Saturday, September 10, 2005

A Tale of Two Storms Part One

I have been remiss in my posting and picked a hell of a time to start up again. My goal after this return is to focus on “A Tale Of Two Storms”. Actually it will evolve into a tale of at least four storms. This first post since my sabbatical will be about the storm called Katrina and the second storm of the political storm following in its wake.

Katrina is the most devastating natural disaster in our history. Nothing like stating the obvious.

Rick Moran has an excellent timeline of the hurricane from when it first became clear that it was heading towards the Gulf coast. Lots of links and he's updating it regularly. As more news and anecdotes come to light it seems there is going to be plenty of blame to go around, from the city government, to the state government on up to and including FEMA. One of many that is disturbing is this from the Red Cross.

Regarding the explosive story that the state authorities kept the Red Cross out of New Orleans, the Red Cross has a message up on their website that seems to verify this allegation.

Hurricane Katrina: Why is the Red Cross not in New Orleans?

Access to New Orleans is controlled by the National Guard and local authorities and while we are in constant contact with them, we simply cannot enter New Orleans against their orders.

The state Homeland Security Department had requested--and continues to request--that the American Red Cross not come back into New Orleans following the hurricane. Our presence would keep people from evacuating and encourage others to come into the city.

The Red Cross has been meeting the needs of thousands of New Orleans residents in some 90 shelters throughout the state of Louisiana and elsewhere since before landfall. All told, the Red Cross is today operating 149 shelters for almost 93,000 residents.

The reason given? If food, water and hygiene supplies were provided more people would show up and not leave. Give me a break. It is one thing to have a plan in case of a disaster like this one and the plan has flaws but it is quite another thing to have a good plan and not follow it. Hugh Hewitt links to this photo pointing out satellite photography and showing all the buses in New Orleans that were unused and available to evacuate people and placing the buses on a map of the city and their dry access to highways. It is so very disheartening to see what might have been possible if the mayor had exercised more leadership. Read This via Betsy's Page. I've reviewed the New Orleans emergency management plan. Here is an important section in the first paragraph.

"We coordinate all city departments and allied state and federal agencies which respond to citywide disasters and emergencies through the development and constant updating of an integrated multi-hazard plan. All requests for federal disaster assistance and federal funding subsequent to disaster declarations are also made through this office. Our authority is defined by the Louisiana Emergency Assistance and Disaster Act of 1993, Chapter 6 Section 709, Paragraph B, 'Each parish shall maintain a Disaster Agency which, except as otherwise provided under this act, has jurisdiction over and serves the entire parish.' "

Check the plan -- the "we" in this case is the office of the mayor, Ray Nagin who was very quick and vocal about blaming everyone but his own office. A telling picture, ... taken by The Associated Press on Sept. 1 and widely circulated on the Internet shows a school bus park, apparently filled to capacity with buses, under about four feet of water. If a mandatory evacuation was ordered, why weren't all the taxpayer-purchased buses used in the effort?

And after Mayor Nagin continued to twist off on TV and blame everybody in the world for his failings instead of showing leadership, he sends busses and law enforcement people to the Hyatt to rescue 400 tourists and demanded they be put on evacuation busses at the Superdome ahead of all those citizen who had been waiting and living in fear and squalor. Some leader.

Lest you think I don’t have something to say about how this was mishandled by the State and the Feds, including Mr. Bush, hang around. I see much that has gone wrong but I also have seen much that has gone right. I can already see that my rantings are going to take several posts and updates as we follow some of this tragic comedy as it unfolds.

Paul at Powerline has this post. The city of New Orleans followed "virtually no aspect of its own emergency management plan" during the disaster caused by Hurricane Katrina, reports the Washington Times. New Orleans also ignored various federal guidelines, including the one stating that the Superdome was not a safe shelter and the one stating that school buses be used to evacuate residents. So the biggest mistake the federal government made here was probably that it forgot to tell the mayor and the governor to follow the plan. It reminds me of former Redskin coach Norv Turner's comment after quarterback Gus Frerotte injured himself by head-butting a wall following a touchdown -- "I forgot to coach him not to do that."

The article also confirms that FEMA was in New Orleans as the storm approached working with the Louisiana National Guard, which delivered seven trailers of food and water to the Superdome on August 29 (Monday) and another seven trailers the following day.

More later.

UPDATE: Glenn at Instapundit has this with many links. Shameful. While relief was not allowed in, people were not allowed out.

POLICE TRAPPED THOUSANDS IN NEW ORLEANS: This report from UPI seems to confirm the item I linked earlier:

Police from surrounding jurisdictions shut down several access points to one of the only ways out of New Orleans last week, effectively trapping victims of Hurricane Katrina in the flooded and devastated city. . . .

"We shut down the bridge," Arthur Lawson, chief of the City of Gretna Police Department, confirmed to United Press International, adding that his jurisdiction had been "a closed and secure location" since before the storm hit.

"All our people had evacuated and we locked the city down," he said. The bridge in question -- the Crescent City Connection -- is the major artery heading west out of New Orleans across the Mississippi River.

Lawson said that once the storm itself had passed Monday, police from Gretna City, Jefferson Parrish and the Louisiana State Crescent City Connection Police Department closed to foot traffic the three access points to the bridge closest to the West Bank of the river.

He added that the small town, which he called "a bedroom community" for the city of New Orleans, would have been overwhelmed by the influx.

"There was no food, water or shelter" in Gretna City, Lawson said. "We did not have the wherewithal to deal with these people."

"If we had opened the bridge, our city would have looked like New Orleans does now: looted, burned and pillaged."

But -- in an example of the chaos that continued to beset survivors of the storm long after it had passed -- even as Lawson's men were closing the bridge, authorities in New Orleans were telling people that it was only way out of the city.

An absolute disgrace. (Via Rogers Cadenhead). I renew my suggestion that the Civil Rights Division look into this, as there's some reason to think it was racially motivated.

UPDATE: This satellite photo shows the Crescent City Connection bridge as a "dry route to safety." (Compare with this map.) But it was a blocked dry route. So while the Red Cross was being kept out of New Orleans, refugees were being kept in.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Here's more on Chief Lawson. Meanwhile, reader Jim Chandler doubts there was racism involved: "Most of the police officers I've seen there are black, so where does the racial motivation come in?" The article suggests otherwise, but I don't know. I think DoJ should look into it, though.

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: Here's more on Chief Lawson. And here's an article that makes me wonder if he was worried about the fate of his video poker machines.

MORE: Bruce Rolston thinks that the New Orleans authorities are at fault.