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Aug 31: Blanco stopped looking for buses

On Wednesday morning, Aug 31, Blanco's staff stopped trying to arrange schoolbuses for the evacuation. They believed that Fema was sending them buses. Not only that, they thought the military would use Chinook helicopters to airlift people out of the Superdome.
Then, when that didn't happen by the afternoon, Blanco started the search for buses again, and in the evening she issued an order allowing local school board buses to be comandeered.
This is from the recently released documents, but it's been discussed before. See Sep 19's "Blanco: where were the 500 FEMA-promised buses?"

More on the FEMA, DOT buses News - Disaster response 10/23/05

...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...

Among others, see "FEMA's buses: subcontractor farmed it out; massive confusion; Landstar to blame?"

FEMA's buses: subcontractor farmed it out; massive confusion; Landstar to blame?

Remember "Blanco: where were the 500 FEMA-promised buses?" Well, "Offer of buses fell between the cracks" has the shocking details.
A Florida trucking logistics company called Landstar Express America had a contract with FEMA that was worth up to $100 million per year to provide buses for evacuation purposes.
On Sunday, Aug. 28, Landstar apparently contacted a company called Carey Limousine asking them about the availability of buses.
Landstar found Carey by looking at their website.
Landstar inquired about availability again on Monday Aug 29, but they waited until "the early hours of Aug. 30, roughly 18 hours after the storm hit" to order buses from Carey, according to their spokeswoman Sally Snead:

She said Landstar turned to her company for buses Sunday after learning from Carey's Internet site that it had a meetings and events division that touted its ability to move large groups of people. "They really found us on the Web site," Snead said.
A Landstar spokeswoman declined comment on how the company responded to the hurricane.
Messages left for a FEMA spokeswoman were not returned.

In turn, Carey contracted with Transportation Management Services of Vienna, VA, which got 300 buses together.
Meanwhile, the heads of the United Motorcoach Association and of the American Bus Association - which apparently control over 20,000 buses - had each been contacting FEMA offering to help:

The day the hurricane made landfall, Victor Parra, president of the United Motorcoach Association, called FEMA's Washington office "to let them know our members could help out."
Parra said FEMA responded the next day, referring him to an agency Web page labeled "Doing Business with FEMA" but containing no information on the hurricane relief effort...
Unable to contact FEMA directly, Pantuso, through contacts on Capitol Hill, learned of Carey International's role and called Snead.
Pantuso said Snead told him she meant to call earlier but didn't have a phone number.
Finally, sometime after 5 p.m. on Wednesday, Pantuso and Parra had enough information to send an SOS to their members to help in the evacuation.
By the weekend, more than 1,000 buses were committed to ferrying stranded New Orleans residents to shelters in Houston and other cities...

But, wait, there's more of the same:

In a regulatory filing last week, Landstar Express said it has received government orders worth at least $125 million for Katrina-related work. It's not known how much of that total pertains to the bus evacuation.
Landstar Express is a subsidiary of Landstar System, a $2 billion company whose board chairman, Jeff Crowe, also was chairman of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, one of the nation's premier business lobbies, from June 2003 until May 2004.
[...Landstar and the others are now aware of each other and cooperating...]
Landstar's regulatory filing also said that because of Hurricane Katrina, the maximum annual value of its government contract for disaster relief services has been increased to $400 million...

A situation similar to the last could have happened under Clinton or other presidents, but I have a feeling that under Bush it's a bit more "pronounced."

LAT on the Gretna bridge incident

Let me summarize "After Blocking the Bridge, Gretna Circles the Wagons":
Gretna passed a resolution supporting the decision to block the bridge...
Gretna is 2/3 white, blue-collar, and has had an occasionally troubled relationship with NO...
They helped bus 5000 NOers out, but then the strain got too much...

... After someone set the local mall on fire Aug. 31, Gretna Police Chief Arthur S. Lawson Jr. proposed the blockade...
Gretna is not the only community that views New Orleans with distrust. Authorities in St. Bernard Parish, to the east, stacked cars to seal roads from the Crescent City. But Gretna's decision has become the symbol of the ultimate act of a bad neighbor, gaining notoriety partly from an account in the Socialist Worker newspaper by two San Francisco emergency workers and labor leaders who were in a crowd turned back by Gretna police.

The fact that Gretna's decision might not be mostly based on race seems to elude the Times' crack reporter, as he finds that some Gretnaians are afraid of NO...
Then, the LAT has a little new information:

Like New Orleans, Gretna lost power and water. Town officials pleaded unsuccessfully for help from the state and the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Then they learned that New Orleans officials had told the thousands trapped in that city's downtown, similarly deprived of food and water but also dodging gunfights and rising floodwaters, to cross to Gretna.

This happened a few days before "the incident". Gretna organized buses on Aug. 31 to take evacuees to a food distro center in Metairie. But, people clogged up at the bridge, and things started to spiral out of control.
There were looters and a fire at the mall, and the sheriff decided that was it.

"I said: 'There will be bloodshed on the west bank if this continues,' " Harris recalled. " 'This is not Gretna. I am not going to give up our community!' "
The following morning, Gretna's police chief made his decision: Seal the bridge.

Regarding the gunshots:

Chief Lawson said that he was unaware of any of his officers shooting over the heads of evacuees on the bridge but said that one black officer did fire a shot overhead to quiet an unruly crowd waiting to board a bus.

Overall, I'm going to give the LAT a higher score on this than the NYT, which simply regurgitated the socialist's original screed.

Gretna Police Dep't blocked NO evacuees

The 9/2 article "St. Louisans survive lawlessness in French Quarter" contains the following event which presumably occured on Weds. Aug 31:

A group of about 200 Monteleone guests decided to try to walk out of the city to the east, and got to the on-ramp at the Crescent Connection bridge, where they were met by Gretna, La., police with shotguns. "They told us the bridge was closed to foot traffic," Scheer said. "Some locals had joined us and became extremely unruly, threatening to rush the officers. They fired their shotguns into the air."

And, from 9/4:

Nagin's ire began to rise anew as he recalled a foiled strategy to send able-bodied refugees over the Crescent City Connection to the high ground of the West Bank.
"We were taking in people from St. Bernard Parish," he said. "If we had a bottle of water, we shared it. Then when we were going to let people cross the bridge, they were met with frigging dogs and guns at the Gretna parish line. They said, 'We're going to protect Jefferson Parish assets.'
"Some people value homes, cars and jewelry more than human life. The only escape route was cut off. They turned them back at the parish line."

I'd like to hear Gretna's side of things and/or what they have to say.

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