...Buses are not among [FEMA's] pre-staged supplies [MREs, cots, etc.].
Within hours of Katrina hitting on Monday [Aug 29], FEMA promised to deliver buses, according to Blanco.
On Tuesday [Aug 30], Blanco aide Leonard Kleinpeter recalled, the governor asked him to start trying to arrange for use of school buses.
FEMA relies on the U.S. Department of Transportation, which has a contract with a provider to locate for-hire buses and other types of transportation and get them to staging areas.
Federal transportation records show FEMA gave the agency the go-ahead at 12:45 a.m. Wednesday, Aug. 31. Five hours later, buses were being dispatched from points around the country to LaPlace, 25 miles west of New Orleans, and by midnight some 200 buses had arrived.
By the end of Thursday, there were 657 buses on hand. By Friday there were 935 buses and by Saturday 1,094 buses.
In congressional testimony earlier this month, U.S. Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta blamed FEMA for holding up his department's efforts to move people out of New Orleans. He said buses that arrived in the first wave Wednesday sat there because FEMA didn't give orders to move.
"What we heard from drivers who arrived at the rallying point in the first hours of the first day was that dispatch operations of the buses were being handled on a piecemeal basis," said DOT spokesman Brian Turmail.
Questions to FEMA in Washington, D.C., about the bus situation went unanswered...
...the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, said yesterday that its official timeline had discounted eyewitness reports by its top official in New Orleans, Col. Richard Wagenaar, confirming a levee breach Monday night. Instead, the Corps said the break was confirmed at 8 a.m. Tuesday.
"We probably had some calls over the period of the night, 'Hey, this might be going on,' " said Lauren Solis, spokeswoman for the Corps task force working in New Orleans, "but with the storm and everything else, we [the Corps's district engineers] went out the first we possibly could, which was daybreak Aug. 30 . . . and confirmed with our own eyes."
According to Bush Adviser Acknowledges Lack of Preparation for Katrina, on the night of Monday August 29, Marty Bahamonde reported to Michael Brown that "he had observed a massive break on the Lake Pontchartrain levee [the 17th Avenue Canal levee] and flooding over 80 percent of the city". Brown told Bahamonde that he would call the White House, but Chertoff denies that Brown told him that.
"The tenor of his discussions on Monday . . . was, this was bad, but it could have been worse," Chertoff said in an interview, adding that he learned of Bahamonde's report only after meeting him personally days later. "There was not a report to me until the following morning that there was a significant breach of the 17th Street levee."
Piecing together the unconfirmed timeline presented in "Key military help for victims of Hurricane Katrina was delayed" we get:
- Aug 29: landfall; "levee breaches" occur
Aug 29 3:22:00 PM - Navy says USS Bataan is standing by.
- Aug 30: Michael Chertoff goes to Atlanta for a "previously scheduled briefing on avian flu"
- Aug 30: "[Chertoff] aides also concede that Washington officials were unable to confirm that the levees in New Orleans had failed until midday on Aug. 30. The breaches were first discovered in Louisiana some 32 hours earlier."
- Aug 31: CNN mentions Bataan in passing.
- Aug 31: "President Bush went on national television to announce a massive federal rescue and relief effort"
- But orders to move didn't reach key active military units for another three days. (Sep. 2?)
Once they received them, it took just eight hours for 3,600 troops from the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, N.C., to be on the ground in Louisiana and Mississippi with vital search-and-rescue helicopters. Another 2,500 soon followed from the 1st Cavalry Division at Fort Hood, Texas.
Then, from "Military May Play Bigger Relief Role":
[Sep. 3:] The active-duty elements that Bush did send to Louisiana and Mississippi included some Army and Marine Corps helicopters and their crews, plus Navy ships. The main federal ground forces, led by troops of the 82nd Airborne Division from Fort Bragg, N.C., arrived late Saturday, five days after Katrina struck.
And, from Sep. 4 comes "Navy ship nearby underused" about the Bataan.
From "The Steady Buildup to a City's Chaos" comes this Sunday, August 28 news:
At the Superdome, city officials reckoned that 9,000 people had arrived by evening to ride out the storm. FEMA had sent seven trailers full of food and water -- enough, it estimated, to supply two days of food for as many as 22,000 people and three days of water for 30,000. Ebbert said he knew conditions in the Superdome would be "horrible," but Hurricane Pam had predicted a massive federal response within two days, and Ebbert said the city's plan was to "hang in there for 48 hours and wait for the cavalry."
Followed by this from Tuesday, August 30:
FEMA managed to deliver 65,000 meals to the Superdome, but by the end of the day, water was rising so fast that the agency was unable to unload five more truckloads of food and water.
From "The Steady Buildup to a City's Chaos" comes this explanation of what I saw on the TV at the time:
Army Corps officials were trying to close the gaps in the levees [on Aug. 30], but their hurried efforts to stem the flow were hampered by a lack of supplies. They could not find 10-ton sandbags or the slings they needed to drop the bags from helicopters; most of their personnel had evacuated, and so had their local contractors. "We didn't expect any breaches," Dan Hitchings of the agency's Mississippi Valley Division later explained. "We didn't think we were going to have a wall down." The corps tried to drop smaller sandbags into the 17th Street breach, but they simply floated away with the current.
Note that, as pointed out here before, what actually failed were the flood walls and not the levees. So, there's a difference between a "wall" and a "levee", but whether the walls were expected to fail or just the levees is not known.
...at least to your reporter.
From the report "No quick fix for New Orleans' breached levees", updated at 11:12 p.m. ET Aug. 30, 2005:
As failing levees allowed the murky waters of Lake Pontchartrain to inundate the streets of New Orleans on Tuesday, one thing was becoming clearer: Staunching the flood tide was not likely to be a quick fix.
Confusion persisted for much of the day over where the levees in the below-sea-level city had been breached and how badly. But as evening fell, the most serious problem continued to be "a large section of the vital 17th Street Canal levee, where it connects to the brand new 'hurricane proof' Old Hammond Highway bridge," according to the Web site of the New Orleans Times-Picayune. Smaller breaches were reported elsewhere.
That also has a good aerial shot of the 17th Street bridge.
According to this:
But by Tuesday [Aug. 30], conditions began to deteriorate when the water began to steadily rise. Water lapped at the edge of the city's historic French Quarter after failed pumps and levees sent water from nearby Lake Pontchartrain coursing through the streets.
"It's a very slow rise, and it will remain so until we plug that breach. I think we can get it stabilized in a few hours," Terry Ebbert, New Orleans' homeland security chief told The Associated Press.
Despite that date on that page, that same quote appears in "Katrina devastation called 'overwhelming'" from 02:33 PM PDT on Tuesday, August 30, 2005.
Now, take a look at Josh's timeline here, which, as you can imagine, has a left-wing bias.
From the other side, there's more on Ebbert here.
There are Ebbert mentions in the articles linked from here and here.
Aug. 31's "After Escaping New Orleans, a Long Wait" discussed the events of Tuesday Aug. 30 in Metarie "on the edge of Interstate 10" near the Causeway Boulevard exit:
...2,000 hungry, flood-weary people, residents of New Orleans' northern neighborhoods and St. Bernard Parish to the northeast... everything they owned on their backs after 36 hours of watching the floodwaters breach their doors...
...By 11 o'clock, when two schoolbuses from Terrebonne Parish, finished their 50-mile journey to the site, about 200 impatient and desperate refugees swelled toward the buses...
...Terrebonne's two buses were the only ones these evacuees had seen for six hours, and nobody could say why. "Thank God you guys are here," said Darrell Jupiter, the mayor of nearby Napoleonville, who was helping with crowd control...
...[there were] approaching helicopters landing on a strip of grass nearby. Jordan, a New Orleans East resident, was picked up in a helicopter near the Chef Menteur Highway... [there was an] evacuation hub on Interstate 10...
...Two hours later, a caravan of perhaps a dozen empty schoolbuses from neighboring communities headed east in the flat, black night on Route 90, almost the only remaining route in and out of New Orleans and the neighboring communities where floodwaters were continuing to rise as the Army Corps of Engineers' attempt to close the three-block breach in one levee failed.
At the edge of Interstate 10, nobody - not the National Guard troops keeping order nearby nor the Acadian Ambulance workers ushering the injured to area hospitals by the dozens - could answer the insistent questions about the absence of transportation...
...[there was] an early round of schoolbuses out of Metarie on Tuesday afternoon... [boats came to the project... East Park Community Center was a shelter in Houma... ]
How many buses came before the six hour wait, and how many people did those buses - if any - take? The article doesn't say.