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Anniversary: Hurricane Katrina August 29, 2006

Posted by j-dub in National, Politics.

Today is the 1 year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina coming ashore in the Gulf region.  This isn’t the type of anniversary that you celebrate. This anniversary is the antithesis of what most of us associate an anniversary with; the celebration of something good or positive that happened in our lives. No, this anniversary does not connect on any of those levels.

When we remember Hurricane Katrina, we’ll think about the largest displacement of Americans since the dust bowl era. We’ll remember the EXTREMELY PATHETIC response from our federal government. Those memories will also remind us of the lack of preparedness on the local level, in Louisiana (New Orleans more specifically) and elsewhere.

I’m no Bush-hater, please understand that.  Honestly, I actually like the guy.  That said, anyone who thinks the federal response was even adequate….get a life.  This was quite honestly the most embarrasing time to be an American.  Other countries around the world saw the futility of our government during this disaster.  Anyone with a brain could tell you this was a joke of an effort.  FEMA being ran by a former member of the International Arabian Horse Association, was probably the biggest mistake.  The government waiting 4 days to get into the area, another HUGE mistake; along with countless other blunders along the way.  I’d be here for days covering all of them.
Simply put, this whole ordeal reeked of failure from the word go.

It’s real easy for most folks to point the finger at Bush and say “it’s all his fault”.  That’s too easy.  The local authorites, Nagin (mayor of New Orleans), Blanco (Gov. of Louisiana), they should also be seated at the “EXTREMELY PATHETIC” table right next to Bush and the rest of the federal guppies that couldn’t give their all for the people of the Gulf.  Not to mention all of the idiots who looted, didn’t heed proper warnings to evacuate, etc.
I mean seriously, what the HELL were all these people thinking?

The most powerful country in the world couldn’t take care of itself in the face of a hurricane.  A hurricane that we knew about DAYS in advance.  This isn’t like a tornado where you might only have 15 minutes to prepare.  This hurricane was known about well in advance and no one wanted to do anything about it.

Could you imagine the response if a hurricane hit Texas?  We would have seen nothing short of a full-scale invasion of resources to get Texas back on track.  You can guarantee that one.  Take a look at 9/11.  Obviously, not the same type of situation, and I wouldn’t directly compare the two situations.  However, the effort by all the entities involved with 9/11 has been completely polar opposite when compared to New Orleans and the Gulf area.   I won’t blame racial or social implications, but I can see why others would sing that tune.

I’m sure you’ll get bombarded with Katrina stuff today, but here are some links on Hurricane Katrina coverage:

Yahoo! Coverage

MSNBC Coverage

BBC Coverage

American Red Cross Donation Page 

In the end, we can all hope, pray, and wish the best for our fellow Americans in New Orleans and the entire Gulf Region.

Please post your comments, thoughts, ideas here. 



1. Anonymous - August 29, 2006

Probably one of the most over hyped problems has been the blame placed on FEMA. Let me explain. FEMA as part of the federal government steps in to manage a disaster when it becomes difficult for local and state authorities to handle. There needs to be a seamless transition when that happens i.e. the local and state authorities are to have laid the groundwork with regard to evacuation, shelter designation and construction, public safety, communications, medical, and all that entails of each of those in addition to other issues. FEMA should be able to come in and takeover without disruption and add its share of resources and then manage the whole show. FEMA does not have fleets of buses, trains, or planes on stand by around the country in the event of a disaster that requires its involvement. Nor is its staff very big for a government agency. It has only around 2600 people around the country. Again, it is purely a management agency which is where part of its title comes from. While FEMA does have some stocks of supplies it does not have warehouses around the country stocked to the ceiling with food, water, blankets, etc. FEMA also does not a reputation of moving very swiftly, and placing it under another bureaucratic layer did not help.

Having said all that it was not surprising that FEMA was criticised for its response to Katrina. Local and state authrorities had not adequately prepared for Katrina (who could have anticipated the damage) and were in panic mode when FEMA came on the scene. It was like asking the little Dutch boy to plug the dike after the dike had failed. FEMA with its limited resources needed to accomplish immediately what local and state officials had not been able to do. That led to considerable acrimony at all levels and bungled communications sending supplies where supplies were not needed and other places that did not recieve supplies for some time. Local officials waited too long to organize a MANDATORY evacuation and knowingly allowed thousands to stay behind. State officials waited for days for the military, and all the transportation and supplies they provide, to be mobilized. FEMA was simply not able to get a handle on the situation for days because of the magnitude. There are stories of complete blunders at all levels that would be funny if the situation were not quite so tragic. I simply believe that the poor planning and execution beforehand enabled the situation to snowball out of control subsequently forcing critical time to get control of it that could have been better spent in other areas. I won’t even get into the poor news coverage that under reported somethings and exaggerated others making relief difficult.

FEMA should have learned a lesson during Hurricane Andrew in 1992 when over 200,000 peolple were displaced. Those lessons were the same years earlier when Hurricane Hugo hit in 1989. It did well with Hurricane Fran in 1996, and does well when tornadoes devastate areas that need FEMA expertise. There were still criticisms of FEMAs response in 2004 when several hurricanes hit Florida. The bottomline is Katrina completely overwhelmed the government at all levels and FEMA has become the fall guy, rightly or wrongly, for the ensuing response. FEMA never should have been placed under DHS and should be rightfully returned to its stand alone position.

One last thing. If you look at the track of Katrina you will see that it went straight into Mississippi and literally wiped from the map entire towns yet FEMA managed to help them get their act together and still help them while New Orleans people continue to dither. Why?

2. j-dub - August 29, 2006

I love all the smart commenters who post here on my blog!

I agree FEMA is misinterpreted. However, with “management” in your name, people are going to assume that you are the be-all-end-all problem solver. Maybe they should rename to the Federal Emergency Assistance Agency (FEAA).

I’d much rather them be their own entity as well. Government is good at screwing things up, why bury FEMA under more levels of government.

The delay on a mandatory evacuation was, to me, the biggest mistake made by the local/state authorities.

I’m not going to put blame on the news media for OBVIOUS problems that have existed, as your post details, for many many years. Our media is always good at focusing on the negative, and being partisan in nature. However, in this instance, I’d rather them point out the flaws in FEMA, federal, state, and other local agencies. It raises awareness of the problems that exist and helps to get them corrected.

New Orleans cannot be compared to areas of Mississippi for various reasons. Social, demographic, geographic, and economic situations are all dissimilar.

Geography plays a huge part in this, because New Orleans is a bowl that is BELOW sea level. Presenting a much different scenario for all agencies when compared to Mississippi. New Orleans was hardest hit in the most poverty stricken areas of the city. You have significantly more people who had nothing before, and are more dependent on the government helping them rebuild their lives.

Comparing New Orleans to random Mississippi towns/cities doesn’t work.

In the end, I won’t blame any one entity but I can only hope somebody makes it a priority to overhaul the right agencies/departments necessary to correct the problem. The sad part, and I’m an optimistic person, is that I doubt it ever happens.

3. Anonymous - August 29, 2006

My point in bringing up Miss. was basically the response. While the majority of a city wasn’t damaged by wind and water many small towns were wiped out leaving only foundations or empty trailer parks. Mississippians have pulled together and made vast improvements in a years time and are light years ahead of NO in rebuilding their lives. NO political leadership is still sitting around on their hands waiting for the federal government to do it all for them. That is very disheartening to see.

Your comment regarding NO in a bowl brings up a point made by James Lee Witt in the aftermath of the floods of 1993. The comment was made regarding whether or not residents should be allowed to return to areas that are prone to flooding considering the human and property loss. About 50 people died and over 50,000 homes destroyed in ten states. Hundreds of levees broke up and down the Old Miss causing $15-20 billion in damage, and the city of Des Moines (@250,000) went without water for nearly two weeks. The question shoud be asked whether parts of NO should be rebuilt or simply built farther away but still linked to the city in a safer area. So far $40 billion has been spent and what do they have to show for it? At this rate I fear we’ll end up spending well over $200 billion.

4. j-dub - August 30, 2006

Yes, Nawlins’ is definetely light years behind, and it’s clearly a different dynamic than Miss. Obviously they are more dependent on the government in NO, as we both mentioned.

I’ve heard many statements that say parts of New Orleans will NOT be rebuilt. I’m guessing the 9th ward area will be one of those possible areas. However, the political-types would rake Bush, etc over the coals if he/they neglected to rebuild that area that was filled with poverty stricken citizens; who also happened to be African-American.

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