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Blanco said levees were safe (Aug 29 at noon)

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."

However:

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.

And:

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."

Was Katrina only Cat 3 when it came ashore? Part 2

Part 1's link is here.
From "Experts: Katrina may have been weaker than first thought":

...When Katrina struck the mouth of the Mississippi River south of New Orleans at daybreak on Aug. 29, it was a Category 4, with wind speed of 135 mph, [Jack Beven, hurricane specialist with the National Hurricane Center in Miami] said. The strongest part of the storm actually missed New Orleans but instead passed over the mouth of the Mississippi River and into the Mississippi Gulf coast.
"From 20 to 70 miles east to northeast of New Orleans, that's where the worst effects of the storm were, winds and tides, over on the Mississippi Gulf coast - Gulfport, Biloxi, Waveland, Pass Christian and even over to Ocean Springs," Beven said. "The winds and the tides there were much higher than what you had in the New Orleans area."
Beven said the hurricane center is internally debating whether Katrina was a Category 3 or 4, and specifically where. The center is examining data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and Air Force hurricane hunter aircraft that flew through the eye and the strongest winds of the hurricane many times on the 29th.
"We were getting a continuous flow of data ... the data is taken automatically every 20 or 30 seconds. That's one reason we haven't finished yet, there's a lot of data to evaluate," Beven said.
Scientists are also investigating why a 20-to-30-foot storm surge along the Mississippi coast seemed more consistent with a Category 5 hurricane than the designated Category 4, according to specialists at the hurricane center.
"At one point Katrina was a Category 5. It may have been that the winds died down to a Category 4 or 3, but the ocean was so stirred up by the hurricane that the surge was more equivalent to a 5," Beven said...

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NOAA makes lemonade out of lemons

From "At NOAA, Making the Best of a Disaster to Build a Brand":

...when Hurricane Katrina roared across Gulf Coast states, the [National Weather Service] headquarters brass sent out word to make sure only the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration logo appeared on hurricane tracking maps, which draw hundreds of thousands of Internet hits.
" Scott Rayder [NOAA's chief of staff] has indicated that we should not have the NWS logo on the Hurricane Center's tracking map and asked that it be removed," an Aug. 31 e-mail said. "Could you please work with the appropriate people to make sure this happens quickly and let me know when it has so that I can let Scott know."
Weather Service officials replied that they had more important matters to deal with, such as trying to help colleagues in New Orleans who had lost their homes and coping with equipment loss and communication outages in the Gulf region...

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Commerce to NWS: Media contacts must be pre-approved

They might not be able to control the weather, but that doesn't mean they aren't trying to control the weather information: the Commerce Department is trying to get "message control" in place at the National Weather Service.
A Commerce memo leaked to this site lays down all the requirements that employees of NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) and the NWS should have with the media:

Employees must obtain the following:
-The name of the reporter and their affiliation
-Their deadline and contact phone number
-The name of the individual being requested to give the interview
-The purpose of the interview
-The expertise of the requested interviewee on this subject.
"Prior to this policy change, if a media organization called our office (or any other National Weather Service office) and wanted an interview, we would do our best to accommodate the request as quickly as possible," said one NOAA employee who requested anonymity. "While often such requests are from local media, local offices do get requests from national media if a weather event is big enough to be a national story."
The policy requires that local weather offices forward media requests to the NWS press office, who in turn would forward the request on to the Commerce Department's public relations office. The Department would then decide whether comment should be granted.
Under this new policy, the Department, rather than the weather agencies, would also determine who would then provide comment.

NOAA claims that this was their policy all along, that it isn't mandatory, and that the person who sent out the email was new there. However:

Some National Weather Service staff expressed surprise when RAW STORY recounted the media policy St. John articulated. Some employees stated that they had never seen the original media policy before, and find the timing of the reminder from Teet to be suspect given the recent political impact of hurricane Katrina.

And, the policy above differs from the one that was supposedly in place all along.
Compare the DOC policy with NASA's policy:

To ensure a responsive public communications program and enhance public perception of NASA, each Center has designated a Public Inquiries Officer for managing communications, including letters, e-mails, faxes and telephone inquiries, from the general public. In accordance with the President's Management Agenda E-Gov Initiatives, NASA is also participating in the Government-wide Misdirected E-mail Initiative. This initiative is specifically designed to further enhance the public's ease and access to government services, products and information.
Here is how the E-Gov Initiative works. Effective immediately, if you receive an e-mail from a member of the public, promptly forward it to the designated e-mail address for your Center, listed at http://insidenasa.nasa.gov/nasa_nas/ops/public_inquiry/ If you receive an e-mail that you believe does not fall under NASA's purview for response, simply forward the communication to notnasa@nasa.gov E-mails sent to this account will be reviewed and then redirected to the proper agency for appropriate disposition...
In both cases, no follow up is necessary. You will not receive a reply that the e-mail has been successfully accepted, nor will you receive a copy of the response. Once you have forwarded the e-mail to your Center's public inquiries address or to notnasa@nasa.gov, you are finished.

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FEMA, DHS looked at different weather forecasts?

This completely unconfirmed post says that FEMA and the DHS might have been looking at different weather forecasts: one from the National Weather Service, and the other from Accuweather. Developing:

The Senate Commerce Committee held hearings this afternoon on Katrina. The House Science Committee will be holding hearing Wednesday morning (9/21). Sen. Ben Nelson (Florida) asked Max Mayfield whether it was true that Secretary Chertoff (the head of homeland security) & Department of Homeland Security (DHS) used Accuweather for hurricane forecasts of Katrina and he confirmed it. The National Infrastructure Command Center in DHS prepared an "overnight summary" for Secretary Chertoff on Katrina that was based on Accuweather hurricane predictions rather than hurricane forecast information from the National Hurricane Center. This dates from when former PA. Governor Ridge was Secretary of homeland security.
What's even most shocking is that the "NOAA Desk" in the DHS Ops Center, staffed by a primary & two backup NWS meteorologists, prepared forecasts for Secretary Chertoff based on the National Hurricane Center; however, it is unsure that this ever made it to the Secretary. To make matters worse & even more confusing, FEMA relies solely on NWS products, which includes those issued by the National Hurricane Center. So FEMA (which only uses NWS) and the DHS (which uses Accuweather) are not even looking at the same forecasts! The NWS NHC's track for Katrina was significantly different & more accurate than Accuweather's. Just recently, Accuweather's track for Ophelia brought it across Florida & into the Gulf. In both cases, Accuweather's forecast was dead wrong. The end result is that the head of homeland security & DHS & FEMA received conflicting forecasts.
Sen. Bill Nelson also asked Max Mayfield about consolidation and downsizing of WFOs and Max Mayfield unequivocally said it was a very bad idea, and that he hopes that it doesn't happen and that the local WFOs are an essential part of NWS. Senator Nelson also trashed Accuweather and, without naming Santorum, blasted those who would try to take NWS off the air and off the internet to help commercial interests.

Here's the hearing site, and here's a video. See also this.
10/19/05 UPDATE: Someone left the following comment on another blog:

Uh - I have video tape of night's news on CNN between 6pm ET and 12am ET from Wed before the storm hit through Wed after the storm hit. Are people saying that AccuWeather or the DHS got this wrong?
They were BEGGING people to leave N.O. and the Gulf area beginning on Wed night. Its right there on the video tape. And yet, the morning after the first PLEA by Chertoff to leave N.O. comes on the GOVERNOR or L.A. telling people to stay put and "hang tight" because there is NO MANDATORY EVACUATION PLAN IN EFFECT.
...No one, NO ONE but those two dimwit twits (mayor and governor) are to blame for all those deaths.

Will investigate and report...

Report on weather forecasts sneaks in snark

The MSNBC article "Katrina forecasters were remarkably accurate" (subtitled "Levee breaks, catastrophic damage predicted, contrary to Bush claims") has an overview of the weather-related timeline and warnings. Plus, it manages to sneak in some anti-Bush asides:

For all the criticism of the Bush administration's confused response to Hurricane Katrina, at least two federal agencies got it right: the National Weather Service and the National Hurricane Center.

Here are some of their points:
- Aug. 28: while in Crawford, Bush watched a Max Mayfield presentation
- Aug. 29: National Hurricane Center issued warning with "SOME LEVEES IN THE GREATER NEW ORLEANS AREA COULD BE OVERTOPPED". (MSNBC points out that was in capitals, but I guess they all are)
- Sep. 1: Bush says, "I don't think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees"

Mayfield and Paul Trotter, the meteorologist in charge of the Slidell office, both refused to criticize the federal response.
But Mayfield said: "The fact that we had a major hurricane forecast over or near New Orleans is reason for great concern. The local and state emergency management knew that as well as FEMA did."

Indeed:

Mayfield also did something he rarely does before a hurricane hits: He personally called the governors of Mississippi and Louisiana and New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin two days ahead of time to warn them about the monstrous hurricane. Nagin has said he ordered an evacuation because Mayfield's call "scared the hell" out of him.

Also, for you Rick Santorum fans:

AccuWeather Inc. senior meteorologist Michael Steinberg said emergency managers and the public could have been given an earlier warning of Katrina's threat to New Orleans. He said the private company had issued forecasts nearly 12 hours earlier than the hurricane center warning that Katrina was aiming at the area.

Original NWS warning

The following appears to be the original, unedited warning from the NWS. See that link for the weatherbug reaction. Another original with a little discussion might be here. Cached versions are here. Warnings for other areas are here. The Drudge cache is here, although it's not known when that page was active.

NPWLIX
URGENT - WEATHER MESSAGE
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE NEW ORLEANS LA
1011 AM CDT SUN AUG 28 2005
...DEVASTATING DAMAGE EXPECTED...
.HURRICANE KATRINA...A MOST POWERFUL HURRICANE WITH UNPRECEDENTED STRENGTH...RIVALING THE INTENSITY OF HURRICANE CAMILLE OF 1969.
MOST OF THE AREA WILL BE UNINHABITABLE FOR WEEKS...PERHAPS LONGER. AT LEAST ONE HALF OF WELL CONSTRUCTED HOMES WILL HAVE ROOF AND WALL FAILURE. ALL GABLED ROOFS WILL FAIL...LEAVING THOSE HOMES SEVERELY DAMAGED OR DESTROYED.
THE MAJORITY OF INDUSTRIAL BUILDINGS WILL BECOME NON FUNCTIONAL. PARTIAL TO COMPLETE WALL AND ROOF FAILURE IS EXPECTED. ALL WOOD FRAMED LOW RISING APARTMENT BUILDINGS WILL BE DESTROYED. CONCRETE BLOCK LOW RISE APARTMENTS WILL SUSTAIN MAJOR DAMAGE...INCLUDING SOME WALL AND ROOF FAILURE.
HIGH RISE OFFICE AND APARTMENT BUILDINGS WILL SWAY DANGEROUSLY...A FEW TO THE POINT OF TOTAL COLLAPSE. ALL WINDOWS WILL BLOW OUT.
AIRBORNE DEBRIS WILL BE WIDESPREAD...AND MAY INCLUDE HEAVY ITEMS SUCH AS HOUSEHOLD APPLIANCES AND EVEN LIGHT VEHICLES. SPORT UTILITY VEHICLES AND LIGHT TRUCKS WILL BE MOVED. THE BLOWN DEBRIS WILL CREATE ADDITIONAL DESTRUCTION. PERSONS...PETS...AND LIVESTOCK EXPOSED TO THE WINDS WILL FACE CERTAIN DEATH IF STRUCK.
POWER OUTAGES WILL LAST FOR WEEKS...AS MOST POWER POLES WILL BE DOWN AND TRANSFORMERS DESTROYED. WATER SHORTAGES WILL MAKE HUMAN SUFFERING INCREDIBLE BY MODERN STANDARDS.
THE VAST MAJORITY OF NATIVE TREES WILL BE SNAPPED OR UPROOTED. ONLY THE HEARTIEST WILL REMAIN STANDING...BUT BE TOTALLY DEFOLIATED. FEW CROPS WILL REMAIN. LIVESTOCK LEFT EXPOSED TO THE WINDS WILL BE KILLED.
AN INLAND HURRICANE WIND WARNING IS ISSUED WHEN SUSTAINED WINDS NEAR HURRICANE FORCE...OR FREQUENT GUSTS AT OR ABOVE HURRICANE FORCE...ARE CERTAIN WITHIN THE NEXT 12 TO 24 HOURS.
ONCE TROPICAL STORM AND HURRICANE FORCE WINDS ONSET...DO NOT VENTURE
OUTSIDE!

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