too, after reading that it was OK.

About the RedState story: by the time either the liberal or the conservative blog donation thingos had appeared, I had already given directly through the Red Cross. As, I assume, had a lot of people.

some quick thoughts.

it seems to me that the City's plan for dealing with a hurricane of providing a central facility or two is entirely reasonable. After all, the Mayor cannot force people to leave their homes nor force other cities to make space and transportation available.

the State should have probably done more to protect transportation assets. Once it was clear that the storm would be a monster it was likely already too late to start moving large numbers of people. but getting buses to high shelter should have been a priority.

once the storm was through and the levees went, i don't understand what anybody expected from the Mayor. His city was underwater and his too-small police force was overwhelmed.

now, as between the state and the feds I don't know who has the power to deploy Guardsmen. That is a key question. Obviously only the feds can deploy US military assets, and those seem to have moved very slowly except for certain Coast Guard units.

but the responsibility for extracting the thousands of people left stranded has to be laid at FEMA's doorstep. That's what we have it for, to bring the power of the several states to bear when a single state is overwhelmed.

to the conservatives objecting to the liberals' attack on FEMA, what were the deficiencies of the state and local response? what should have been done differently?

As has been pointed out, the liberal one is an single donation account, the conservative one an aggregated list.

In any event, the desire to wipe certain smug grins off certain smug faces was strong enough to make me donate there even though I've already donated once.

Oh, and to respond to Slaritbartfast in a way that I think is appropriate:

The evacuation of the city was, in my opinion, a State and Municipal responsibility and, for whatever reason, (not helped by Nagin being a schmuck) they dropped the ball.

After the hurricane hit and wiped out the infrastructure, it became far more than State resources could reasonably handle and demanded a full and prompt federal response. This did not happen.

Saying that everyone deserves to be raked over the coals for this does not let Bush or the feds off lightly at all. This was a massive failure at every level.

I don't know who has the power to deploy Guardsmen

The governor of the state in question. To import NG from other states, there has to be a request put to the governor(s) of the state(s) in question.

... because the Mayor and/or governor didn't fill out a 27B/6?

Aha! FEMA is being run by the Vogons!

Saying that everyone deserves to be raked over the coals for this does not let Bush or the feds off lightly at all.


To import NG from other states, there has to be a request put to the governor(s) of the state(s) in question.

And which must also be approved by the White House. The holdup of which is why the New Mexico Guard was delayed for a number of days.

The governor of the state in question. To import NG from other states, there has to be a request put to the governor(s) of the state(s) in question.

I'm fairly sure that all the affected states were requesting NG presence in the 28th-29th, since CNN was talking about that sort of thing, but I don't have a cite offhand.

CaseyL: How is it possible that, that being done, there is any doubt that the Federal goverment is required to, in fact, assist?

Slarti: With cleanup? With unemployment assistance? I'm sorry, exactly what part of the letter do you need help with? Maybe you can help me, in turn, with the location of those parts of the letter that are salient to your point.

Perhaps the part: I am specifically requesting emergency protective measures, direct Federal Assistance,..

Perhaps Blanco was negligent for failing to list all the possible avenues for assistance and protective measures, but since FEMA's early notable accomplishments seem to have been in keeping aid from arriving to those who needed it and in not providing significant protective measures, the point is probably moot.

With a federal response like this, it would behoove state governors (especially in hurricane areas) to nix any more requests for National Guard for Iraq. It looks like you better hold on to any resources you've got because you're going to need them.

Politicizing Frances.

The "At All Levels" post is broken...

It was broken from the moment it was conceived...

If by broken you mean "misleading, factually-challenged, and filled with more hackery than a Counterstrike LAN party," then yes, it's broken.

Ok, I can get to it again. Lately it seems as if a lot of the web is run by FEMA.

JMM on what the admin thinks firefighters are best at. I hope those responsible receive justice.

I'm not sure why political pundits would balk at being accused of "politicizing" this event. That's what they do. ESPN focused on the impact this would have on the area sports teams and didn't take the time to worry about whether they were sporticizing Katrina.

At the same time, I'm not sure why this would be an accusation, as if it were something to be ashamed of. Unless they happen to live nearby, the only way most pundits can help is with their wallet, and most that I read at least already have and will continue to do so. That still leaves plenty of time to focus on the political aspects of the situation, which is again what political pundits do.

Aha! FEMA is being run by the Vogons!

Ral - get your movie references right, damnit!

ladan: I'm not sure why political pundits would balk at being accused of "politicizing" this event.

Because, uniformly, the right-wing blogosphere seems to call it "politicizing" if you criticize Bush.

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