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Context of 'Evening August 28, 2005: FEMA Director, Louisiana Officials at Odds on Response'

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The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), known best as a relief agency for victims of natural disasters, is secretly dedicated to the highly classified Continuity of Government (COG) program, which is meant to ensure the survival of the federal government in times of national emergency. Upon its establishment, FEMA absorbs the Defense Civil Preparedness Agency (DCPA) and the Federal Preparedness Agency (FPA), which were previously responsible for the top-secret plans (see April 1, 1979). During the 1980s and into the early 1990s, FEMA’s budget and workforce are overwhelming geared towards the COG program (see 1982-1991 and February 1993). FEMA remains in charge of overseeing the government’s continuity plans up to present day. According to FEMA’s website, the agency’s Office of National Continuity Programs (NCP) is currently the “Lead Agent for the Federal Executive Branch on matters concerning continuity of national operations under the gravest of conditions.” [fema.gov, 6/4/2009]

Entity Tags: Office of National Continuity Programs, Federal Emergency Management Agency, Defense Civil Preparedness Agency, Federal Preparedness Agency

Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties

Hurricane Hugo, shortly before making landfall in South Carolina.Hurricane Hugo, shortly before making landfall in South Carolina. [Source: U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration,]The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is strongly criticized for not providing adequate relief to the victims of Hurricane Hugo, a Category 5 storm that hit near Charleston, South Carolina. The storm causes billions of dollars in damage, displaces tens of thousands, and leaves hundreds of thousands jobless and without power. After the storm passes, FEMA is slow to take action. The first FEMA relief office opens a full week after the storm hits. Once the agency moves in, red tape, minimal resources, and poor management bog down the relief efforts. Senator Ernest Hollings (D-SC) bluntly describes FEMA’s hierarchy as a “bunch of bureaucratic jackasses” that should just “get the hell out of the way.” Charleston Mayor Joseph P. Riley Jr. criticizes FEMA for not bringing enough people or resources to his city. The relief system established by FEMA, he says, “is not designed to cope immediately and urgently with a major disaster.” Robert Hoffman, the mayor of St. Stephen in Berkeley County, says: “I really had more faith in our government.… We’re in serious trouble if FEMA is going to be the [lead] organization in the event of a nuclear war.” Unbeknownst to most of the public and government, the majority of the disaster agency is preoccupied with developing plans for a nuclear doomsday as part of the highly classified Continuity of Government program (see April 1, 1979-Present). [Associated Press, 10/1/1989; Washington Post, 10/4/1989; National Weather Service, National Hurricane Center, 8/1/2005]

Entity Tags: Federal Emergency Management Agency, Ernest F. Hollings, Joseph P. Riley Jr.

Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties

Damage from Hurricane Andrew, in Dade County, Florida.Damage from Hurricane Andrew, in Dade County, Florida. [Source: Greenpeace]Approximately three years after facing harsh criticism for its response to Hurricane Hugo (see September-November 1989), the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is denounced for not providing adequate relief in the wake of Hurricane Andrew. The storm, which devastates regions of southern Florida and Louisiana, claims dozens of lives, leaves up to a quarter million people temporarily homeless, and causes more than $26 billion in damage. [National Hurricane Center, 12/10/1993; National Hurricane Center, 8/1/2005] Nearly a week after Andrew passes, local officials and citizens in the hardest hit areas are still waiting for assistance from the federal government. Days after the storm, the New York Times reports it is still “unclear just who is in charge of the Federal relief effort.” [New York Times, 8/27/1982] “Blame for the government’s delayed response to Hurricane Andrew is being placed squarely at the feet of the Federal Emergency Management Agency,” the Associated Press reports. Even after FEMA moves in, relief is delayed by a lack of resources and bureaucratic red tape. [Associated Press, 8/29/1992] In some cases, the agency brings equipment designed for a nuclear war instead of basic supplies. When the city manager of Homestead, Florida, requests 100 hand-held radios, FEMA is only able to provide high-tech mobile command vehicles (see 1982-April 1994). As Cox News Service will later report: “FEMA sent high-tech vans, capable of sending encrypted, multi-frequency radio messages to military aircraft halfway around the world.… FEMA equipment could call in an air strike but Homestead never got its hand-held radios.” Franklin, Louisiana, which is reportedly “flattened” by the storm, is similarly offered a communications vehicle instead of basic relief. “They offered a mobile communications unit and I told them that was unacceptable,” says Representative Billy Tauzin (D-LA). Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) says the government’s response to the storm is “seen by many of Hurricane Andrew’s victims in Florida as a disaster itself.” Unbeknown to most of the public and government, FEMA is secretly preoccupied with preparations for a nuclear doomsday (see April 1, 1979-Present). [Associated Press, 8/29/1992; Cox News Service, 2/22/1993]

Entity Tags: W.J. (“Billy”) Tauzin, Barbara Mikulski, Federal Emergency Management Agency

Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties

John Magaw.John Magaw. [Source: Public domain]About a week before 9/11, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Director Joe Allbaugh replaces the agency’s acting deputy director, John Magaw, a veteran federal law enforcement agent and experienced counterterrorism official, with Michael Brown, a close friend of his and a long-time political associate with no previous experience in emergency management. [Baker, 2009, pp. 484] Magaw is a former director of the US Secret Service and of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF). In December 1999, Magaw was appointed at FEMA to coordinate the agency’s domestic terrorism efforts. [Market Wire, 12/1999] Allbaugh nominated Michael Brown as the agency’s general counsel upon taking office in January. Brown previously worked as a lawyer for a horse racing association. He has no experience in disaster management (See March 1, 2003). According to Russ Baker, an independent investigative journalist and author of Family of Secrets, a Bush family expose: “One day, Mr. Allbaugh came in and said, ‘I know you’ve got these other things to do. I’m going to ask Mr. Brown to be deputy,’ recalled Magaw who promptly returned to the subordinate position assigned him by Clinton. The timing was remarkable. Just a week before September 11, 2001, Allbaugh replaced a key anti-terrorism official with a crony who had close to zero relevant experience.” [Baker, 2009, pp. 484]

Entity Tags: Joseph M. Allbaugh, Federal Emergency Management Agency, Michael D. Brown, John W. Magaw

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

John Odermatt.John Odermatt. [Source: Queens Gazette]New York City’s Office of Emergency Management (OEM) activates its Emergency Operations Center (EOC) on the 23rd floor of World Trade Center Building 7. The OEM is responsible for managing the city’s response to major incidents, including terrorist attacks. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 283-284, 293] Its personnel arrived at WTC 7, where it has offices, early this morning to prepare for Tripod, a major biological terrorism training exercise scheduled for September 12 (see September 12, 2001). [Jenkins and Edwards-Winslow, 9/2003, pp. 15 pdf file]
Staffer Is Told to Open the Operations Center - OEM Commissioner John Odermatt and Richard Bylicki, a police sergeant assigned to the OEM, heard the explosion when Flight 11 crashed into the WTC, at 8:46 a.m. (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). As they look out of the window at the burning North Tower, Odermatt debriefs Bylicki and instructs him to open the EOC for a fully staffed operation. Bylicki therefore sets about activating the operations center. [Bylicki, 6/19/2003]
Staffers Call Agencies and Tell Them to Send Their Representatives - EOC personnel start contacting agencies, including the New York Fire and Police Departments and the Department of Health, and instruct them to send their designated representatives to the center. They also call the State Emergency Management Office (SEMO) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which they ask to send at least five federal urban search and rescue teams. [9/11 Commission, 5/18/2004 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 293] Meanwhile, Bylicki helps the OEM’s Watch Command handle an “enormous influx” of phone calls, many of which are from senior city officials. [Bylicki, 6/19/2003]
Activation Proceeds without Any Problems - EOC personnel initially struggle to make sense of what has happened at the Twin Towers. [Wachtendorf, 2004, pp. 77] However, the activation apparently proceeds without any problems. Firefighter Timothy Brown, a supervisor at the OEM, is instructed by Calvin Drayton, a deputy director with the OEM, to go up to the 23rd floor of WTC 7 and make sure that personnel are getting the EOC up and running, and the Watch Command is being properly supervised. He goes up to the 23rd floor and first checks the Watch Command. He sees that its supervisor, Mike Lee, has things under control. Then, in the EOC, he sees Michael Berkowitz, a supervisor with the OEM, powering up all the computers and television screens necessary to handle the emergency, and beginning to notify the dozens of agencies that need to send representatives to the center. Berkowitz tells Brown he has the manpower he needs to get the center up and running. “I was very comfortable that OEM was beginning to do what we do in a major emergency,” Brown will later recall. Activating the EOC is something OEM personnel have “drilled for and drilled for and drilled for… and so we were very good at it,” he will comment. [City of New York, 1/15/2002; Project Rebirth, 6/30/2002 pdf file; Firehouse, 1/31/2003]
Center Is Designed for Managing a Crisis - The EOC, which opened in 1999 (see June 8, 1999), is a state-of-the-art facility designed to operate as a stand-alone center from which the city government can operate during a crisis. [City of New York, 2/18/2001] It is one of the most sophisticated facilities of its type in the world. It includes a communications suite, a conference room, a press briefing room, and a large number of staff offices, and has numerous computer-equipped workstations. [Disasters, 3/2003 pdf file] It has enough seating for 68 agencies to operate during an emergency. [City of New York, 2/18/2001] However, it will be evacuated at 9:30 a.m. due to reports of further unaccounted-for planes, according to the 9/11 Commission Report (see (9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 305] Other accounts will indicate that it may be evacuated at an earlier time, possibly even before the second crash at the WTC occurs (see (Soon After 8:46 a.m.-9:35 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (Shortly Before 9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001).

Entity Tags: Mike Lee, Federal Emergency Management Agency, John Odermatt, Michael Berkowitz, Calvin Drayton, US Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Emergency Management, New York City Fire Department, New York State Emergency Management Office, Timothy Brown, Richard Bylicki, New York City Police Department

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Michael D. Brown, an Oklahoma lawyer, replaces Joseph Allbaugh as Director of FEMA. Brown, who was Allbaugh’s college roommate, joined the Bush administration in 2001 as FEMA’s general counsel at Allbaugh’s invitation. [Knight Ridder, 9/3/2005; Boston Herald, 9/3/2005; New York Times, 9/7/2005] Upon Brown’s appointment, Allbaugh says, “The president couldn’t have chosen a better man to help… prepare and protect the nation.” However, prior to joining the Bush administration, Brown apparently had little prior experience in disaster relief or prevention. From 1991 to January 2001, Brown worked as the commissioner of judges and stewards of the International Arabian Horse Association, earning about $100,000 per year. In this role, Brown was charged with ensuring that horse-show judges followed the rules and investigating any allegations of cheating. He was asked to resign in 2001 after accepting donations to a personal legal defense fund. [Boston Herald, 9/3/2005; New York Times, 9/7/2005]

Entity Tags: Michael D. Brown, Federal Emergency Management Agency

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

Kathleen Babineaux Blanco (D-LA) is sworn into office as Louisiana’s first woman governor, replacing Governor Mike Foster (R-LA). [Louisiana, 9/28/2005]

Entity Tags: Mike Foster, Kathleen Babineaux Blanco

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

Innovative Emergency Management (IEM), an emergency management and homeland security consulting firm, announces that the Department of Homeland Security has awarded it a $500,000 contract to lead the development of a catastrophic hurricane disaster plan (see September 23, 2004) for Louisiana and the city of New Orleans. Announcing the award, IEM Director of Homeland Security Wayne Thomas notes that “the greater New Orleans area is one of the nation’s most vulnerable locations for hurricane landfall. Given this area’s vulnerability, unique geographic location and elevation, and troubled escape routes, a plan that facilitates a rapid and effective hurricane response and recovery is critical.” [Innovative Emergency Management, 6/3/2004; Insurance Journal, 6/9/2004; US Congress, 9/9/2005]

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

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

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

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

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

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

Funding is cut for a FEMA disaster exercise meant to prepare government agencies for a major hurricane in New Orleans. The exercise, a follow-up to the Hurricane “Pam” exercise that was conducted the prior year (see July 19-23, 2004), was to develop a plan to fix such unresolved problems as evacuating sick and injured people from the Superdome and housing tens of thousands of displaced residents. [Knight Ridder, 9/1/2005] “Money was not available to do the follow-up,” Michael Brown, director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, will later say in an interview with the Associated Press. [Associated Press, 9/9/2005] After the disastrous Hurricane Katrina, Eric Tolbert, FEMA’s former disaster response chief, will tell Knight Ridder Newspapers: “A lot of good was done, but it just wasn’t finished. I don’t know if it would have saved more lives. It would have made the response faster. You might say it would have saved lives.” [Knight Ridder, 9/1/2005]

Entity Tags: Federal Emergency Management Agency, Eric Tolbert, Michael D. Brown

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

Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco declares a state of emergency in light of the threat to the state posed by Katrina. This declaration effectively activates Louisiana’s emergency response and recovery program under the command of the director of the state office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness. [Louisiana, 8/26/2005] According to Deputy Press Secretary Roderick Hawkins, Blanco issued the declaration in anticipation of possible damage from Hurricane Katrina, noting that the declaration effectively places the Louisiana National Guard on alert: “It puts us on standby just in case we need to mobilize the National Guard.” [KSLA 12 (Shreveport), 8/26/2005 Sources: Roderick Hawkins] . This declaration, in fact, grants Blanco broad powers to respond to the pending disaster, including the power to “[d]irect and compel the evacuation of all or part of the population from any stricken or threatened area within the state if he deems this action necessary for the preservation of life or other disaster mitigation, response or recovery.” [Louisiana State Law, Rev. St. sec. 766] Blanco, however, will decline to exercise this power in the coming hours, electing to defer to local officials.

Entity Tags: Kathleen Babineaux Blanco, Hurricane Katrina

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

Louisiana Governor Blanco, determining that the storm will be so big that state and local governments will not be able to handle it, asks President Bush to declare a state of emergency. The exact timing of Blanco’s letter is unclear. The PDF version of the letter is dated August 28. [Louisiana, 8/28/2005 pdf file] However, the Federal News dateline for the letter is 4:27 am EDT August 27. [Federal News Service, 8/27/2005] Governor Blanco’s office and the Times-Picayune will publish the full text of the letter today. [Louisiana, 8/27/2005; Walker, 8/27/2005]

Entity Tags: George W. Bush, Kathleen Babineaux Blanco

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

Hurricane Katrina will make landfall in Louisiana in only 48 hours . Governor Blanco has declared a state of emergency (see 4:00 pm August 26, 2005), and requested that President Bush declare a state of emergency, to enable direct federal assistance in the potential disaster (see Early Morning August 27, 2005). FEMA has apparently sent 10-20 staff members to Louisiana by this time (see 11:00 am August 27, 2005).

Entity Tags: Hurricane Katrina

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

St. Charles Parish issues a mandatory evacuation at 9:00 am. Around the same time, New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin encourages Jefferson Parish officials to follow the state evacuation plan, which calls for low-lying coastal areas to evacuate first, warning that: “The problem with this storm is that it’s going to compress everything. We have a shorter window to deal with this storm and we’ve got to get people to start evacuating.” Jefferson Parish declares a voluntarily evacuation for most of the parish and a mandatory evacuation for the coastal areas of Grand isle, Crown Point, Lafitte and Barataria. Plaquemines Parish declares a mandatory evacuation and begins evacuating special-needs residents by mid-day. St. Bernard Parish officials recommend that all residents evacuate, although Larry Ingargiola, Emergency Management Director, states that the parish will not declare a mandatory evacuation because it will not offer shelters. [Times-Picayune Blog, 8/27/2005 Sources: Jefferson Parish]

Entity Tags: Larry Ingargiola, St. Charles Parish, Ray Nagin

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour declares a state of emergency for Mississippi. [Mississippi, 8/26/2005; Mississippi, 8/26/2005]
Note - The timing of this declaration is unclear. The official documents are dated Friday, August 26. However, news reports indicate that the declaration occurs on Saturday. [Associated Press, 8/27/2005; United Press International, 8/27/2005] Further, while President Bush signs the disaster declaration for Louisiana today (see (Midday) August 27, 2005), he will not sign the Mississippi emergency declaration until Sunday morning (see Before 11:30 am August 28, 2005).

Entity Tags: Haley Barbour

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

FEMA activates its National Emergency Response Team (Blue Team), deploying to Baton Rouge, Louisiana. [Federal Emergency Management Agency, 8/28/2005] FEMA Director Michael Brown will tell the New York Times that the team arriving in Louisiana today to review evacuation plans with local officials consists of “10 or 20 people.” [New York Times, 9/15/2005]

Entity Tags: Federal Emergency Management Agency, National Emergency Response Team, Michael D. Brown

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

FEMA Director Michael Brown appears on CNN to discuss the pending crisis in New Orleans posed by Hurricane Katrina. According to Brown, FEMA has “done a lot of planning for a hurricane striking New Orleans because of New Orleans lying below sea level.” He urges residents to evacuate, warning that there will be significant flooding, and travel will be impossible: “So, people have between now and Sunday afternoon to really get ready and I encourage them to do that right now.” According to Brown, FEMA has already dispatched teams to Mississippi and Louisiana, and “[w]e’re ready to respond in every possible way, because we do anticipate this being a very significant event.” Brown states that Governor Blanco is currently in conference with emergency officials, and, “once she gets all the detailed information from the hurricane center, from FEMA and the rest of us,” she will decide when to implement the Contraflow plan to facilitate the evacuation. Brown warns residents in the storm’s path: “[Y]ou have about 36 hours now to understand how serious this storm is, and to make your preparations to keep your family and to keep your business safe. You’ve got to do that now, tomorrow and Monday is going to be too late.” [CNN, 8/27/2005]

Entity Tags: Kathleen Babineaux Blanco, Federal Emergency Management Agency, Hurricane Katrina, Michael D. Brown

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

President Bush declares an emergency for Louisiana, and orders federal aid to supplement state and local response efforts in the affected area. This declaration activates the National Response Plan, and authorizes FEMA to provide appropriate assistance for required emergency measures to save lives, protect property and public health and safety for parishes in the storm’s path and to minimize or avert the threat of a catastrophe in multiple parishes. Bush’s declaration authorizes FEMA to provide appropriate assistance for required emergency measures, including specifically, “[m]easures undertaken to preserve public health and safety and to eliminate threats to public or private property.” In response to this declaration, FEMA Director Michael Brown appoints William Lokey as the Federal Coordinating Officer for federal recovery operations in the affected area. [White House, 8/27/2005; US Department of Homeland Security, 9/7/2005] . As Governor Blanco will later note, this pre-impact declaration is extremely unusual. The last time a president issued a pre-impact declaration was when Hurricane Andrew was bearing down on Florida in 1992. [CNN, 8/27/2005] Note that while President Bush’s emergency declaration identifies 39 parishes, it does not identify the parishes in Katrina’s path, apparently due to a clerical error. [Knight Ridder, 9/11/2005] This omission has no practical effect, and a corrected declaration will be issued on Monday. [US Department of Homeland Security, 9/7/2005]
Note 1 - Reuters will later incorrectly report that Bush appoints William Lokey as the Federal Coordinating Officer, and will imply that such action is somehow unusual. [Reuters, 9/15/2005] In fact, as reflected in the official Federal Register entry, and in the White House release, Brown appoints Lokey as the coordinating officer for Louisiana. This appointment is consistent with standard practice: For each declared emergency, a different (lower level) individual is appointed as the federal coordinating officer.
Note 2 - Knight Ridder (and other news media) will later incorrectly report that Bush failed to trigger the federal government’s responsibility, and that it is not triggered until DHS Secretary Chertoff’s August 31 announcement that the Katrina disaster is an “Incident of National Significance.” [Knight Ridder, 9/11/2005; Knight Ridder, 9/15/2005] In fact, Bush’s declaration (a) effectively authorizes FEMA to provide a full and immediate federal response to the unfolding crisis, and (b) makes the crisis an “Incident of National Significance.” [US Department of Homeland Security, 12/2004] , at 7 (“Note that while all Presidentially declared disasters and emergencies under the Stafford Act are considered Incidents of National Significance, not all Incidents of National Significance necessarily result in disaster or emergency declarations under the Stafford Act.”); [US Department of Homeland Security, 9/7/2005] (granting FEMA full authority to respond to the emergency.) The strategy behind DHS Secretary Chertoff’s much ballyhooed—and inaccurate—August 31 announcement that his declaration triggers for the first time a coordinated federal response to states and localities overwhelmed by disaster remains unclear at this time.

Entity Tags: Stafford Act, National Response Plan, William Lokey, Michael Chertoff, George W. Bush, Michael D. Brown, Hurricane Andrew, Kathleen Babineaux Blanco, Federal Emergency Management Agency

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

Announcing President Bush’s declaration of emergency for Louisiana (see (Midday) August 27, 2005), White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan states that, “We urge residents in the areas that could be impacted to follow the recommendations of local authorities.” Bush, who is vacationing at his ranch in Crawford Texas, is receiving regular updates on the storm, according to McClellan. [Shreveport Times, 8/27/2005; Associated Press, 8/27/2005]

Entity Tags: Scott McClellan

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin tells local WWLTV that, “Come the first break of light in the morning, you may have the first mandatory evacuation of New Orleans.” Nagin states that that his legal staff is researching whether he can order a mandatory evacuation of the city, a step he’s been hesitant to do because of potential liability on the part of the city for closing hotels and other businesses. [Times-Picayune, 8/28/2005]

Entity Tags: Ray Nagin

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

The National Hurricane Center (NHC) warns that Katrina, still a Category 4 hurricane, continues to intensify and grow larger. The NHC reiterates the hurricane warning for Louisiana to Florida, and expands the area covered by a tropical storm warning. It warns further that, “While the details of the landfall intensity cannot be known at this time… Katrina will be a very dangerous hurricane at landfall…. It must be emphasized that the exact landfall point cannot be specified and that Katrina is a large hurricane that will affect a large area,” warns the NHC. “NHC now expects Katrina’s path to move north later today.” Other aspects of the NHC Advisory include:
bullet Location: 275 miles south-southeast of the mouth of the Mississippi River
bullet Direction and Speed: West-northwest at 10 mph
bullet Maximum Sustained Winds: Near 145 mph, with higher gusts
bullet Estimated Central Pressure: 935 mb
bullet Size: Hurricane force winds extend outward from center up to 85 miles; tropical storm force winds extend outward up to 185 miles
bullet Probability that in the next 69 hours, Katrina’s eye will pass within 75 miles of:
bullet Panama City, FL: 11 percent
bullet Gulfport, MS: 26 percent;
bullet New Orleans, LA: 29 percent [National Hurricane Center, 8/28/2005; National Hurricane Center, 8/28/2005; National Hurricane Center, 8/28/2005]

Entity Tags: National Hurricane Center, Hurricane Katrina

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

Responding to Governor Barbour’s request , President Bush declares an emergency for Mississippi, and orders federal aid to supplement state and local response efforts in the affected areas. This declaration authorizes FEMA to provide appropriate assistance for required emergency measures to save lives, protect property and public health and safety for counties in the storm’s path and to minimize or avert the threat of a catastrophe in the surrounding parishes of Louisiana. FEMA is thus authorized to provide appropriate assistance for required emergency measures, including specifically, “[m]easures undertaken to preserve public health and safety and to eliminate threats to public or private property” in southern Mississippi. FEMA Director Michael Brown appoints William L. Carwile, III as the Federal Coordinating Officer for Mississippi. [White House, 8/28/2005; US President, 9/5/2005; US Department of Homeland Security, 9/7/2005]

Entity Tags: Federal Coordinating Officer for Mississippi, Michael D. Brown, 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

According to a later interview with the New York Times, FEMA Director Mike Brown states that upon return to Baton Rouge from New Orleans, he has become concerned about the lack of coordinated response from Louisiana officials. “What do you need? Help me help you,” Brown said he asked them. “The response was like, ‘Let us find out,’ and then I never received specific requests for specific things that needed doing.” Bob Mann, Blanco’s Communications Director will assert, however, that during this period, Blanco becomes frustrated with Brown and FEMA for expecting itemized requests before they will do anything. According to Mann, “It was like walking into an emergency room bleeding profusely and being expected to instruct the doctors how to treat you.” [New York Times, 9/15/2005]

Entity Tags: Kathleen Babineaux Blanco, Michael D. Brown, Federal Emergency Management Agency

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

Hurricane Katrina will make landfall in Louisiana in only 48 hours . At Governor Blanco’s request (see Early Morning August 27, 2005), President Bush has declared a state of emergency in Louisiana (see (Midday) August 27, 2005). Low-lying parishes have issued mandatory or recommended evacuations, and New Orleans has issued something between a voluntary and a recommended evacuation (see Morning, August 27, 2005; Evening August 27, 2005). FEMA apparently has sent 10-20 staff members to Louisiana by this time (see 11:00 am August 27, 2005). FEMA publishes a graphic projecting the path of Hurricane Katrina this hour, based on the National Hurricane Center Advisory 21 (see 4:00 am August 28, 2005). FEMA’s graphic indicates that Katrina will pass through New Orleans approximately 32 hours from now, at 2:00 pm tomorrow. [Agency, 8/28/2005 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Hurricane Katrina

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

Around this time, FEMA Director Michael Brown sends a letter to DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff, requesting 1,000 additional DHS employees within 48 hours, and 2,000 within seven days. Based on the letter, Brown seeks volunteers to serve as community relations liaisons. Describing Katrina as “this near catastrophic event,” Brown describes the role of the requested volunteers as follows:
bullet Establish and maintain positive working relationships with disaster affected communities and the residents of those communities.
bullet Collect and disseminate information and make referrals for appropriate assistance.
bullet [Identify] potential issues within the community and report[] to appropriate personnel.
bullet Convey a positive image of disaster operations to government officials, community organizations and the public.
bullet Perform outreach with community leaders on available Federal disaster assistance. [Federal Emergency Management Agency, 8/29/2005 pdf file] Natalie Rule, FEMA representative, will later confirm that Brown is seeking volunteers to “answer phones, do community relations and help set up field hospitals,” and similar “non-emergency tasks.” [CNN, 9/7/2005]
Note - When this memo becomes public, many will criticize Brown, charging, for example, that “Brown waited until about five hours after the storm’s landfall before he proposed sending 1,000 federal workers to deal with the aftermath” [Time, 9/11/2005] , or, as the Boston Globe reports, that “[Brown] did not ask the authority to dispatch FEMA personnel to the region until five hours after the storm had passed.” [Boston Globe, 9/11/2005] However these reports fail to recognize that, at the time Brown requests these volunteers, FEMA has already deployed more than 1,000 staff members workers to the area (see August 28, 2005). [CNN, 9/7/2005]

Entity Tags: Michael Chertoff, Hurricane Katrina, Michael D. Brown

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

FEMA issues a release urging “all fire and emergency services departments not to respond to counties and states affected by Hurricane Katrina without being requested and lawfully dispatched by state and local authorities under mutual aid agreements and the Emergency Management Assistance Compact.” According to FEMA Director Michael Brown, “The response to Hurricane Katrina must be well coordinated between federal, state and local officials to most effectively protect life and property. We appreciate the willingness and generosity of our Nation’s first responders to deploy during disasters. But such efforts must be coordinated so that fire-rescue efforts are the most effective possible.” The US Fire Administration, part of FEMA, asks that fire and emergency services organizations remain in contact with their local and state emergency management agency officials for updates on requirements in the affected areas. According to R. David Paulison, US Fire Administrator, “It is critical that fire and emergency departments across the country remain in their jurisdictions until such time as the affected states request assistance.… State and local mutual aid agreements are in place as is the Emergency Management Assistance Compact and those mechanisms will be used to request and task resources needed in the affected areas.” The National Incident Management System is being used during the response to Hurricane Katrina and that self-dispatching volunteer assistance could significantly complicate the response and recovery effort. [Federal Emergency Management Agency, 8/29/2005]

Entity Tags: Emergency Management Assistance Compact, US Fire Administration, R. David Paulison, Michael D. Brown, Hurricane Katrina, Federal Emergency Management Agency

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

Governor Kathleen Blanco holds a press conference urging evacuated residents to stay put. Blanco reports that officials have received calls from 115 people in New Orleans who say they are stranded, as well as an Unknown number of people in St. Bernard and Plaquemines Parishes. When the winds subside, boats will be deployed from Jackson Barracks in the Lower 9th Ward to go look for people who are trapped. Blanco discusses the widespread flooding in St. Bernard and Plaquemines Parishes, reporting that the water as deep as 10-12 feet in some places. Local officials at the St. Bernard courthouse are trapped on the second floor, and water is rising to that level. State officials have received reports that as many as 20 buildings in New Orleans have collapsed or toppled from the winds. Water is leaking from the 17th Street Canal floodwall. [Times-Picayune Blog, 8/29/2005] During the press conference, Blanco thanks FEMA Director Michael Brown and says, “I hope you will tell President Bush how much we appreciated—these are the times that really count—to know that our federal government will step in and give us the kind of assistance that we need.” Senator Mary Landrieu (D-La.) reiterates Blanco’s praise: “We are indeed fortunate to have an able and experienced director of FEMA who has been with us on the ground for some time.” Brown responds to their praise in kind: “What I’ve seen here today is a team that is very tight-knit, working closely together, being very professional doing it, and in my humble opinion, making the right calls.” [New York Times, 9/11/2005]

Entity Tags: Mary L. Landrieu, Federal Emergency Management Agency, Michael D. Brown, Kathleen Babineaux Blanco, George W. Bush

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

In a subsequent interview with the New York Times, FEMA Director Mike Brown will state that by this evening, he is calling the DHS and White House to report that the emergency response is in chaos. Reportedly, in a status call with Washington, Brown reports that Governor Blanco’s office is “proving incapable of organizing a coherent state effort.” (Bob Mann, Blanco’s Communications Director flatly denies Mr. Brown’s description: “That is just totally inaccurate. Everything that Mr. Brown needed in terms of resources or information from the state, he had those available to him.”) Brown also reports that his field officers are reporting an “‘out of control’ situation” in New Orleans. According to Brown, he informs the White House early and repeatedly that state and local officials are overwhelmed and that the response is going badly, saying a dozen times, “I cannot get a unified command established.” The White House, contend that Brown’s communications are “not filled with the urgency” that he later recalls. [New York Times, 9/15/2005] Other officials report chaos within FEMA’s Washington headquarters. It becomes “a zoo” at the height of the disaster, according to one longtime FEMA official. “Everything is being done by the seat of the pants,” the official will say. “It’s like reinventing the wheel. We’re starting from scratch as though no planning had even been done before.” Chertoff representative Russ Knocke, however, will insist that FEMA’s response is relying upon long-standing plans and goes “much smoother than the response to the Sept. 11 attacks.” “Because of the National Response Plan,” Knocke will say, “‘there is no confusion, no chaos, there’s just immediate action and results.’” [Los Angeles Times, 9/11/2005]

Entity Tags: Kathleen Babineaux Blanco, Michael D. Brown, National Response Plan, Federal Emergency Management Agency, Russ Knocke

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

Boeing is awarded a contract to upgrade the fleet of four E-4B National Airborne Operations Center planes over the next five years. The E-4B is a modified Boeing 747 crammed with electronics to serve as a flying command post in war or during an emergency. The contract is capped at $2 billion, but it is unclear why so much money is needed to modernize such a small number of aircraft. [Defense Industry Daily, 12/27/2005] An E-4B was seen over Washington, DC on 9/11 (see Early September 2001).

Entity Tags: Boeing Company, E-4B National Airborne Operations Center, US Department of Defense

Timeline Tags: US Military

Congress, stung into action by the Bush administration’s poor response to Hurricane Katrina and particularly the ineptitude of Michael Brown, the former director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA—see Early September 2001), passes a law saying that President Bush must nominate a replacement who has “a demonstrated ability in and knowledge of emergency management,” and “not less than five years of executive leadership.” In a signing statement, Bush says that only he, the head of the executive branch, can decide who to appoint to offices. Therefore, he states, he is ignoring the prohibition. [Savage, 2007, pp. 239-240]

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

Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties

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