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During the 75-year period between 1930 and 2005, more than 1.2 million acres of Louisiana’s coastal wetlands disappear. From 1932 to 1956, Louisiana loses 9,600 acres (15 sq. miles) of wetlands per year. The rate peaks between the years 1956 and 1978 at 26,000 acres (41 sq. miles) per year and then declines, falling to 20,000 acres (31 sq. miles) per year during the 1978-1983 period, and 16,000 acres (25 sq. miles) per year between 1983 and 1990. [Wicker, 1980 pdf file; Dunbar, Britsch, and Kemp, 1992; Barras, Bourgeois, and Handle, 1/1994; Barras et al., 2004 pdf file] After state and federal governments initiate a coastal restoration program in 1990 (see November 29, 1990) at a total cost of more than $400 million, the rate decreases to about 15,300 acres (24 sq. miles) per year. [Barras et al., 2004 pdf file] The decades of wetlands loss brings the Gulf Coast 30 miles closer to New Orleans; so by 2005, only about 20 miles remain between the below-sea-level city and the Gulf waters. [Houston Business Journal, 7/11/2003] Studies have projected that Louisiana’s coast will continue to lose land at a rate of about 6,600 acres per year (10 sq. miles) over the next 50 years, [Barras et al., 2004 pdf file] resulting in another 1000 square miles of wetlands being lost, an area almost equivalent in size to the state of Rhode Island. [Louisiana Coastal Wetlands Conservation and Restoration Task Force and Wetlands Conservation and Restoration Authority, 1998] The net loss of Louisiana’s coastal wetlands has been attributed to several factors, including the maintenance of shipping lanes, the dredging of canals, construction of flood control levees, and the withdrawal of oil and gas. [Environmental Protection Agency and Louisiana Geological Survey, 4/1987 pdf file; National Wetlands Research Center, 9/20/2005] The US Corps of Engineer’s flood control system of levees and dams is considered to be a major cause of wetlands destruction, as it prevents the Mississippi River from depositing sediment that is needed to sustain the wetlands. The oil and gas industry is also responsible for the net loss of wetlands. Thousands of canals for pipelines and drilling rigs are plowed during this period, often by the US Army Corps of Engineers, creating a scarred landscape and eroding the marshlands year after year. [Environmental Protection Agency and Louisiana Geological Survey, 4/1987 pdf file; Times-Picayune, 7/26/2002; Houston Business Journal, 7/11/2003] A study in 1982 estimated that as much as 90 percent of Louisiana’s land loss can be attributed to canals. [Turner, Costanza, and Scaife, 1982 pdf file] Furthermore, the extraction of oil and gas from beneath the Louisiana coast is believed (see 2002) to have increased the rate of subsidence, a term used to describe the phenomena whereby land slowly sinks. [Gulf Coast Association of Geological Societies, 2002 pdf file] Other causes of wetland destruction include wave erosion, land reclamation, and rising sea levels. [Environmental Protection Agency and Louisiana Geological Survey, 4/1987 pdf file] Louisiana’s coast is a vitally important ecosystem and natural feature. It makes up about 40 percent of all US coastal wetlands and provides over-wintering habitat for 70 percent of the migratory birds that come down the Central and Mississippi flyways. [Environmental Protection Agency and Louisiana Geological Survey, 4/1987 pdf file; Louisiana Coastal Wetlands Conservation and Restoration Task Force and Wetlands Conservation and Restoration Authority, 1998; US Army Corp of Engineers, 11/8/2004] The wetlands and barrier islands (some 80 percent of these islands are lost during this period) serve as a natural protective barrier against hurricanes by reducing the size of storm surges. [Environmental Protection Agency and Louisiana Geological Survey, 4/1987 pdf file; Houston Business Journal, 7/11/2003; van Heerden, 2004] The region is also of vital importance to the US economy. By the late 1990s, the region contributes 30 percent by weight of the total commercial fisheries harvest in the continental US; 18 percent of US oil production; and 24 percent of US gas production. Louisiana’s ports outrank all other US ports in total shipping tonnage. [Louisiana Coastal Wetlands Conservation and Restoration Task Force and Wetlands Conservation and Restoration Authority, 1998; US Army Corp of Engineers, 11/8/2004]

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

Congress passes the Breaux Act, formally called The Coast Wetlands Planning, Protection, and Restoration Act (CWPPRA), establishing a task force charged with planning and prioritizing wetland restoration projects that would then be sent to Congress to be included as part of the president’s annual budget submission. CWPPRA specifies that 70 percent of its authorized funds must go to Louisiana restoration projects; 15 percent to the Coastal Wetlands Conservation Grant Program, a program that provides federal funds to restoration projects in other coastal states; and 15 percent to North American Wetlands Conservation Act projects. All projects funded under the terms of this act will require non-federal matching contributions. [US Code Vol. 16, secs. 3952-3956] Louisiana will generate its portion of funding for projects though taxes on fishing equipment, small engine, and motorboat fuels, as well as import duties. The act is set to expire in 2009 [National Wetlands Research Center, 9/20/2005] , but will be renewed at least until 2019. [ESA Policy News Update, 10/15/2004] By 2004, some $400 million will have been spent on coastal restoration projects as part of the program [van Heerden, 2004] , resulting in at least 52,000 acres being created, restored, or protected. [Louisiana Coastal Area Study, 7/2004 pdf file]

Entity Tags: US Congress, The Coast Wetlands Planning, Protection, and Restoration Act of 1990

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

The US Army Corps of Engineers works on the Southeast Louisiana Urban Flood Control Project (SELA) spending $430 million to shore up the levee system in the greater New Orleans area and build pumping stations. Local governments contribute $50 million, or about 12 percent. [Editor & Publisher, 8/31/2005]

Entity Tags: US Army Corps of Engineers, Southeast Louisiana Urban Flood Control Project

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

FEMA director James Lee Witt announces Project Impact, under which FEMA will foster partnerships between federal, state, and local emergency workers, as well as local businesses, to help individual communities reduce their vulnerability to certain types of natural disasters. Describing the new initiative, FEMA Director James Lee Witt says, “Our goal, starting with this summit, is to change the way America prevents and prepares for disasters. We’ve got to break the damage-repair-damage-repair cycle.” Project Impact is part of a broader mitigation program aimed at reducing the $14 billion in federal dollars spent annually on disaster relief. Witt says that prevention is necessary because of the apparent increased severity and frequency of natural disasters. [San Francisco Chronicle, 10/15/1997; Independent Weekly, 9/22/2004] Project Impact becomes the agency’s highest profile program. “In Seattle, Washington, for example, the grants [are] used to retrofit schools, bridges, and houses at risk from earthquakes. In Pascagoula, Mississippi, the project [funds] the creation of a database of structures in the local flood plain—crucial information for preparing mitigation plans. In several eastern North Carolina communities, it [helps] fund and coordinate buyouts of houses in flood-prone areas.” [Independent Weekly, 9/22/2004]

Entity Tags: James Lee Witt, Federal Emergency Management Agency, Project Impact

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

The State of Louisiana, the US Army Corps of Engineers, federal agencies, local governments, academics, and local community groups work together to develop a comprehensive restoration plan aimed at rebuilding Louisiana’s coastal wetlands. The plan, named “Coast 2050: Toward a Sustainable Coast,” outlines more than 80 restoration concepts that will serve as the basis for the more technical “Louisiana Coastal Area (LCA) Comprehensive Coastwide Study” that will eventually be submitted to the White House in 2004 (see October 2003). The Coast 2050 plan is a direct outgrowth of lessons learned from implementation of restoration projects under the Breaux Act (see November 29, 1990) and reflects a growing recognition that a more comprehensive systemic approach is needed. It is estimated that the Coast 2050 plan would cost $14 billion over the next 30 years to implement and require an annual budget of $470 million. It would restore natural drainage along Louisiana’s coast and direct the movement of sediment from the Mississippi to rebuild marshes. One of the plan’s strategies would be to install sediment traps at key locations in the river, from where sediment would be pumped through 100-mile long pipelines to rebuild wetlands and barrier islands. [Louisiana Coastal Wetlands Conservation and Restoration Task Force and Wetlands Conservation and Restoration Authority, 1998; Louisiana Coastal Area Study, 1/2003 pdf file; Civil Engineering, 6/2003; Louisiana Coastal Area Study, 7/2004 pdf file; Civil Engineering, 7/2004; USA Today, 8/30/2005] The Coast 2050 plan is endorsed by all 20 Louisiana coastal parishes, the federal Breaux Act (CWPPRA) Task Force, the State Wetlands Authority, and various environmental organizations, including the Coalition to Save Coastal Louisiana. “This approval is unprecedented,” says the Louisiana Coastal Area website. [National Wetlands Research Center, 9/20/2005]

Entity Tags: Louisiana State Wetlands Authority, CWPPRA Task Force, Coast 2050: Toward a Sustainable Coast, US Army Corps of Engineers

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

The fiscal year 2001 federal flood control budget for southeastern Louisiana is $69 million. [Knight Ridder, 9/1/2005]

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

After Congress approves the Bush administration’s proposal to terminate Project Impact (see October 14, 1997-2001), FEMA institutes a new program under which pre-disaster mitigation (PDMs) grants are awarded on a competitive basis. Critics, such as the National Emergency Management Association (NEMA), say that under the competitive based program, lower income communities will not be able to effectively compete with higher income areas. [Independent Weekly, 9/22/2004]

Entity Tags: Federal Emergency Management Agency, Project Impact, Bush administration (43)

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

The Bush administration’s proposed fiscal year 2002 budget includes a dramatic cut in federal funding for hazard mitigation grants, reducing the federal-state cost-sharing formula from 75/25 to 50/50. Mitigation grants allow localities to prepare for anticipated disasters by building levees and floodwalls, moving homes out of flood plains, and/or strengthening structures at risk from floods, earthquakes or other natural disasters. The Bush administration asserts that by making states pay more, they will spend the funds more wisely. “Shouldering a larger share of the costs will help to ensure that states select truly cost effective projects, an incentive that is missing if most of the funding is provided by FEMA,” the budget proposal reads. The proposed budget also eliminates FEMA’s Project Impact, the popular $25 million model mitigation program implemented during the Clinton administration in 1997 (see October 14, 1997-2001). Bush officials say the project, which has been launched in 250 cities and towns, “has not proven effective.” Additionally, the Bush administration proposes to eliminate $12 million from the National Flood Insurance Program budget by $12 million by denying coverage for thousands of “repetitive loss” properties in flood plains. [Office of Management and Budget, 2/27/2001, pp. 81 pdf file; Washington Post, 5/8/2001] A repetitive loss property is one that has suffered flood damage two or more times over a 10-year period and for which repair costs exceed more than 25 percent of its market value. [FEMA, 10/22/2004] White House spokesman Scott Stanzel explains that proposed cuts to these and other federal emergency management programs are part of “an ongoing effort to shift control and responsibility to the states and give them more flexibility.” [Washington Post, 5/8/2001] Jack Harrald, director of the Institute for Crisis, Disaster and Risk Management at George Washington University, says in an interview with the Washington Post that Bush administration officials “clearly are disassociating themselves from programs closely identified with the previous administration. Whether a broader philosophical process is going on is not entirely clear yet, but I suspect it is.” [Washington Post, 5/8/2001] Congress will reject the administration’s proposal to reduce the 75/50 cost-sharing formula, but agree to end Project Impact. [Independent Weekly, 9/22/2004]

Entity Tags: Scott Stanzel, Jack Harrald, Federal Emergency Management Agency, Bush administration (43), Project Impact

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) submits written testimony to Congress, recommending that it reject certain budget cuts proposed by the Bush administration for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and FEMA. The administration’s proposed $3.3 billion budget for drinking-water and wastewater infrastructure is “totally inadequate,” according to the ASCE. Over the next 20 years, America’s water and wastewater systems need to increase funding by an annual $23 billion, just to meet the existing national environmental and public health priorities in the Clean Water Act and Safe Drinking Water Act and to replace aging and failing infrastructure, the ASCE reports, noting that in it’s recently released 2001 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure, “the drinking water and wastewater categories each received a grade of D.” The ASCE also tells Congress to reject the Bush administration’s proposal to eliminate Project Impact, a $25 million model mitigation program created by the Clinton administration in 1997 (see February 27, 2001) (see October 14, 1997-2001). “Project Impact is a nationwide public-private partnership designed to help communities become more disaster resistant. These types of natural hazard mitigation efforts are precisely what Congress should be funding, in an effort to avoid paying the much higher price after a tornado, earthquake or hurricane hits a local community. ASCE recommends that Congress fully fund Project Impact at the fiscal year 2001 appropriated level of $25 million.” [American Society of Civil Engineers, 3/21/2001 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Federal Emergency Management Agency, American Society of Civil Engineers, Environmental Protection Agency, Bush administration (43), Project Impact

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

Governor Mike Foster (R-LA) endorses the Coast 2050 plan (see December 1998) to spend $14 billion over a 20 to 30-year period to rebuild Louisiana’s coastal wetlands as a means of protecting the mainland from the full destructive force of a major hurricane. [Chronicle of Higher Education, 4/26/2002]

Entity Tags: Coast 2050: Toward a Sustainable Coast, Ivor Van Heerden

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

Former petroleum geologist Bob Morton, now with the US Geological Survey, concludes in a paper that the oil and gas industry’s extraction of millions of barrels of oil, trillions of cubic feet of natural gas, and tens of millions of barrels of saline formation water lying with the petroleum deposits has caused a reduction in subsurface pressure causing underground faults to slip and the land above to subside. “Subsidence rates in coastal Louisiana associated with natural compaction and dewatering of Holocene deltaic sediments should decrease with time; therefore historical rates of delta plain subsidence that accelerate and typically exceed geological subsidence rates are most likely influenced by anthropogenic activities, such as subsurface fluid extraction.” [Gulf Coast Association of Geological Societies, 2002 pdf file; National Geographic, 10/2004] The oil industry and its consultants dispute Morton’s theory, but fail to disprove it. If Morton is correct, any restoration efforts in the area could fail as they would be unable to offset the high rates of subsidence. [National Geographic, 10/2004]

Entity Tags: Bob Morton

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

Secretary of the Army Mike Parker, a former Mississippi senator, testifies before the Senate Budget Committee and criticizes the Bush administration’s proposal to reduce the Army Corps of Engineer’s fiscal year 2003 budget by 10 percent. According to Parker, the proposed cuts would affect several of the Corps projects including two flood control projects in southeast Louisiana. These two projects, the Yazoo Pumps and the Big Sunflower River Dredging, would be reduced from a combined $9 million in fiscal year 2002 to $565,000 for fiscal year 2003. Parker asserts that the proposed cuts would also force the Corps to cancel $190 million in already-contracted projects and will result in 4,500 lost jobs. His comments to the committee indicate a dissatisfaction with the Bush administration’s priorities. “After being in the administration and dealing with them, I still don’t have warm and fuzzy feelings for them. I’m hoping that OMB (White House Office of Management and Budget) understands we’re at the beginning of the process. If the corps is limited in what it does for the American people, there will be a negative impact.” [Clarion Ledger, 3/7/2002; Washington Post, 3/7/2002; Reuters, 9/1/2005]

Entity Tags: Mike Parker, Big Sunflower River Dredging, US Army Corps of Engineers, Yazoo Pumps

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

Scientists, environmental groups, and the US Army Corps of Engineers work together on a comprehensive technical plan to rebuild Louisiana’s disappearing coastal wetlands. The plan aims to “provide a sustainable coastal ecosystem with the essential functions, assets, and values of the natural ecosystem.”The Louisiana Coastal Area (LCA) Comprehensive Ecosystem Restoration Study, as it is called, incorporates the restoration concepts outlined in the 1998 Coast 2050 plan (see December 1998). The LCA study, unlike the Coast 2050 plan, provides the scientific and technical analyses and engineering details that Congress will use to decide if the project meets congressional requirements necessary to secure WRDA authorization. WRDA, or the Water Resources Development Act, provides federal authorization for water resources projects. The team hopes to submit a Chief’s Report by June 2004 so that the plan can be included as a funded action item in the WRDA legislation currently pending in Congress. [Louisiana Coastal Area Study, 1/2003 pdf file; Associated Press, 1/29/2004; Associated Press, 2/3/2004; Louisiana Coastal Area Study, 4/2004 pdf file; Louisiana Coastal Area Study, 7/2004 pdf file; National Geographic, 10/2004]

Entity Tags: US Army Corps of Engineers, Louisiana Coastal Area (LCA) Ecosystem Restoration Study

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

FEMA publishes a report on the agency’s flood mitigation efforts in Louisiana. In the introduction, FEMA notes the state’s extreme vulnerability to flooding. “In a sense, Louisiana is the flood plain of the nation, Louisiana waterways drain two-thirds of the continental United States. Precipitation in New York, the Dakotas, even Idaho and the Province of Alberta, finds its way to Louisiana’s coastline. Despite massive improvements to reduce the impacts of severe weather in the last 100 years, flooding is a constant threat. The state of Louisiana has more flood insurance claims than any other state in the country.” FEMA’s report also says that Louisiana has more than 18,000 repetitively flooded structures, more than any other state. [Federal Emergency Management Agency, 3/5/2002; Independent Weekly, 9/22/2004] A repetitive loss structure is one that has suffered flood damage two or more times over a 10-year period and for which repair costs exceed 25 percent of its market value. [FEMA, 10/22/2004]

Entity Tags: Federal Emergency Management Agency

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

Mike Parker, assistant secretary of the Army, resigns shortly after testifying against the Bush administration’s proposed cuts to the Army Corps of Engineer’s fiscal year 2003 budget, including flood control projects in southeastern Louisiana (see February 27, 2002). According to White House officials, Parker has been forced out by the Bush administration, “as a clear sign that the president will not tolerate open defiance by his appointees.” As an unnamed Bush administration official interviewed by the Washington Post, makes clear, “Either you’re on the president’s team or you’re not.” [Clarion Ledger, 3/7/2002; Washington Post, 3/7/2002]

Entity Tags: Bush administration (43), Mike Parker

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

Speaking before her colleagues in the Senate, Sen. Mary L. Landrieu (D-La.) warns that a Category 4 hurricane could wreak massive destruction on Southern Louisiana. She urges Congress to provide sufficient funding for Southern Louisiana flood control projects to mitigate this danger. “I must take this opportunity to bring to light what is at stake when a hurricane or storm takes aim on the Louisiana coast. Not only is the safety, lives and property of Louisiana residents at risk the nation’s critical energy infrastructure and energy supply as well as crucial conservation measures are in danger. Tropical Storm Isidore should serve as a wake-up call to the federal government, which must do more to protect the nation’s resources in Louisiana. Because the City of New Orleans is below sea level and surrounded by levees, every drop of rain that lands there must be pumped out. This important job is accomplished by local, state, and federal agencies working together to ensure that the necessary infrastructure is in place and working much of this work is done by the US Army Corps of Engineers. However, in the President’s budget request submitted to Congress this year, funding for the Southeast Louisiana Flood Control Project, (SELA), was cut by an astonishing 50 percent (see 2001-Early 2004). The SELA flood control project is a smart investment. By investing in these flood control projects, we could prevent the expenditure of hundreds of millions of dollars that will otherwise be spent in federal flood insurance claims and other disaster assistance programs. Fortunately, the Senate Appropriations Committee understands this investment and has approved an increase for this project, which will allow the construction already underway to continue. However, this is not enough. I urge the administration to rethink its priorities and to include sufficient funding for the SELA project in its budget request for fiscal year 2004.… Louisiana’s rapidly eroding wetlands are invaluable in absorbing the surge of storm events like [Hurricane] Isidore. Without them, one can only imagine the damage a hurricane could wreak on South Louisiana and the nation’s energy infrastructure.” [US Congress, 9/30/2002, pp. S9562]

Entity Tags: Southeast Louisiana Urban Flood Control Project, US Army Corps of Engineers, Mary L. Landrieu

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

The US Corps of Engineers submits a draft report package and a Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) on the proposed Louisiana Coastal Area (LCA) wetlands restoration study (see March 2002-October 2003) to the White House’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ). The Corps is hoping that the report will be released this month, so it can be used to request congressional authorization in fall 2004 for the plan’s basic framework. But its release is held up by questions from the OMB and CEQ. In February 2004 (see February 2, 2004), the Bush administration will provide formal comments about the plan to the Corps in its 2005 proposed budget, directing the Corps to develop a less costly plan that focuses on narrower, shorter term objectives. [Associated Press, 1/29/2004; Associated Press, 2/3/2004; Louisiana Coastal Area Study, 4/2004 pdf file; Louisiana Coastal Area Study, 7/2004 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Council on Environmental Quality, Office of Management and Budget, Louisiana Coastal Area (LCA) Ecosystem Restoration Study, US Army Corps of Engineers

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

During President Bush’s visit to Louisiana, Governor Kathleen Blanco asks the president in a private conversation to include $50 million in his budget to begin construction work on the Louisiana Coastal Area (LCA) wetlands restoration project. She follows up with a formal letter outlining her request. [Associated Press, 2/3/2004]

Entity Tags: George W. Bush, Louisiana Coastal Area (LCA) Ecosystem Restoration Study, Kathleen Babineaux Blanco

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

The Bush administration’s proposed fiscal year 2005 budget sets aside $325 million for civil works projects in the US Army Corps of Engineers’ New Orleans district—slightly less than the $337 million approved by Congress the year before. According to Marcia Demma, chief of the Corps’ programs management branch, the Corps will need $425 million for 2005. “We have a backlog of contracts, and it’s just been for the past few years that… we haven’t been funded at our full capability,” Marcia Demma, chief of the Corps’ programs management branch, tells New Orleans CItyBusiness. Of the $325 million proposed in the Bush budget, the Southeast Louisiana Urban Flood Control Project (SELA) would receive $30 million, far short of the $42 million the Corps says it needs, and $4 million less than fiscal year 2004’s actual budget. According to Stan Green, SELA project manager, the $30 million would probably allow the Corps to continue its current work on 12 projects in Jefferson and Orleans parishes. But if it were fully funded, he says, it could award contracts for an additional 14 projects. [New Orleans CityBusiness, 2/16/2004] (Congress ultimately approves $36.5 million for SELA. [Los Angeles Times, 9/4/2005] ) The administration’s proposed budget includes only $3.9 million for the New Orleans’ East Bank Hurricane Levee Project, a mere fraction of the $27.1 million requested by the Corps. According to Al Naomi, who manages this project, the budgeted allotment would not even cover the $4.5 million required for unpaid fiscal year 2004 work. (The sum ultimately approved by Congress for the east bank project is $5.7 million.) [New Orleans CityBusiness, 2/16/2004; Times-Picayune, 6/8/2004; Knight Ridder, 9/1/2005; Knight Ridder, 9/1/2005; Washington Post, 9/8/2005, pp. A01] Additionally, the president’s budget rejects a draft plan, submitted in October 2003 (see October 2003) by the Army Corp of Engineers, to begin a $14 billion dollar project to restore Louisiana’s coastal wetlands. Instead, the president directs the Corps to refocus its ongoing restoration study to produce a single, prioritized list of projects that can be completed in 10 years. Additionally, the corps is directed to include in its study several other larger restoration projects that are not part of the Louisiana Coastal Area study, and determine whether the mouth of the Mississippi can be altered to let sediment create new areas of wetlands to its east and west quickly, while still allowing shipping to reach port facilities in New Orleans and elsewhere along the river. Eight million dollars is allocated to the effort, only a fraction of the $50 million that was requested by Louisiana’s Governor (see January 2004). In the budget’s narrative, the White House acknowledges for the first time that Louisiana’s disappearing wetlands are partly the result of the US Army Corps of Engineers’ channeling of the Mississippi River for shipping and the construction of flood-control levees along the river to protect New Orleans. It also says that canals built by the oil and gas industry, natural subsidence, and rising sea levels are contributing factors to Louisiana’s net loss of coastal wetlands. [Associated Press, 2/3/2004; Times-Picayune, 2/3/2004; Louisiana Coastal Area Study, 4/2004 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Stan Green, Marcia Demma, Louisiana Coastal Area (LCA) Ecosystem Restoration Study, Bush administration (43), Al Naomi, US Army Corps of Engineers

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

Local, state, and federal officials join the American Red Cross and New Orleans community and faith-based groups to launch a three-year pilot hurricane evacuation program, called “Operation Brother’s Keeper,” under which churches would provide rides to city residents without cars. [Times-Picayune, 7/24/2005; Los Angeles Times, 9/13/2005] The program will be funded through a State Farm Insurance grant to the Red Cross. [Times-Picayune, 5/31/2004; Times-Picayune, 7/24/2005]

Entity Tags: American Red Cross, State Farm Insurance, Operation Brother’s Keeper

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

Consistent with its strategy to outsource disaster management functions (see Summer 2004), FEMA solicits bids for a contract to develop a hurricane disaster management plan for Southeastern Louisiana. FEMA’s “Scope of Work” for the contract demonstrates that it is acutely aware of the region’s vulnerability to hurricanes, and of the inadequacy of current plans to manage a major hurricane effectively. According to the document, FEMA and the Louisiana Office of Emergency Preparedness “believe that the gravity of the situation calls for an extraordinary level of advance planning to improve government readiness to respond effectively to such an event.” FEMA describes the catastrophe that will result when a hurricane strikes Southeastern Louisiana. For example, FEMA writes that “the emergency management community has long feared the occurrence of a catastrophic disaster” that would cause “unprecedented levels of damage, casualties, dislocation, and disruption that would have nationwide consequences and jeopardize national security.” It cites “various hurricane studies” predicting that “a slow-moving Category 3 or almost any Category 4 or 5 hurricane approaching Southeast Louisiana from the south could severely damage the heavily populated southeast portion of the state creating a catastrophe with which the State would not be able to cope without massive help from neighboring states and the Federal Government.” FEMA also expressly recognizes that “existing plans, policies, procedures and resources” are inadequate to effectively manage such a “mega-disaster.” The work specified in the contract, awarded to Innovative Emergency Management (IEM) in early June (see June 3, 2004), is to be performed in three stages. During Stage I, scheduled for completion between May 19 and September 30, 2004, IEM will conduct a simulation exercise featuring a “catastrophic hurricane striking southeastern Louisiana” for local, state, and FEMA emergency officials. (FEMA will pay IEM $518,284 for this stage (see July 19-23, 2004)) IEM completes this stage when it conducts the “Hurricane Pam” exercise in July 2004 (see July 19-23, 2004). During Stage 2, IEM will develop a “full catastrophic hurricane disaster plan.” FEMA allocates $199,969 for this stage, which is to be completed between September 23, 2004 and September 30, 2005 (see September 23, 2004). The status of Stage 2 is currently unclear. [Department of Homeland Security, 2004 pdf file; Department of Homeland Security, 2004 pdf file; US Congress, 9/9/2005] IEM apparently provides FEMA with a draft document titled “Southeast Louisiana Catastrophic Hurricane Functional Plan,” in August 2004. [Federal Emergency Management Agency, 8/6/2004 pdf file] The Times-Picayune will identify a later 109-page draft, dated September 20, 2004 [Times-Picayune, 9/9/2005] [Times-Picayune, 9/9/2005] , and the Chicago Tribune will report that as Hurricane Katrina bears down on Louisiana during the evening of August 28, 2005, emergency officials are working from a functional plan, based on the 2004 Hurricane Pam exercise, that is only a few months old. The third stage relates to earthquake planning for the New Madrid Seismic Zone (NMSZ) in the Central United States. [US Congress, 9/9/2005; Chicago Tribune, 9/11/2005] The Scope of Work specifies that the contractor must plan for the following conditions:
bullet “Over one million people would evacuate from New Orleans. Evacuees would crowd shelters throughout Louisiana and adjacent states.” [Department of Homeland Security, 2004 pdf file]
bullet “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.” [Department of Homeland Security, 2004 pdf file]
bullet “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.” [Department of Homeland Security, 2004 pdf file]
bullet “Rescue operations would be difficult because much of the area would be reachable only by helicopters and boats.” [Department of Homeland Security, 2004 pdf file]
bullet “Hospitals would be overcrowded with special-needs patients. Backup generators would run out of fuel or fail before patients could be moved elsewhere.” [Department of Homeland Security, 2004 pdf file]
bullet “The New Orleans area would be without electric power, food, potable water, medicine, or transportation for an extended time period.” [Department of Homeland Security, 2004 pdf file]
bullet “Damaged chemical plants and industries could spill hazardous materials.” [Department of Homeland Security, 2004 pdf file]
bullet “Standing water and disease could threaten public health.” [Department of Homeland Security, 2004 pdf file]
bullet “There would be severe economic repercussions for the state and region.” [Department of Homeland Security, 2004 pdf file]
bullet “Outside responders and resources, including the Federal response personnel and materials, would have difficulty entering and working in the affected area.” [Department of Homeland Security, 2004 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Federal Emergency Management Agency

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

A budget document from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)‘s Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research reveals that the Bush administration’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2005 would reduce climate change research budget by $9.2 million, eliminating the federal government’s $2 million abrupt climate change research program and cutting its paleoclimatology laboratory in half. It would also terminate $1.3 million in funding for postdoctoral programs and end research programs on the health and human aspects of climate change. [ESA Policy News Update, 6/14/2004; Natural Resource Defense Council, 12/31/2005]

Entity Tags: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Bush administration (43)

Timeline Tags: US Environmental Record, Global Warming

The House Committee on Civil Law and Procedure in Louisiana’s House of Representatives votes against Senate Bill 598, which would have provided immunity from civil liability for private drivers who evacuate carless hurricane evacuees. Voting against the measure are Representatives Shirley Bowler, (R-Harahan), and Austin Badon Jr., (D-New Orleans). The measure, already passed in the Senate with a 33-0 vote, was introduced by Senator Francis Heitmeier (D-Algiers) at the request of the New Orleans emergency preparedness office, as well as a coalition of government officials, the Red Cross, and community groups seeking to implement “Operation Brother’s Keeper,” a program designed to increase evacuation of New Orlean’s poor population (see (Spring 2004)). House members who rejected the bill were reportedly concerned that a drunken driver giving a ride to an evacuee could evade responsibility if there was an accident. Representative Badon also argued that immunity was not necessary since a driver’s insurance policy would provide indemnity in the case of an accident. [Times-Picayune, 6/8/2004; Los Angeles Times, 9/13/2005]

Entity Tags: Operation Brother’s Keeper, American Red Cross, State Farm Insurance

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

The Archdiocese of New Orleans decides that its 142 parishes should not participate in “Operation Brother’s Keeper,” a program under which churches will help evacuate New Orleans residents who lack cars if the city is threatened by a hurricane (see (Spring 2004)), until new legislation has been passed to minimize liability risks, Local Red Cross Executive Director Kay Wilkins says. [Times-Picayune, 7/24/2005]

Entity Tags: City Of New Orleans Office Of Emergency Preparedness, Archdiocese of New Orleans

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

Walter Maestri, emergency management chief for Jefferson Parish, which borders New Orleans’ west and south side, tells the local Times-Picayune that the war on terror is endangering flood control: “It appears that the money has been moved in the president’s budget to handle homeland security and the war in Iraq, and I suppose that’s the price we pay. Nobody locally is happy that the levees can’t be finished, and we are doing everything we can to make the case that this is a security issue for us.” [Editor & Publisher, 8/31/2005; Knight Ridder, 9/1/2005]

Entity Tags: Walter Maestri

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

The Bush administration shifts FEMA funds away from pre-disaster preparation and implements policies to promote outsourcing of relief efforts to private companies. FEMA staff members warn that these policies will slow response times in emergency situations [Independent Weekly, 9/22/2004]

Entity Tags: Bush administration (43), Federal Emergency Management Agency

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

In accordance with the Bush administration’s request (see February 2, 2004) to narrow the focus of the Louisiana Coastal Restoration Plan, the US Army Corps of Engineers submits a $2.0 billion restoration plan for Louisiana’s coastal wetlands to the EPA. The plan, downsized from the orginal $14 billion plan and referred to at this point as the Tentatively Selected Plan (TSP), calls for the accelerated implementation of up to five restoration projects that could begin as early as 2006. The projects would cost a total of $786 million. Other projects, such as a 10-year science and technology program, a demonstration program, a beneficial use of dredged material program, and a modification of existing structures program, would also be accelerated and cost about $385 million. The plan also calls for a large scale studies program costing $60 million, and identifies another 10 projects that would be subject to case-by-case authorization by Congress. [Louisiana Coastal Area Study, 7/2004 pdf file; Environmental News Service, 7/7/2004; National Wetlands Research Center, 12/15/2004]

Entity Tags: Environmental Protection Agency, US Army Corps of Engineers, Louisiana Coastal Area (LCA) Ecosystem Restoration Study

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

FEMA sponsors a 5-day exercise rehearsing for a mock storm, named “Pam,” that destroys over half a million buildings in New Orleans and forces the evacuation of a million residents. The drill is conducted by Innovative Emergency Management (IEM). [Associated Press, 7/24/2004; Times-Picayune, 7/24/2004; Knight Ridder, 9/1/2005] It is attended by about 250 emergency officials and involves more than 40 federal, state, and local agencies, as well as volunteer organizations. As part of the scenario, about 200,000 people fail to heed evacuation orders. Pam slams directly into New Orleans bringing 120 mph winds, 20 inches of rain, 14 tornadoes, and a massive storm surge that overtops levees flooding the city with 20 feet of water containing a toxic mix of corpses, chemicals, and human waste. Eighty percent of the city’s buildings are damaged. Survivors crawl to the rooftops to wait for help, but rescue workers are impeded by impassable roads. [Federal Emergency Management Agency, 7/23/2004; Knight Ridder, 9/1/2005; New York Times, 9/1/2005; MSNBC, 9/2/2005; Associated Press, 9/9/2005] The flooding results in a massive number of casualties and leaves large portions of southeast Louisiana uninhabitable for more than a year. [Associated Press, 9/9/2005] At the conclusion of the exercise, Ron Castleman, regional director for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, states: “We made great progress this week in our preparedness efforts. Disaster response teams developed action plans in critical areas such as search and rescue, medical care, sheltering, temporary housing, school restoration and debris management. These plans are essential for quick response to a hurricane but will also help in other emergencies.” [Reuters, 9/2/2005] As a result of the exercise, officials come to realize how difficult it will be to evacuate the city’s population in the event of a real hurricane. They expect that only a third of the population will be able leave before the storm hits, in part due to the fact that up to 100,000 residents live in households without a car. When asked how many people might die in such a storm, FEMA spokesman David Passey hesitates before stating, “We would see casualties not seen in the United States in the last century.” [Times-Picayune, 7/20/2004] In December 2004, a 412-page draft report summarizing the exercise will be completed with detailed predictions of what the government should expect in the event that a major hurricane strikes New Orleans.
Predictions - Flood waters would surge over levees, creating “a catastrophic mass casualty/mass evacuation” and leaving drainage pumps crippled for up to six months. “It will take over one year to re-enter areas most heavily impacted,” the report predicts. More than 600,000 houses and 6,000 businesses would be affected, and more than two-thirds of them would be destroyed. Almost a quarter-million children would have no school. “All 40 medical facilities in the impacted area [would be] isolated and useless.” Casualties would be staggering: 61,290 deaths, 187,862 injured, and 196,395 ill. A half million people would be made homeless by the storm. Storm “refugees” would be housed at college campuses, military barracks, hotels, travel trailers, recreational vehicles, private homes, cottages, churches, Boy Scout camps, and cruise ships. [Associated Press, 9/9/2005]
Recommendations - “Federal support must be provided in a timely manner to save lives, prevent human suffering and mitigate severe damage. This may require mobilizing and deploying assets before they are requested via normal (National Response Plan) protocols.” [Associated Press, 9/9/2005]
Top officials briefed - Ivor van Heerden, the Louisiana State University hurricane researcher who ran the exercise, reports that a “White House staffer was briefed on the exercise,” and thus, “there is now a far greater awareness in the federal government about the consequences of storm surges.” [Louisiana State University, 2005] After the Hurricane Katrina Disaster, van Heerden will recall in an interview with MSNBC that the federal government didn’t take the exercise seriously. “Those FEMA officials wouldn’t listen to me. Those Corps of Engineers people giggled in the back of the room when we tried to present information.” When Heerden recommended that tent cities be prepared for displaced residents, “their response… was: ‘Americans don’t live in tents’ and that was about it.” [MSNBC, 9/2/2005]
Follow-up - Another exercise is scheduled the following year, but it’s cancelled when its funding is cut (see 2005).

Entity Tags: Federal Emergency Management Agency, Ivor Van Heerden, Ron Castleman

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

In the southwest Louisiana parish of Cameron, the US Army Corps of Engineers presents its recently downsized Louisiana Coastal Area (LCA) Restoration Plan (see July 2, 2004) to about 25 local residents, scientists, and environmental activists. People attending the meeting are angered that not one of the 15 major projects included in the revised plan are in southwest Louisiana. Apparently, several proposed projects that were included in the first draft of the LCA plan (see October 2003), including a plan to build major navigational locks at the mouths of the Sabine and Calcasieu rivers to prevent saltwater from seeping into freshwater marshland, are absent in the current plan. In this part of the state, saltwater intrusion has eaten away at the delicate marsh grass, both a key hurricane buffer and marine life breeding ground. [Associated Press, 7/29/2004]

Entity Tags: Louisiana Coastal Area (LCA) Ecosystem Restoration Study, US Army Corps of Engineers

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

Hurricane Ivan approaches the Southern Gulf Coast. Residents of New Orleans have been urged to leave the city, but its evacuation routes are “spectacularly clogged, and authorities [acknowledge] that hundreds of thousands of residents [will] not get out in time.” [Dallas Morning News, 9/14/2004; Washington Post, 9/15/2004] Terry Tullier, director of emergency preparedness for the city of New Orleans, explains to the Associated Press. “There is no plan that exists that will keep this logjam from occurring.” [Associated Press, 9/13/2004] Notwithstanding, approximately 600,000 residents will successfully flee the city, [Philadelphia Inquirer, 10/8/2004] though for some the trip takes as long as ten hours. [US News and World Report, 7/18/2005] Ivan will make landfall east of Louisiana near Gulf Shores, Alabama, sparing the city of New Orleans from a catastrophe. [Washington Post, 9/15/2004] Hurricane researchers will hope that the close call will convince the federal government of the need to fund flood control and wetland restoration projects in Southern Louisiana. “Ivan was a real wake-up call. We have to take Ivan’s near-miss to get the federal government to fast-track some of these restoration projects,” says Ivor van Heerden, the deputy director of the LSU Hurricane Center. [Philadelphia Inquirer, 10/8/2004]

Entity Tags: Ivor Van Heerden, Hurricane Ivan

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

Sen. Mary L. Landrieu (D-LA) warns colleagues in Senate that US must invest in flood control projects in Louisiana in order to avert a major natural disaster in the event of a hurricane making landfall in Southern Louisiana. “I want to speak this morning about what we can do here in Washington a little better, with a little more energy, with a little more focus to help the people in Louisiana and throughout the gulf coast area. Not only do they deserve our help, but because of the energy industry and the economic benefits they bring to the whole country, they not only need our help, they deserve our help. They deserve our attention…. We are talking about severe devastation when a Category 3 or Category 4 or Category 5 hurricane pushes that water out of the gulf, out of Lake Pontchartrain into the tremendously populated areas around the gulf coast.… We are in Iraq, in an important battle, but part of our objective there is to secure an oil supply for the region and for the Nation and to use that for the betterment of the people of Iraq, for their growth and development and the security and stability of the world, as well as to fight for other issues. We are fighting to get 1 to 3 million barrels out of Iraq, and right here in the Gulf of Mexico, today, we have a facility that has virtually been shut down because of a hurricane. Nearly a million barrels is being imported in this country, and exported, a year.… My point is, I hope we will again use this opportunity to focus on the critical infrastructure needs necessary for Louisiana and the gulf coast of Mississippi and Alabama primarily to protect itself not just from homeland security threats from terrorists but real threats of weather.… Yet time and time again, when Louisiana comes to ask, ‘Could we please have just a portion of the revenue that we send?’—we are not asking for charity; we are asking for something we earned; we are happy to share with the rest of the country to help invest in infrastructure—we are told: We cannot do it this year. We do not have enough money. It is not a high enough priority.… Well, I do not know when it is going to get to be a high enough priority. I hate to say maybe it is going to take the loss thousands of lives on the Gulf Coast to make this country wake up and realize in what we are under-investing.… We also have a bill through the WRDA legislation, which is the traditional funding for the Corps of Engineers, the federal agency primarily responsible to keep the waterways dredged, to keep the levees up as high as possible, to work with our local flood control folks, particularly our levee boards in Louisiana, which are some of the most important public entities we have, that literally keep people dry from heavy rains and from floods and storms of this nature.… We need our federal government to understand that we are happy to share our resources and riches with the world, but we do deserve a greater portion of these revenues to keep our people safe, to keep our infrastructure intact, and, most certainly, to be respectful of what the people of Louisiana and the entire gulf coast contribute to our national well-being and security. .. [A]s a Senator representing the State of Louisiana, the chances of it happening sometime are pretty good. If we do not improve our transportation evacuation routes, invest in protecting this infrastructure, and focusing on reinvesting some of the tremendous wealth that has been taken from this area, and reinvesting it back, we will only have ourselves to blame.” [US Congress, 9/15/2004, pp. S9257-S9260]

Entity Tags: Mary L. Landrieu, US Army Corps of Engineers

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

The Department of Homeland Security issues a task order for Innovative Emergency Management, Inc. (IEM) to “complete the development of the SE Louisiana Catastrophic Hurricane plan.” IEM is to receive $199,969 for the work. [US Congress, 9/9/2005]

Entity Tags: US Department of Homeland Security, Innovative Emergency Management

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

The East Jefferson Levee Authority complains that the federal government refuses to fund a hoped-for $15 million project to better shore up the banks of Lake Pontchartrain. [Editor & Publisher, 8/31/2005]

Entity Tags: East Jefferson Levee Authority

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

FEMA awards 24 states $27.4 million in pre-disaster mitigation (PDM) grants. For the third consecutive year, grants request submitted by the flood-prone communities of Southern Louisiana are denied. [Federal Emergency Management Agency, 8/8/2005]

Entity Tags: Federal Emergency Management Agency

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

US Army Corps of Engineer’s Southeast Louisiana Urban Flood Control Project (SELA) has 14 projects planned, worth $114 million, that could be started if funds were available. But because of the drop in federal funding (see 2001-Early 2004) no new contracts have been awarded since early 2004. The 14 projects include widening canals, replacing bridges, and constructing culverts. According to Stan Green, SELA project manager, the projects are “of critical importance in reducing rainfall flooding.… I’d say in the last two or three years, the work that we’ve already done under SELA has made a significant difference. We have a lot of benefits yet to be realized from this work we haven’t built yet.” [New Orleans CityBusiness, 2/7/2005; Los Angeles Times, 9/4/2005]

Entity Tags: Southeast Louisiana Urban Flood Control Project, Stan Green

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

The Bush administration’s proposed fiscal year 2006 budget includes $20 million to help support research, planning, and design work related to efforts to restore Louisiana’s coastal wetlands. The budget would also provide $28 million for southeast Louisiana flood control projects. [White House website, 2/7/2005]

Entity Tags: Bush administration (43)

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

Total Community Action, a New Orleans faith-based organization, reportedly secures promises from Amtrak to help evacuate the city’s carless residents in the event of a major hurricane. [Los Angeles Times, 9/13/2005]

Entity Tags: Total Community Action, Amtrak

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

The House of Representatives proposes the steepest reduction in hurricane and flood-control funding for New Orleans in history—$71.2 million, or 21 percent. The Bush administration had earlier proposed a $52.8 million reduction for the New Orleans district’s fiscal year 2006 budget. The cut would be the largest single-year spending cut ever incurred by the district. As a result of the expected cut, the local Corps office postpones a study seeking to determine ways to protect the region from a Category 5 hurricane. Additionally, it imposes a hiring freeze and is unable to start any new jobs or award any new contracts. “I’ve been here over 30 years and I’ve never seen this level of reduction,” said Al Naomi, project manager for the New Orleans district. “I think part of the problem is it’s not so much the reduction, it’s the drastic reduction in one fiscal year. It’s the immediacy of the reduction that I think is the hardest thing to adapt to.” One of the hardest hit projects is the Southeast Louisiana Urban Flood Control Project (SELA). Its budget is being slashed to $10.4 million, down from $36.5 million. The amount is a sixth of what local officials say they need. Funding for levee repairs and other work on Lake Pontchartrain is scheduled to be cut from $5.7 million (see February 2, 2004) this year to $2.9 million in 2006. “We’ll do some design work. We’ll design the contracts and get them ready to go if we get the money. But we don’t have the money to put the work in the field, and that’s the problem,” Naomi says. [New Orleans CityBusiness, 6/6/2005; Editor & Publisher, 8/31/2005; Chicago Tribune, 9/1/2005]

Entity Tags: Al Naomi, Southeast Louisiana Urban Flood Control Project, Bush administration (43)

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

The Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development begins distributing one million evacuation maps to the residents of New Orleans. “We learned the lessons from the Hurricane Ivan evacuation (see September 14, 2004), and we put those lessons to use in developing a new plan,” DOTD Secretary Johnny B. Bradberry says. “This document is proof that government can and does listen to the concerns of citizens.” The initial printing of the maps was paid for by the American Red Cross and the Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness. [Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development, 6/17/2005]

Entity Tags: US Department of Homeland Security, Johnny B. Bradberry, American Red Cross, Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

Louisiana Governor Blanco and local officials from Southeastern Louisiana parishes hold a special press conference to urge residents to evacuate. Blanco reports that the parishes are cooperating in following the evacuation plan, and encourages residents to listen to their parish leaders regarding when they should leave their area. Aaron Broussard, President of Jefferson Parish, then outlines the particulars of the evacuations, noting that residents of low-lying regions need to leave immediately, so that other residents can follow. New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin warns residents that Hurricane Katrina poses a grave danger to the city: “This is not a test. This is the real deal. Things could change, but as of right now, New Orleans is definitely the target for this hurricane.” Nagin says that New Orleans will follow the state’s evacuation plan, and thus, he will not officially order evacuations until 30 hours before expected landfall, to allow those residents in low-lying surrounding areas to leave first. However, he recommends that residents in low-lying areas of the city, such as Algiers and the 9th Ward, get a head start, noting: “We want you to take this a little more seriously and start moving—right now, as a matter of fact.” Acknowledging that many residents have no independent means of transportation, Nagin says that the city might open the Superdome as a shelter of last resort for evacuees with special needs, but advises evacuees who plan to stay there to bring their own food, drinks, and other comforts necessary. Police Chief Eddie Compass states that New Orleans likely will issue a curfew at some point, and the police department will station police officers at shopping centers to prevent looting. Blanco sums up the situation: “We have been very blessed so far. We’ve escaped the brunt of most of the hurricanes that have been generated. But now it looks like we’re going to have to bear some of the brunt of this storm.” [CNN, 8/27/2005; Times-Picayune Blog, 8/27/2005; Associated Press, 8/27/2005; Washington Post, 9/11/2005]

Entity Tags: Kathleen Babineaux Blanco, Hurricane Katrina, Aaron Broussard, Ray Nagin, Eddie Compass

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

NHC Director Max Mayfield calls New Orleans Mayor Nagin: “This is going to be a defining moment for a lot of people.” [Houston Chronicle, 9/8/2005; Washington Post, 9/11/2005] Nagin will tell City Councilwoman Cynthia Morrell early Sunday morning, “Max Mayfield has scared me to death.” [Newsweek, 9/19/2005] Nagin will later recall that Mayfled’s message “scared the crap out of me.” “I immediately said, ‘My God, I have to call a mandatory evacuation,’” according to a later Knight Ridder report. [Knight Ridder, 9/11/2005] Nagin will call for the evacuation Sunday morning at 9:30 am (see (9:30 am) August 28, 2005).

Entity Tags: Max Mayfield, Cynthia Morrell, Ray Nagin

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

The last Amtrak train leaves New Orleans, with equipment—but no passengers. Earlier, Amtrak decided to run a nonscheduled train from New Orleans to Macomb Mississippi to move equipment out of harm’s way. Amtrak representative Cliff Black will later assert that Amtrak offered to take New Orleans evacuees on the train, which has room for several hundred passengers, but the city declined the offer. [Washington Post, 9/11/2005] Mayor Ray Nagin, however, denies this claim, asserting, “Amtrak never contacted me to make that offer. As a matter of fact, we checked the Amtrak lines for availability, and every available train was booked, as far as the report that I got, through September. So I’d like to see that report.… I would love to have had that call. But it never happened.” [MSNBC, 9/11/2005] The Los Angeles Times will later report that Total Community Action, a non-profit community based agency serving disadvantaged New Orleans residents, had previously secured a commitment from Amtrak to transport residents without cars to safety in the event of an evacuation (see (Spring-Summer 2005)). Most reports indicate that no such transport occurred, although the Los Angeles Times article references “reports that at least one Amtrak train got out of the city with evacuees.” [Los Angeles Times, 9/13/2005]

Entity Tags: Ray Nagin, Cliff Black, Amtrak

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

After noting that the Red Cross has predicted that as many as 100,000 people could die if a hurricane would hit New Orleans, ABC reporter Kate Snow asks Louisiana Governor Blanco how the evacuation is proceeding. Blanco responds: “We started evacuations early yesterday. Started encouraging people to voluntarily evacuate from the low-lying areas surrounding the Orleans area. And today we’re focusing on the final people who are still in the city, encouraging them to leave. There will be all sorts of modes of transportation available to those who have no transportation. City buses will be available. Other people are bringing buses in. We also, I believe are lining up trains to move as many people out as possible.” [ABC, 8/28/2005] Note that Amtrak’s last train reportedly left Saturday evening around 8:30 pm (see 8:30 pm August 27, 2005).

Entity Tags: Kate Snow, American Red Cross, Kathleen Babineaux Blanco

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

FEMA’s Situation Update indicates that it is starkly aware of the dire situation in New Orleans, including the lack of transportation for many of the poorer residents: “Katrina could be especially devastating if it strikes New Orleans because the city sits below sea level and is dependent on levees and pumps to keep the water out. A direct hit could wind up submerging the city in several feet of water. Making matters worse, at least 100,000 people in the city lack the transportation to get out of town.” FEMA outlines preparations as follows: FEMA’s National Response Coordination Center (NRCC) Red Team and the National Emergency Response Team (Blue) have been fully activated. Region 4 (serving Alabama, Florida and Mississippi, among others) and Region 6 (serving Louisiana) are also fully activated. At the state level, both Mississippi’s and Louisiana’s Emergency Operations Centers are fully activated. [Federal Emergency Management Agency, 8/28/2005]

Entity Tags: National Emergency Operations Center, National Response Coordination Center, Federal Emergency Management Agency

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

According to a later interview with the New York Times, FEMA Director Mike Brown states that by this time, he has grown so frustrated with Mayor Nagin’s apparent refusal to order a mandatory evacuation that he calls President Bush to ask for help. “‘Mike, you want me to call the mayor?’ the president responds in surprise,” according to Brown. [New York Times, 9/15/2005]

Entity Tags: George W. Bush, Ray Nagin, Michael D. Brown

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

President Bush telephones Governor Blanco (apparently in response to FEMA Director Michael Brown’s request to call New Orleans Mayor Nagin (see Before 9:30am August 28, 2005), to urge a mandatory evacuation of New Orleans, according to later reports. Blanco responds that Mayor Nagin has already decided to do so, and will make the announcement shortly. [Washington Post, 9/11/2005]

Entity Tags: Ray Nagin, Kathleen Babineaux Blanco, George W. Bush

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

At 9:30 am this morning, Mayor Nagin announces the first-ever mandatory evacuation of New Orleans. After reading the official declaration, Nagin states: “Ladies and gentlemen, I wish I had better news for you. But we are facing a storm that most of us have feared. I do not want to create panic. But I do want the residents to understand that this is very serious, and it’s of the highest nature. And that’s why we are taking this unprecedented move. The storm is now a Cat 5… with sustained winds of 150 miles an hour, with wind gusts of 190 miles per hour. The storm surge most likely will topple our levy system. So we are preparing to deal with that also. So that’s why we’re ordering a mandatory evacuation.” Acknowledging that many people will be unable to obtain transportation, Nagin announces that the city has established ten pickup areas for residents without transportation. City buses will transport residents from the pickup areas to the city’s shelters. The Superdome will open as a shelter of last resort, although Nagin states that, “I want to emphasize, the first choice of every resident should be to leave the city.” The Superdome is likely to be without power for days—and possibly weeks—after the storm fits, and it will not be a comfortable place. Hotels and their patrons are exempted from the order. Police and firefighters will spread out throughout the city sounding sirens and using bullhorns to tell residents to get out. Police may commandeer any vehicle or building that could be used for evacuation or shelter. Nagin concludes his announcement as follows: “This is an opportunity in New Orleans for us to come together in the way that we’ve never come together before. This is a threat that we’ve never faced before. And if we galvanize and rally around each other, I am sure that we will get through this. God bless us.” [CNN, 8/28/2005; Russell, 8/28/2005; City of New Orleans, 8/28/2005]
Note 1 - Various sources have reported that Nagin issued the mandatory evacuation later than 9:30. [Houston Chronicle, 9/8/2005; Knight Ridder, 9/11/2005; Boston Globe, 9/11/2005] However, according to the contemporaneous CNN transcript, Nagin makes this announcement only minutes after 9:23 am CDT.
Note 2 - The Washington Post will later report, incorrectly, that Nagin never mentioned the estimated 100,000 residents who had no personal means of transportation. [Washington Post, 9/11/2005] In fact, Nagin acknowledged this issue as early as Saturday (see (1:30 pm) August 27, 2005). State and federal officials also acknowledge this problem, and are seeking buses to evacuate these residents. [Federal Emergency Management Agency, 8/28/2005; Dallas Morning News, 8/29/2005]

Entity Tags: Ray Nagin, New Orleans Superdome

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

Louisiana Governor Blanco takes the podium to reinforce the need for evacuation: “I want to reiterate what the mayor has said (see (9:30 am) August 28, 2005). This is a very dangerous time. Just before we walked into this room, President Bush called (see Shortly before 9:30 am August 28, 2005) and told me to share with all of you that he is very concerned about the residents. He is concerned about the impact that this hurricane would have on our people. And he asked me to please ensure that there would be a mandatory evacuation of New Orleans. The leaders at the highest ranks of our nation have recognized the destructive forces and the possible awesome danger that we are in. And I just want to say, we need to get as many people out as possible. The shelters will end up probably without electricity or with minimum electricity from generators in the end. There may be intense flooding that will be not in our control, which would be ultimately the most dangerous situation that many of our people could face. Waters could be as high as 15 to 20 feet.… That would probably be ultimately the worst situation. We’re hoping that it does not happen that way. We need to pray, of course, very strongly, that the hurricane force would diminish.” Blanco then describes the gridlock on roads leading out of New Orleans, and urges residents to take alternate routes. [CNN, 8/28/2005; WWLTV 4 (New Orleans), 8/28/2005; KATC News (Lafayette, LA), 8/30/2005]

Entity Tags: Ray Nagin, Kathleen Babineaux Blanco, George W. Bush

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

From his ranch in Crawford, President Bush speaks briefly with reporters. Bush first explains that he has spoken with FEMA Director Michael Brown (see Before 9:30am August 28, 2005) and with the governors of Alabama, Florida, Louisiana (see Shortly before 9:30 am August 28, 2005), and Mississippi. He announces that he has already signed disaster declarations for Louisiana and Mississippi. Bush then addresses the residents in the storm’s path: “Hurricane Katrina is now designated a Category 5 hurricane. We cannot stress enough the danger this hurricane poses to Gulf Coast communities. I urge all residents to put their own safety and the safety of their families first by moving to safe ground. Please listen carefully to instructions provided by state and local officials.” Bush then turns to Iraq, congratulating “the people of Iraq on completing the next step in their transition from dictatorship to democracy.” Bush’s brief statement contains 203 words about the pending Katrina disaster, and 819 words about the new Iraqi constitution. [US President, 9/5/2005]

Entity Tags: Hurricane Katrina, George W. Bush

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina, Iraq under US Occupation

Throughout this afternoon and evening, Regional Transit Authority (RTA) and some school buses will run between the designated pick-up areas and the Superdome throughout the afternoon and evening. “They’re using school buses and about everything they can find to get people out of here,” reports French Quarter resident Rob Ramsey. [Commercial Appeal (Memphis), 8/29/2005; Times-Picayune, 8/29/2005 pdf file] Nagin will later explain that the plan is to get people to higher ground: “Get them out of their homes, which—most people are under sea level—Get them to a higher ground and then depending upon our state and federal officials to move them out of harm’s way after the storm has hit.” [MSNBC, 9/11/2005] Neither the number of buses deployed by the city, nor the number of people successfully evacuated on city buses, is known at this time. In the days to come, after publication of a photo showing hundreds of flooded buses, many will question why the city failed to use these buses to evacuate more people. [MSNBC, 9/6/2005] However, as Mayor Nagin will later note, “Sure, there was lots of buses out there. But guess what? You can’t find drivers that would stay behind with a Category 5 hurricane, you know, pending down on New Orleans. We barely got enough drivers to move people on Sunday, or Saturday and Sunday, to move them to the Superdome. We barely had enough drivers for that. So sure, we had the assets, but the drivers just weren’t available.” [MSNBC, 9/11/2005] In fact, officials at all levels of government:
bullet (a) know that that many residents will need transportation (see (1:30 pm) August 27, 2005) (see Between 7:00-8:00 am August 28, 2005) (see Morning August 28, 2005)
bullet (b) know that local officials do not have sufficient resources to evacuate all residents who lack transportation (see (Spring 2004)) (see July 19-23, 2004) ; and
bullet (c) fail to dispatch the number of buses necessary for the evacuation. [Dallas Morning News, 8/29/2005; Advocate (Baton Rouge), 9/9/2005; Boston Globe, 9/11/2005] In short, officials at all levels of government are seeking buses; and officials at all levels of government fail to use the fleet of buses in the city that will be flooded during the hurricane. [MSNBC, 9/6/2005]
Note 1 - MSBNC will later report that it has obtained a draft emergency plan prepared by FEMA, which calls for “400 buses to… evacuate victims.” [MSNBC, 9/6/2005] More details regarding this plan are not yet known.
Note 2 - It is unclear whether Passey’s post-hurricane statement refers to buses requested before the hurricane or after. However, his report that FEMA is scrambling for buses occurs sometime prior to August 29, when it is reported in the Dallas Morning News. Regardless of which bus request (i.e., pre- or post-hurricane) Passey is referencing, it is undisputed that, along with the city and state, FEMA was scrambling for buses pre-hurricane, and that, along with the city and state, FEMA failed to deploy the many city school buses that will be flooded due to the hurricane.
Note 3 - Although not yet clear, it may be that officials elect to stage people at the Superdome because of their inability to deploy sufficient buses, in order to maximize the number of people that can be evacuated from low-lying neighborhoods in the hours leading up to the storm. Had officials used the available buses to transport people out of the city via the clogged interstates, the total number of people evacuated necessarily would have been much smaller. Each bus likely could make only a single run. Instead, the buses can make multiple trips from pickup areas to the Superdome.

Entity Tags: Rob Ramsey, Ray Nagin, New Orleans Superdome, Regional Transit Authority

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

The 2004 Hurricane Pam exercise (see July 19-23, 2004) indicated that approximately 65 percent of the New Orleans-area population would evacuate before a major hurricane. [Washington Post, 9/11/2005] However, initial reports indicate that the Katrina evacuation has exceeded these expectations—significantly. Almost one million people (or about 80 percent of the population) have left the greater New Orleans area, according to Jeff Smith, Deputy Director of Louisiana’s Emergency Planning. Later, Smith will note that, “Everyone is kind of focusing on response at this point in time. I don’t hear anybody talking about how successful that evacuation was. It probably saved hundreds of thousands of lives, and nobody wants to talk about that.” Smith will acknowledge, however, that up to 100,000 residents may not have evacuated. [National Public Radio, 9/9/2005 Sources: Jeff Smith] When asked about the evacuation of the reported 100,000 residents without transportation, FEMA Director Mike Brown will say “I think enough was done,” adding that his only question is whether the mandatory evacuation should have been announced sooner. [Wall Street Journal, 9/12/2005] Jefferson Parish reports a 70 percent evacuation rate, in part due to a “church buddy program,” which provided rides for approximately 25,000 residents. St. Bernard Parish reports an astounding 90 percent evacuation rate. [Washington Post, 9/11/2005] The Chicago Tribune later reports that the area has achieved 75 percent evacuation. [Chicago Tribune, 9/11/2005]

Entity Tags: Michael D. Brown

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

Around midnight, local emergency officials from southeastern Louisiana hold a teleconference with FEMA to discuss plans for responding to Katrina’s aftermath. Local officials are so certain of catastrophe that they ask FEMA to include extra medical staff in its first wave of responders to help the expected casualties. At this point, officials are reportedly following a plan drafted only months ago, as a result of the Hurricane Pam exercise conducted in 2004 (see July 19-23, 2004). [Chicago Tribune, 9/11/2005]
Note - Following the 2004 Hurricane Pam exercise, Innovative Emergency Management (IEM issued a Draft Southeast Louisiana Catastrophic Hurricane Functional Plan (Draft Plan) on August 6, 2004. [Federal Emergency Management Agency, 8/6/2004 pdf file] Whether local officials are following this draft plan, or a later plan, remains unclear at this time. The Chicago Tribune reports that the plan in place provides that local officials should be prepared to deal with the aftermath of the storm for 48 to 60 hours (or until August 31). However, the Draft Plan expressly contemplates that local search and rescue resources will be unavailable to rescue the estimated 500,000 people in flooded or damaged areas. [Federal Emergency Management Agency, 8/6/2004, pp. 69-70, 72 pdf file] Thus, the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, and the US Coast Guard are expected to serve as the primary first-responders, while local officials are tasked with requesting assistance. [Federal Emergency Management Agency, 8/6/2004, pp. 70-74 pdf file] Further, while local parishes are tasked with identifying required support, the Plan recognizes that they may be unable to do so: “State and Federal SAR operations personnel will respond to Parishes without a request if initial assessment indicates that the Parish is severely damaged and is not capable of requesting assistance.” [Federal Emergency Management Agency, 8/6/2004, pp. 75 pdf file] The Plan also contemplates that 500,000 residents will need transport from the initial search and rescue staging area to shelters, and that because the Louisiana National Guard will be otherwise tasked, it will be unable to meet this transportation need. [Federal Emergency Management Agency, 8/6/2004, pp. 27-28 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Hurricane Pam, US Coast Guard, Louisiana National Guard, Federal Emergency Management Agency

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

Patients First bus featuring the “Hands Off Our Health Care” slogan and bloody handprint logo.Patients First bus featuring the “Hands Off Our Health Care” slogan and bloody handprint logo. [Source: Associated Press]The citizens’ organization Patients First, a subsidiary of the conservative lobbying group Americans for Prosperity (AFP—see April 14, 2009, April 15, 2009, and May 29, 2009), schedules a 13-state bus tour. The tour is aimed at bringing conservative protesters to rallies and “town hall” meetings where the White House’s controversial health care proposals are being discussed. AFP’s board includes James Miller, a Federal Trade Commission chairman and budget director during the Reagan administration. The tour begins with a “tea party” rally in Richmond. According to AFP official Ben Marchi, organizers will urge constituents to call or visit their senators and sign a petition that asks members of Congress to “oppose any legislation that imposes greater government control over my health care that would mean fewer choices for me and my family and even deny treatments to those in need.” The bus will make 26 stops in Virginia alone before journeying to North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Indiana, and Louisiana. Another bus will visit Nebraska, Colorado, South Dakota, North Dakota, Montana, Iowa, Arkansas, and Missouri. “Virginians are fired up about health care and what they see as an overreaching federal government,” Marchi says. “We don’t want legislators to come between them and their doctor. The relationship that exists between doctors and patients is sacred and should not be interfered with.” [Richmond Times-Dispatch, 7/23/2009; Politico, 7/28/2009]

Entity Tags: Obama administration, Americans for Prosperity, Patients First, Ben Marchi, James Miller

Timeline Tags: US Health Care, Domestic Propaganda, 2010 Elections

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