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?"
...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...
While I've seen many references to Nagin saying the plan was to move people to higher ground, I haven't seen the same about the schoolbuses. However from 2theadvocate.com: News - Disaster response 10/23/05:
New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin said that, before the storm hit, the buses were moved to higher ground that traditionally didn't flood. But this time the area, like 80 percent of New Orleans, did flood.
Even if the buses hadn't flooded, Nagin said, drivers would have been in short supply because many left town.
Now, find the flooded schoolbus pic showing personal (or city) cars high and dry in a separate parking lot nearby...
There's a long roundup here, including this:
# New Orleans Regional Transit Authority buses weren't available. Most were flooded by the same waters that trapped residents. Buses that could have taken people out of the city before the storm did not.
# Buses that the Federal Emergency Management Agency promised reportedly within hours of Katrina's landfall weren't actually ordered until early Wednesday.
# State government didn't have transportation assets to send. It would take days to mobilize a fleet of school buses from throughout the state.
# There was no emergency plan for moving people before or after the hurricane -- just a general framework that was yet to be fleshed out.
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..."
Limited bus transportation is available to evacuate those resident students who are unable to evacuate on their own. Loyola can only evacuate approximately 150 remaining residents. The City of New Orleans and other agencies contract commercial bus carriers to evacuate hospitals, nursing homes, retirement communities, etc., and those providers will not normally reserve busses for the university to transport college students.
In the comments, please post additional information on this. What happened to the contracted buses? Are these the buses that were used to transport people to the Superdome, the shelter of last resort? What type of evac was done of Loyola?
See the last comment here, reporting on the on-the-scene reports from "ColdChef":
While it is true that there was no clear plan of evacuation (at least to the everyday citizens of New Orleans), on-the-fly plans involving buses and the Superdome fell into place quickly. Saturday and Sunday were beautiful, clear days and even though police drove around with bullhorns, begging people to at least head for higher ground, many people never even attempted to evacuate or seek shelter.... I know people involved in the evacuation effort and NO ONE was denied help if they asked for it. So, yes, while the plans were lacking and they relied heavily on self-preservation, there were alternatives. Alternatives that were, for whatever reason, ignored.
The local nursing home was taking elderly refugees from New Orleans and they needed help unloading them when they got there.... Five large tourbuses from New Orleans showed up with at least fifty patients on each. For the next four hours we carried these old folks off the buses, put them into wheelchairs and brought them inside.
Edwards was one of about 400 Xavier students who weathered the storm on campus while waiting to be rescued. "I did not evacuate. I originally thought that the school had an evacuation plan for us, so I stuck around until the last minute," Edwards said. "That's when I learned there was no plan."
He was in a seven-story dormitory that lost parts of its roof in the fierce storm. The students, staying on the third and fourth floors of the building, waited for help for nearly a week.
On Thursday morning, the New Orleans Police Department arrived on boats to rescue the students.
(Originally via this)
From the 9/12 article "Floodwaters also may be full of gasoline":
Some 150 buses that were moved to the Poland Avenue Wharf in the Lower Ninth Ward appear to have fared well, but about 70 of those vehicles were commandeered by the police and fire departments, the National Guard, and in a few cases by individual citizens who used them to evacuate family members, friends and neighbors.
This post has an aerial picture, and says:
They were in perfect condition and the route between them and the elevated interstate was dry the whole time.
That bases its conclusion on this google picture of the Poland Avenue Wharf.
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See the pictures here, which reputedly depicts 60 unflooded school buses at the Algiers Bus Barn at 801 Patterson Ave. The image is from google, and was reportedly taken on Wednesday 8/31, two days after the storm came in; the Superdome wasn't evacuated until Saturday. The route between the bus barn and the Superdome and the Convention Center was apparently open at that time.
Of course, one sticking point is whether these buses were operational or not, and that would require a bit more investigating, such as the testimony of bus drivers.
UPDATE: As with just above everything else about this matter, there's apparently more to this story.
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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."
Bill Clinton has criticized Our Leader Bush for his response to Katrina on Sunday's "This Week". Your job is to determine why. Is this an attempt to help heal the Bush administration, with perhaps another Bush appearance in which he'll shovel out even more money? Surely, Clinton wouldn't turn on his new best friends in the Bush Family, so something else must be up.
Thus spake Bubba, per AFP:
"If we really wanted to do it right, we would have had lots of buses lined up to take them out"...
He agreed that some responsibility for this lay with the local and state authorities, but pointed the finger, without naming him, at the former director of [FEMA]...
"We"? As in Nagin and Blanco?
Oddly enough, the NYT omits the bus part:
"It's like when they issued the evacuation order... That affects poor people differently. A lot of them in New Orleans didn't have cars. A lot of them who had cars had kinfolk they had to take care of. They didn't have cars, so they couldn't take them out."
"This is a matter of public policy... And whether it's race-based or not, if you give your tax cuts to the rich and hope everything works out all right, and poverty goes up and it disproportionately affects black and brown people, that's a consequence of the action made. That's what they did in the 80's; that's what they've done in this decade. In the middle, we had a different policy."
Evacuation would seem to be a local issue, no? Perhaps Clinton should have been asked about the welfare mindset and whether that played a part in people staying in place. Note also that some people never heard about the evacuation order. Once again, Bush can't be in all places at all times.
While not using the name of Michael D. Brown, the FEMA director who resigned last Monday after criticism of his performance in the Katrina disaster, Mr. Clinton praised the performance of his FEMA director, James Lee Witt, and said Mr. Witt had been especially sensitive to the needs of low-income people because "both of us came out of environments with a disproportionate number of poor people."