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Profile: Hurricane Andrew
Hurricane Andrew was a participant or observer in the following events:
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. ]
“Although the damage will be incredible, it could have been much, much worse,” states Jeff Matthews, meteorologist with the Weather Underground. Masters notes, however, that the National Weather Service “is reporting that the levees in Orleans and St Bernard parishes have been overtopped by the storm surge, and there are reports of life-threatening flooding, roof damage, and building collapses in the city.” Masters warns that “Bay Saint Louis, Biloxi, and Gulfport Mississippi will take the full force of Katrina’s right eyewall, and a storm surge of 15-20 feet is likely along the west and central Mississippi coast.” Masters closes his post with a personal note: “A special thanks need to be given to the Air Force Hurricane Hunters based at Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi, Mississippi, who have flown Katrina around the clock while their families remained on the ground in Biloxi. Biloxi will suffer Katrina’s harshest blow, and many of the Hurricane Hunters will see their homes destroyed or heavily damaged.”
[Masters, 8/29/2005] Tomorrow morning, Masters will recall the initial relief after Hurricane Andrew: “As news reports begin to filter in from the hardest hit areas, the scope of Katrina’s destruction is slowly being realized. Remember in the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew, how there was a lot of relief about how much worse it could have been, and how well Miami fared? This cheerfulness faded once the search teams penetrated to Homestead and found the near-total devastation there [W]ith a two block long breach in the Lake Pontchartrain levee allowing the entire City of New Orleans to flood today, we are witnessing a natural disaster of the scope unseen in America since the great 1938 Hurricane devastated New England, killing 600. Damage from Katrina will probably top $50 billion, and the death toll will be in the hundreds.”
Egecat Inc., a risk management firm, reports that Katrina may be the second most-expensive hurricane ever for the insurance industry. Egecat predicts that insurance claims will total between $9 and 16 billion, second only to the $20.8 billion in damages paid out for Hurricane Andrew in 1992. This estimate is lower than Egecat’s morning prediction of $15-$30 billion. [Times-Picayune Blog, 8/29/2005]
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