Around noon on the day when Katrina hit New Orleans, Louisiana governor Kathleen Blanco told the Bush administration that the levees were safe:
"We keep getting reports in some places that maybe water is coming over the levees... We heard a report unconfirmed, I think, we have not breached the levee. I think we have not breached the levee at this time."
In fact, the National Weather Service received a report of a levee breach and issued a flash-flood warning as early as 9:12 a.m. that day, according to the White House's formal recounting of events the day Katrina struck.
She reported that floodwaters were rising in parts of the city "where we have waters that are 8 to 10 feet deep, and we have people swimming in there."
"That's got a considerable amount of water itself," the governor said. "That's about all I know right now on the specifics that you haven't heard."
Blanco spokeswoman Denise Bottcher said Thursday that "our people on the ground were telling us that there could be overtopping and breaching, but it was hard to tell" by the noon briefing.
Another official who was heard but not seen on the video was then-Federal Emergency Management Agency Michael Brown, who was at the federal emergency operations center in Baton Rouge, La. He implored officials to "push the envelope as far as you can," noting that he had already spoken to President Bush twice that day and described the president as "very, very interested in this situation."
"He's very engaged, and he's asking a lot of really good questions I would expect him to ask," Brown said of Bush. "I say that only because I want everyone to recognize ... how serious the situation remains."
Enter your best caption of this Reuters pic of the Louisiana governor below.
Kathleen Blanco is taking some heat for allegedly using various politicians as a backdrop for the start of her special session. Be that as it may:
...Blanco has included two housing issues on the agenda, as well as consolidation of governmental and court agencies in Orleans Parish; consolidating levee boards in South Louisiana; and setting in law the state agency she created to oversee Louisiana's hurricane recovery.
State officials said the events Monday will include a lobbyist-sponsored lunch before the buses leave from the Capitol and a reception at the Convention Center after Blanco's speech. Dozens of legislators have toured the area, some as individuals, others as members of committees, but an exact count of the lawmakers who have viewed the destruction was not available, legislative and administration officials said.
"I know many legislators have toured Louisiana's devastated coast to see firsthand the massive recovery efforts that are under way," Blanco said in a letter to lawmakers released Wednesday. "If we are called to encourage economic progress, educational vitality and quality health care, then our leadership must be united and personally involved in the struggle to lead this state toward healing and prosperity..."
Late last year came the news that Kathleen Blanco had ordered precisely $564,838 worth of remodeling done on her offices... after Katrina.
The article said the single costliest portion of the final bill was $44,000 for walnut trim and granite countertops.
Jerry Jones, director of the state Office of Facility Planning and Control, said the sixth floor was unsafe. File cabinets were in hallways and the carpet was frayed, he said.
"The space needed to be reconfigured," Jones said Tuesday. "We don't want the governor's suite to look like early manufactured homes."
I'd bet the folks who can't even get a FEMA trailer wouldn't mind having an "early manufactured" home!
As of mid-November, the number of recoveries had dwindled to a one or two a week, and Kenyon International Emergency Services' contract to do collections ended around that time.
The backstory is in this story from 11/16:
Kenyon... first arrived in the storm-ravaged region Sept. 7 as a short-term contractor for the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Six days later the company signed a contract with the state after nearly pulling out of Louisiana entirely because of what a top executive characterized as government "roadblocks" that thwarted recovery teams' ability to maintain professional standards.
The deal was sealed amid cries from Gov. Kathleen Blanco, New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu, D-La., and U.S. Rep. Charlie Melancon, D-Napoleonville, that too few people were handling the dead, some of whose bodies lay exposed in the streets. FEMA policy prohibited tens of thousands of National Guard troops and municipal police officers on the ground at the time from touching the bodies, except to tag them and report their locations to higher authorities.
Since mid-September, Johannessen said he has not fielded any complaints about Kenyon, which worked at the World Trade Center site in 2001 and retrieved the bodies of Australian citizens in Thailand after last year's tsunami. He said the state expects to be fully reimbursed by the federal government for the cost of Kenyon's contract.
The company collected more than 800 bodies, mostly from Orleans, St. Bernard and Plaquemines parishes, and brought them to St. Gabriel, state officials said. As of Nov. 9, the tally of hurricane deaths had reached 1,056, with 883 bodies examined at St. Gabriel...
I believe an unaired Kathleen Blanco interview is available at this link. If that link doesn't work, go here and search for "Trailer Crunch". Presumably it's about the housing situation, but since it didn't make it on to ABC's news that probably means either that there's nothing in there, or there is something but they're trying to hide it or don't realize it. Someone please watch it and report.
A set of emails released by Congress show Blanco's aides offering wardrobe and image advice:
...In a Sept. 4 e-mail exchange, top Blanco aides bristled at Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff's remark that the federal government "is in control of New Orleans."
"Our answer is the National Guard is in charge of security under her direction," Blanco chief of staff Andy Kopplin wrote. "The mayor is in charge of the city. The governor is in charge of the state and the guard and security. The federal government is now meeting important missions that it has."
The next day, two Blanco press staffers appealed to other senior aides to stop travel that would have had the governor leaving the state on a day when President Bush was scheduled to be there.
"Reinforces the notion that she's not in charge and LA (Louisiana) needs to be federalized," wrote Blanco press secretary Denise Bottcher in a Sept. 5 e-mail.
Agreed Blanco communications director Bob Mann: "White House will be thrilled that she left the state. They will eat us for lunch. She cannot snub potus [Bush]."
...Their ideas, according to the e-mails, included having Blanco "put a few bags of ice in the hands of the citizens who need it" and stop "doing too many 'first lady' things."
... "You send that many black folks out of state, we will have a perception problem," Blanco assistant chief of staff Johnny Anderson wrote in a Sept. 2 e-mail.
"Word is already that we are only sending blacks out of this state," Anderson wrote. We are make (sic) a strategic error. FEMA will not have to answer to the people, we will."
Another part of the emails was discussed in Kathleen Blanco is MOVING MOUNTAINS
NBC's Brian Williams conducted a long interview with president Bush, and the section about Katrina has Bush:
- repeating his blame-taking for the weak federal response ("to the extent that the federal government was ineffective, I'm responsible")
- given the opportunity to blame Blanco, Nagin, or others, he said "we're beyond that"
- he was watching the TV reports from the Superdome...
- he "certainly hopes" that we won't lose New Orleans on his watch...
- Bush not only knows what the Ninth Ward is, he's familiar with the conspiracy theory about the government blowing up the levees...
- Bush has read about- or had someone tell him about - the blowing up of the levees that occured in the 20s...
And, there's this perhaps-not-entirely-accurate bit:
one of the things we've learned about the levees, Brian, is that they call the levees a certain category, but they weren't up to standards. And so we're now in the process of working with local folks to get the standards of the levees up to where they should have been prior to the storm and even better. And hopefully we'll have the capacity to announce that relatively quickly.
The levees and floodwalls might not have been designed correctly however.
I remember saying that, when I thanked those chopper drivers from the Coast Guard who performed brilliantly, they didn't lower those booms to pick up people saying, "What color skin do you have?" They said, "A fellow American's in jeopardy. And I'm going to do my best to rescue that person."
However, some far-lefties have speculated that shots fired at choppers were because they were being ignored because of triage.
Speaking about Brownie:
You know, Michael [Brown], resigned. And I, you know, I had worked with him during the four hurricanes that hit Florida. He got pretty good marks. And in this case, for whatever reason, the system overwhelmed the whole process. And Michael said, "I'm responsible." And he left.
On September 4, Kim Fuller, press consultant from Witt Associates, sent an email to various Kathleen Blanco aides. It included the following:
"Gov. Blanco might dress down a bit and look like she has rolled up her sleeves... I have some great Liz Claiborne sports clothes that look kind of Eddie Bauer, but with class, but would bring her down to level of getting to work... She would look like a woman, but show she is MOVING MOUNTAINS".
Now, you can buy a MOVING MOUNTAINS t-shirt, women's tank top, and coffee mug and support this site at the same time.
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?"