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FEMA evacuation study money redirected to bridge study

Congress wanted FEMA to create an evacuation plan for New Orleans as early as eight years ago. Instead, the money ended up going to a study of a bridge over Lake Pontchartrain, and that study had very little to do with an evacuation plan. ("Money Earmarked for Evacuation Redirected").
The exact twists and turns of the money have yet to be determined.

...Congress in 1997 to set aside $500,000 for FEMA to create "a comprehensive analysis and plan of all evacuation alternatives for the New Orleans metropolitan area."
Frustrated two years later that nothing materialized, Congress strengthened its directive. This time it ordered "an evacuation plan for a Category 3 or greater storm, a levee break, flood or other natural disaster for the New Orleans area."
The $500,000 that Congress appropriated for the evacuation plan went to a commission that studied future options for the 24-mile bridge over Lake Ponchartrain, FEMA spokesman Butch Kinerney said.
The hefty report produced by the Greater New Orleans Expressway Commission "primarily was not about evacuation," said Robert Lambert, the general manager for the bridge expressway. "In general it was an overview of all the things we need to do" for the causeway through 2016.
Lambert said he could not trace how or if FEMA money came to the commission. Nor could Shelby LaSalle, a causeway consulting engineer who worked on the plan.
LaSalle said it would be "ludicrous" to consider his report an evacuation plan, although it had a transportation evacuation section, dated Dec. 19, 1997. That part was tacked on mainly to promote the causeway for future designation as an official evacuation route, LaSalle said.
"We didn't do anything for FEMA," he added...

James Lee Witt's spokesman claims that FEMA just passed the money through to the state.

[Former Rep. Billy Tauzin, R-La] said he, too, could never find out where the money went. "They gave it to the causeway commission? That's wacky," he said.
At the time eight years ago, the Louisiana delegation had plenty of political muscle to get the money. Then-Rep. Bob Livingston, R-La., was chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, which controls the government's purse strings.
Livingston, now a lobbyist, said he could not explain what happened either, although he knew of other predictive hurricane studies over the years.

"Corps of Engineers Admits Sandbag Error"

WASHINGTON -- The government should have pre-positioned more sandbags and helicopters in the New Orleans area before Hurricane Katrina struck so that repairs to broken levees could have started sooner, the commander of the Army Corps of Engineers said Thursday.
"In retrospect I would say yes, we could have, we should have, in anticipation of this," Lt. Gen. Carl Strock told a Pentagon news conference.

The Louisiana Homeland Security and Emergency Assistance and Disaster Act, Chapter 6

For all you law nerds, a copy is here.

Henry Waxman: IEM, Hurricane Pam questions

U.S. Reps. Tom Davis and Henry A. Waxman sent a letter to Chertoff concerning a contract FEMA made with Innovative Emergency Management, Inc. (IEM).
IEM was to conduct a three-stage "Southeastern Louisiana Catastrophic Hurricane Plan", and those fine - albeit very "liberal" want the missing two stages of the plan. The first stage is the now-infamous "Hurricane Pam" simulation.
They also want to know why IEM was the only bidder for an "Indefinite Delivery Vehicle" contract.
Their letter is reproduced in this post entitled FEMA Predicted a "Catastrophic Hurricane" Could Strike New Orleans and Cause a "Mega-Disaster". The scope of work for the contract is in this PDF file. And, here's the task order for Stage One (PDF file).
Herewith the conditions that IEM was supposed to plan for:

* "Over one million people would evacuate from New Orleans. Evacuees would crowd shelters throughout Louisiana and adjacent states."
* "Hurricane surge would block highways and trap 300,000 to 350,000 persons in flooded areas. Storm surge of over 18 feet would overflow flood-protection levees on the Lake Pontchartrain side of New Orleans. Storm surge combined with heavy rain could leave much of New Orleans under 14 to 17 feet of water. More than 200 square miles of urban areas would be flooded."
* "It could take weeks to 'de-water' (drain) New Orleans: Inundated pumping stations and damaged pump motors would be inoperable. Flood-protection levees would prevent drainage of floodwater. Breaching the levees would be a complicated and politically sensitive problem: The Corps of Engineers may have to use barges or helicopters to haul earthmoving equipment to open several hundred feet of levee."
* "Rescue operations would be difficult because much of the area would be reachable only by helicopters and boats."
* "Hospitals would be overcrowded with special-needs patients. Backup generators would run out of fuel or fail before patients could be moved elsewhere."
* "The New Orleans area would be without electric power, food, potable water, medicine, or transportation for an extended time period."
* "Damaged chemical plants and industries could spill hazardous materials."
* "Standing water and disease could threaten public health."
* "There would be severe economic repercussions for the state and region."
* "Outside responders and resources, including the Federal response personnel and materials, would have difficulty entering and working in the affected area."

"School-buses showdown: Mayor Nagin vs. Russert"

A partial transcript from Sunday's Meet the Press is here. Russert asks Nagin about his ventures into race-baiting and asks why the schoolbuses weren't used.

Mary Landrieu: schoolbuses are Bush's fault

Appearing on Fox News Sunday, Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu said the reason the flooded schoolbuses weren't used is because of... the Bush administration.

"Mayor Nagin and most mayors in this country have a hard time getting their people to work on a sunny day, let alone getting them out of the city in front of a hurricane... And it's because this administration and administrations before them do not understand the difficulties that mayors . . . face... In other words, this administration did not believe in mass transit. They won't even get people to work on a sunny day, let alone getting them out..."

Asked to criticize Nagin or others, she responded:

"Because the mayor evacuated the city, we had the best evacuation . . . of any evacuation I've seen. I'm 50 years old; I've never seen one any better."
That prompted FNS host Chris Wallace to remind: "But there were a hundred thousand people left in the city."
Landrieu once again blamed the White House, saying:
"They did [have] a hundred thousand people left in the city because this federal government won't support cities to evacuate people, whether it's from earthquakes, tornadoes, or hurricanes. And that's the truth."

There's video of here appearance here.
UPDATE: There's a transcript here.

Your "National Response Plan"

Here's an excerpt from the "National Response Plan" (PDF file):

Pursuant to HSPD-5, the Secretary of Homeland Security is responsible for coordinating Federal operations within the United States to prepare for, respond to, and recover from terrorist attacks, major disasters, and other emergencies. HSPD-5 further designates the Secretary of Homeland Security as the "principal Federal official" for domestic incident management.
In this role, the Secretary is also responsible for coordinating Federal resources utilized in response to or recovery from terrorist attacks, major disasters, or other emergencies if and when any of the following four conditions applies:
1. a Federal department or agency acting under its own authority has requested DHS assistance;
2. the resources of State and local authorities are overwhelmed and Federal assistance has been requested;
3. more than one Federal department or agency has become substantially involved in responding to the incident; or
4. the Secretary has been directed to assume incident management responsibilities by the President.

"City had evacuation plan but strayed from strategy"

The Houston Chronicle mentions the flooded schoolbuses and NO's disaster planning here:

...The mayor's mandatory evacuation order was issued 20 hours before the storm struck the Louisiana coast, less than half the time researchers determined would be needed to get everyone out.
City officials had 550 municipal buses and hundreds of additional school buses at their disposal but made no plans to use them to get people out of New Orleans before the storm, said Chester Wilmot, a civil engineering professor at Louisiana State University and an expert in transportation planning, who helped the city put together its evacuation plan.
Instead, local buses were used to ferry people from 12 pickup points to poorly supplied "shelters of last resort" in the city. An estimated 50,000 New Orleans households have no access to cars, Wilmot said...
Hospitals were exempted from the mayor's mandatory evacuation order. But at least two public hospitals, loaded with more than 1,000 caregivers and patients, had their generators in their basements, which made them vulnerable in a flood. That violated the state's hurricane plan but had gone uncorrected for years because the hospitals did not have the money to fix the situation, a state university hospital official told the Chronicle...
...Tami Frazier, a spokeswoman for Mayor C. Ray Nagin, currently working out of Houston, refused to comment on direct questions this week or to answer several written questions sent via e-mail. She cited the need to focus on rescuing citizens and recovering bodies....
...The city of New Orleans Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan suggested people develop their own way to get out. "The potential exists that New Orleans could be without sufficient supplies to meet the needs of persons with special considerations, and there is significant risk being taken by those individuals who decide to remain in these refuges of last resort," it says.
People who called for information on special needs shelters Saturday were directed to sites in Alexandria and in Monroe, La. - cities 218 and 326 miles away. The state scrambled to find 20 ambulances and some specialized vans to pick up fragile residents who needed rides.
"There were transportation systems in place to take people out of New Orleans, which was the preferred solution," said Kristen Meyer, a spokeswoman for the Department of Health and Hospitals. But she's not sure how many got out...
...Florida, by contrast, for two decades has required counties to establish and maintain permanent databases of "special needs citizens," and arrange rides for people with no transportation. The state also has shelters established for myriad medical conditions...

Louisiana Homeland Security plans


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