Four days after Katrina, George W Bush said:
"I don't think anyone anticipated the breach of the levees."
However, videos obtained by the AP shows internal Bush administration briefings, including one in which Bush and DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff were told that the levees might breach:
In dramatic and sometimes agonizing terms, federal disaster officials warned President Bush and his homeland security chief before Hurricane Katrina struck that the storm could breach levees, put lives at risk in New Orleans' Superdome and overwhelm rescuers, according to confidential video footage.
Bush didn't ask a single question during the final briefing before Katrina struck on Aug. 29, but he assured soon-to-be-battered state officials: "We are fully prepared."
The footage - along with seven days of transcripts of briefings obtained by The Associated Press - show in excruciating detail that while federal officials anticipated the tragedy that unfolded in New Orleans and elsewhere along the Gulf Coast, they were fatally slow to realize they had not mustered enough resources to deal with the unprecedented disaster.
Linked by secure video, Bush expressed a confidence on Aug. 28 that starkly contrasted with the dire warnings his disaster chief and numerous federal, state and local officials provided during the four days before the storm...
Shown the tape, Ray Nagin says:
"I have kind of a sinking feeling right now in my gut. I mean, I was listening to what people were saying and I was believing them that they didn't know. So therefore it was an issue of a learning curve... From this tape it looks like everybody was fully aware."
However, DHS spokeshole Russ Knocke says:
"I'm not sure what is shocking about this video. There's really nothing new or insightful from it,"
There's some kind of video here, but I didn't watch it.
UPDATE: I should have watched the video. According to this, the AP report is wrong: Bush was warned the levees might overtop (water flowing over the top), not that they might breach (rupture). Since I still haven't watched the video, I'm forced to take his word for it, and something about breaching might be elsewhere on the tapes available.
UPDATE 2: Here's another video link. And, Dan Froomkin goes around the bend here, tying this latest example of Bush incompetence with his initial response to 9/11. Apparently Froomkin is one of those expecting Bush to immediately jump up and start barking orders, Harrison Ford style.
UPDATE 3: Democratic apostate Mickey Kaus says:
"Is the despised, self-parodying MSM intentionally glossing over this important difference in order to exaggerate the anti-Bush shock value of the video? I don't know--but I do know that the actual "topped" quote was hard to find in print, lending some of the stories an eerie, undocumented quality. Do reporters not print the quote because then they couldn't justify the charge that Bush lied about the "breach"? You make the call. I'm too paranoid at this point. P.P.S.: Shouldn't Bush's press operation, rather than Powerline and Patterico, be forcefully pointing all this out?"
At 1:47 a.m. (Eastern) on Aug. 29 the White House's situation room received an email from the Department of Homeland Security's National Infrastructure Simulation and Analysis Center (NISAC) containing a dire assessment of Katrina's likely impact, the WaPo breathlessly reports:
The NISAC paper warned that a storm of Katrina's size would "likely lead to severe flooding and/or levee breaching" and specifically noted the potential for levee failures along Lake Pontchartrain. It predicted economic losses in the tens of billions of dollars, including damage to public utilities and industry that would take years to fully repair. Initial response and rescue operations would be hampered by disruption of telecommunications networks and the loss of power to fire, police and emergency workers, it said.
The assessment was 41 pages. In other words, it had probably been prepared well before Aug 29. In other words, it's not like the White House was suddenly presented with stunning new information; that info had been "in the system" for a while.
In a second document, also obtained by The Washington Post, a computer slide presentation by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, prepared for a 9 a.m. meeting on Aug. 27, two days before Katrina made landfall, compared Katrina's likely impact to that of "Hurricane Pam," a fictional Category 3 storm used in a series of FEMA disaster-preparedness exercises simulating the effects of a major hurricane striking New Orleans. But Katrina, the report warned, could be worse.
The hurricane's Category 4 storm surge "could greatly overtop levees and protective systems" and destroy nearly 90 percent of city structures, the FEMA report said. It further predicted "incredible search and rescue needs (60,000-plus)" and the displacement of more than a million residents.
That also represented information that was in the system. Obvious to all but the WaPo and Democrats, this was a systemic failure involving all levels of government and not just one specific to the White House.
Could someone look through the long article Nagin gets mixed reviews: Evacuation plans, Superdome use criticized and put the salient points in comments, squaring what's in there with what's been previously posted?
They gave New Orleans city officials an affordable plan to evacuate 30,000 low-income, elderly and homeless people, said New Orleans attorney Val Exnicios.
But city officials failed to put it in play come crunch time, he claims.
Exnicios blames city officials for botching an evacuation plan in place as needy evacuees disappeared during Hurricane Katrina.
"I can tell you unequivocally I watched Mayor (C. Ray) Nagin lie on CNN when he said there was never a plan to evacuate these people," Exnicios said. "For whatever reason no one pulled the trigger and instituted the emergency evacuation plan we came up with."
The proposed emergency evacuation plan put together by a coalition of private citizens and public officials called for trains and buses to transport about 30,000 evacuees out of the city.
Amtrak agreed to provide passenger cars free while the Regional Transit Authority agreed to supply buses, said Rusty Wirth, director of the New Orleans Mission.
"We gave the plan to the city and they said it's a really good idea and then they sat there and twiddled their thumbs and never took the steps to put it in motion," Wirth said. "The Friday before the hurricane we had a meeting with the Red Cross and held training sessions for evacuation with the trains but it never got that far along."
...Shortly before Hurricane Katrina made landfall, Exnicios and Zainey met with [Joseph Matthews, New Orleans chief of the Office of Emergency Preparedness], who assured them buses would be provided to evacuate the homeless from New Orleans.
"We sat across the table from him and Matthews said, 'Don't worry about it. It's done. I guarantee you we'll have buses and or trains available.' We both left happy," said Exnicios. "It was a tragic comedy as it turns out..."
The Houston Chronicle goes a bit overboard with the title to "Lessons come at high cost: 107 lives". It's about the evac of Houston before Hurricane Rita:
...But there was no plan for contraflow lanes, the mayor said. So, the city asked Gov. Rick Perry's staff in the middle of the night to get contraflow lanes working, and the effort got under way immediately after that.
Texas Homeland Security Director Steve McCraw said the state immediately responded to White's 6 a.m. Thursday request to open all Interstate 45 lanes to outbound traffic, but he admitted the effort could have been executed more efficiently. Hours elapsed as 700 troopers were brought in to close entrance ramps on the southbound lanes and other measures were taken to alter traffic flow.
Traffic on I-45 North already was gridlocked when they opened all lanes to northbound traffic. Interstate 10 was completely opened for outbound traffic several hours later...
Some experts rightly question their stretching to make some cases due to the evacuation.
And here I thought we already had one. However, this is a different kind of plan: the new one involves the military taking control during a natural or other disaster. From the AP's "Bush Told U.S. Needs Post-Disaster Plan":
Bush got an update about the federal hurricane response from military leaders at Randolph Air Force Base. He heard from Lt. Gen. Robert Clark, joint military task force commander for Hurricane Rita, and Maj. Gen. John White, a task force member, who noted confusion in search and rescue operations after Hurricane Katrina.
With Katrina, "we knew the coordination piece was a problem," White said. "With Rita, we had the benefit of time. We may not have that time in an earthquake scenario or similar incident."
"With a national plan, we'll have a quick jump-start and an opportunity to save more people," White said.
Bush thanked White for his recommendations.
"This is precisely the kind of information I'll take back to Washington to help all of us understand how to do a better job," the president said.
Is it just me, or haven't I heard the same uttered by other world leaders, some of them less than savory characters?
Continuing, Bush said:
"Clearly, in the case of a terrorist attack, that would be the case, but is there a natural disaster of a certain size that would then enable the Defense Department to become the lead agency in coordinating and leading the response effort... That's going to be a very important consideration for Congress to think about."
Yes indeed. Congress should think very deeply about what additional powers they want to give the U.S. military to operate inside the U.S.
The deficits of Boston's plan to evacuate their city sounds vaguely like those in New Orleans. Some of them are listed in "Hub evac plan useless: Traffic jams mean 'you're dead'":
# Shaky plans for those who cannot "self-evacuate" in their own cars;
# No concrete plan to ensure hospitals and nursing homes are rapidly evacuated;
# No plans for prison evacuations;
# Lack of a clear mass notification mechanism after a disaster, terror attack or other "critical incident";
# No designated mass shelter - like New Orleans' Superdome - that would be stocked with food, water and medical supplies in the event of a catastrophe;
# Confusing traffic plans that could result in dangerous gridlock
From the NYT's "The Virus Underground" from February 8, 2004:
Paula Scalingi, the former director of the Department of Energy's Office of Critical Infrastructure Protection, now works as a consultant running disaster-preparedness exercises. Last year she helped organize ''Purple Crescent'' in New Orleans, an exercise that modeled a terrorist strike against the city's annual Jazz and Heritage Festival. The simulation includes a physical attack but also uses a worm unleashed by the terrorists designed to cripple communications and sow confusion nationwide. The physical attack winds up flooding New Orleans; the cyberattack makes hospital care chaotic. ''They have trouble communicating, they can't get staff in, it's hard for them to order supplies,'' she says...
In October 2004, Purple Crescent 2 was held:
What happens when terrorist or would be hackers attempt to disrupt communications infrastructure concurrent with a natural disaster taking place in or around the City of New Orleans, Louisiana? The effects of a large natural disaster are already devastating as we are seeing along the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Ivan made landfall. How much worse could it be if domestic or international terrorists attempted to impede preparations before the storm, or the recovery after the storm, by utilizing cyber-terrorism? All agencies, including government, law enforcement, EMS, public health, commercial banking, petro-chemical, and private enterprises are welcome to participate in this DHS monitored and supported exercise.
They've apparently got a copy. Unconfirmed excerpted article here, the rest is pay-only.
WASHINGTON, Sept 17 (Reuters) - In the months before Hurricane Katrina, President George W. Bush sought to cut a key program to help local governments raise their preparedness, and state officials warned of a "total lack of focus" on natural disasters by his homeland-security chief, documents show...
...In July, the National Emergency Management Association wrote lawmakers expressing "grave" concern that still-pending changes proposed by Chertoff would undercut the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
"Our primary concern relates to the total lack of focus on natural-hazards preparedness," David Liebersbach, the association's president, said in the July 27 letter to Sens. Susan Collins, a Republican, and Joseph Lieberman, a Democrat, the leaders of a key Senate committee overseeing the agency...
...[In February, a month after the National Response Plan was created], however, Bush's fiscal 2006 budget proposed a 6 percent cut in funding for Emergency Management Performance Grants, from the $180 million appropriated by Congress in 2005 to $170 million in 2006.
State and local officials protested what they saw as White House cuts targeting the very program that would help them meet Bush's new disaster-preparedness goals.
"The grants are the lifeblood for local programs and, in some cases, it's the difference between having a program in a county and not," said Dewayne West, the director of Emergency Services for Johnston County, North Carolina, and president of the International Association of Emergency Managers...