Badtux the Snarky Penguin

In a time of chimpanzees, I was a penguin.

Religious fundamentalists are motivated by the sneaking suspicion that someone, somewhere, is having fun -- and that this must be stopped.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Lest we forget...

For all the historical (hysterical) revisionists stating that the federal response was "timely":

Even the standard protocols for a federal response to a national disaster call for massive Federal presence within 72 hours of a request for assistance.

  1. June 9, 2005: Mayor Nagin requests of the Orleans Parish School Board that he be allowed to use the approximately 250 working OPSB buses to evacuate the city in the event that a major hurricane approaches the city in the upcoming hurricane city. The school board takes no action on the request.
  2. June 10, 2005: The Orleans Parish School Board goes on vacation until August.
  3. Saturday, August 27, 2005: The governor of Louisiana issues a formal request for assistance, stating that, since 1/4th of the population of the state has Katrina bearing down upon it, that this is an emergency too big for the state to handle by itself and thus requires federal assistance including coordination, planning, evacuation, and supplies. This starts the clock ticking.
  4. Saturday, August 27, 2005: Mayor Nagin calls for an evacuation of New Orleans. The New Orleans papers, television, and radio stations go into "All Evacuation, All The Time" mode as has been planned and practiced for decades, with the evacuation routes fully laid out. Nagin requests assistance from the state and FEMA in the form of buses and drivers for said buses in order to evacuate those without transportation. No such help arrives.
  5. Saturday, August 27, 2005: City's buses run their usual routes, carrying people to the Greyhound bus station, airport, shopping centers, etc. The majority of people are in denial and refuse to leave home, stating that they're sure Katrina will reduce in size and power or veer away from New Orleans, like all other hurricanes in their lifetime have done.
  6. Sunday, August 28, 2005: Mayor Nagin of New Orleans and Governor Blanco of Louisiana hold a news conference stating that all people capable of leaving New Orleans are required to evacuate because this is the Big One. The roads immediately become clogged with fleeing drivers in a continuous 7 hour traffic jam to the nearest high ground, which is 90 miles away. Due to the fact that it normally takes 72 hours to evacuate New Orleans and there is less than 24 hours to do so, Mayor Nagin activates the two-phase evacuation plan rather than the single-phase evacuation plan. The two-phase evacuation plan calls for evacuating people to the Superdome, which was designed to withstand 200mph winds, then, if necessary, evacuate them from there to high ground. The city's media continues All Evacuation, All The Time, as has been planned for decades, with colorful maps of evacuation routes and with details of the evacuation plan, which calls for 12 neighborhood centers to which people without transportation should report, from which they will be bussed to the Superdome.

    They also announce a state of emergency under state law. This state of emergency gives Blanco power to confiscate any and all resources from any state body. It does *not* give Mayor Nagin any such power, despite blustering otherwise -- Mayor Nagin has no power to order the Orleans Parish School Board to release its buses to the city.

    Blanco fails to order the Orleans Parish School Board to release its buses to Nagin for the evacuation effort.

  7. Sunday, August 28, 2005: 67 city buses are put to work shuttling people from the neighborhood centers to the Superdome. The remaining bus drivers have fled or cannot be found. Approximately 80 of the city buses are parked in "safe" areas, such as on the levee near the lakefront airport and the Superdome parking garage, that are not expected to flood. The remainder are parked in the city bus depot.
  8. Sunday, August 28, 2005: New Mexico governor Bill Richardson calls Governor Blanco of Louisiana asking if he can help. Blanco says yes, she needs truck drivers and trucks for relief and evacuation purposes. Governor Richardson tells his National Guard head to do so.
  9. Sunday, August 28, 2005: Mayor Nagin asks the Louisiana National Guard to stock the Superdome with emergency food and water for 15,000 people for 3 days, and they do so.
  10. Sunday, August 28, 2005: As Hurricane Katrina bore down on New Orleans, FEMA requests that the Louisiana National Guard and Louisiana State Police set up a perimeter to prevent "looters" from entering the disaster area. FEMA personnel join the roadblocks.
  11. Sunday, August 28, 2005: Wal-mart trucks full of food and water destined for shelters in the New Orleans area are turned away by FEMA representatives at the roadblocks, which insists that the supplies are more needed elsewhere.
  12. Monday, August 29, 2005: At 6:05am, Hurricane Katrina waddles ashore.
  13. Monday, August 29, 2005: Lower 9th Ward goes underwater as the Industrial Canal levee is overtopped by storm surge.
  14. Monday, August 29, 2005: The National Guard command and control center on the levee near the Lower 9th Ward is swamped, knocking out all emergency coordination of National Guard resources. The 400 National Guardsmen located there relocate to temporary quarters in the Louisiana Superdome.
  15. Monday, August 29, 2005: U.S. Coast Guard personnel stationed in New Orleans begin search-and-rescue operations along with the New Orleans Police Department and a flotilla of approximately 500 boats either commandeered from local marinas or manned by local volunteers.
  16. Monday, August 29, 2005: The 16th St. Levee is breached. Water starts filling the western part of the city. The Corps of Engineers says that they will drop giant sandbags into the breach in an attempt to close it.
  17. Monday, August 29, 2005: City buses are used to evacuate the portions of the city that are going underwater to the Superdome.
  18. Tuesday, August 30, 2005: Mayor Nagin reports that the attempt to sandbag the breach never happened, and now the breach has widened to the point where Lake Ponchartrain will fill the city like a bowl. It turns out that the two helicopters that were to be used to do this were ordered by FEMA to abort the mission and instead go to work looking for survivors.
  19. Tuesday, August 30 2005: New Orleans City Hall is swamped, knocking out all emergency coordination of city resources.
  20. Tuesday, August 30, 2005: Skiffs and boats manned by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife & Fisheries arrive on the scene and add another 200 boats to the search and rescue operation.
  21. Tuesday, August 30, 2005: The buses in the bus depot are flooded out, and the buses in the Superdome parking garage are flooded in, with the exits to that garage undrewater.
  22. Tuesday, August 30, 2005: The remaining city buses (the ones not underwater, trapped, or inaccessissible) are used to evacuate people from the slowly drowning neighborhoods to the downtown area, from whence they are told to go to the Convention Center and wait for assistance. One by one, the buses are knocked out by water, run out of fuel (their fuel depot is underwater), or the drivers abandon them to go save their own families.
  23. Wednesday, August 31, 2005: Homeland Security Directory Chertoff says in a press conference the next day, "We began evacuating yesterday evening [August 31] from the Superdome", stating that 400 buses and 500 school buses were deployed in the effort. The buses did not in fact arrive until Friday evening and did not start mass evacuations until Saturday morning.
  24. Wendesday, August 31, 2005: A column of approximately 600 National Guard troops in 40 trucks arive in the Superdome area on Wednesday evening, and load a token ten buses (which had not actually been chartered by FEMA at all -- they'd been chartered by stranded tourists in the downtown hotels!) to leave the Superdome for Texas and the Astrodome, just in time for Chertoff's press conference. The National Guardsmen then went to sleep.
  25. Wednesday, August 31, 2005: Governor Richardson of New Mexico asks his National Guard commander whether the state's assistance had been dispatched. They had not.
  26. Thursday, August 1, 2005: Bush talks about Trent Lott's front porch. USS Bataan ordered to go help Trent Lott's state of Mississippi rather than Louisiana. Supplies on a landing craft intended for convention center are instead redirected to Mississippi. The first 100 buses (the ones that Nagin had first requested on SUNDAY) arrive to evacuate the Superdome. They fill up within two hours, disappear into the sunset, and no other buses arrive all day. No buses arrive to evacuate the convention center.
  27. Thursday night, August 1, 2005: Mayor Nagin says there's no beef in New Orleans -- no food, no water, no buses to evacuate those trapped under horrible conditions, calls Chertoff et. al.'s press conferences about how much aid was in New Orleans "bullshit".
  28. Friday morning, August 1, 2005: New Mexico National Guard finally authorized to travel to Louisiana to assist the evacuation and recovery effort. Explained the Pentagon: "We could not dispatch them until we had a specific duty assignment for them." Remember, folks, paperwork is more important than saving lives, and having these people report to the mayor and having the Mayor dispatch them the way that General Funston did in 1906 when responding to the last time an American city was destroyed, why, there is just no precedent for such an order from Army headquarters, right? Right?
  29. Friday night, August 2, 2005: Geraldo reports from the Convention Center that there are thousands of people still stranded. No buses are in sight. At this point, almost 5 days (five *DAYS*) have passed since Katrina made landfall. Seven (*SEVEN*) days have passed since the Governor requested assistance.
  30. Saturday morning, August 3, 2005: Almost *SIX DAYS* have passed since Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans. The remainder of the buses arrive, and the evacuation starts in earnest.
  31. Sunday, August 4, 2005: Parish President Broussard of Jefferson Parish, outside of New Orleans, states that he is having needed resources confiscated by FEMA bureaucrats and has received no help at all from any federal or state agency. He states that people are dying, murdered by bureaucracy, and after relating one such story, says "We have been abandoned by our own country".
  32. Tuesday, August 5, 2005: The evacuation of the Convention Center is largely complete. Attention then turns to body collection and draining the toxic soup that is Lake George (the lake where New Orleans once was).
By the Department of Homeland Security's own standards, this was an apalling performance. They not only didn't make their 72 hour deadline -- they didn't even make a 144 hour deadline! Federal resources should have been flowing within 72 hours of the declaration of the state of emergency (which happened the Sunday before the hurricane). Yet by the time the 72 hours expired on Wednesday, only the most meagre of resources -- a single column of 40 National Guard trucks and 10 buses -- had arrived in New Orleans.

Furthermore, the federal response to New Orleans, as inadequate and pathetic as it was, was still more than people in outlying parishes got. Parts of Jefferson Parish were underwater too (especially Old Metairie, the part nearest New Orleans on the East Bank). Yet Jefferson Parish got no help -- nothing, nada -- even after a WEEK had passed, despite constant pleading and constant cries for help. The same is true of St. Bernard and Plaquemines.

Even if the locals and state government were total boobs, these were, and are (the ones still alive) citizens of the UNITED STATES. They are AMERICANS. And they by-god deserved better than a bunch of pansy-assed Republican politicians in Washington D.C. slapping each other on the back congratulating themselves on how good a job they were doing, all the while that people were dying because these self-same bureaucrats didn't realize that the situation was SNAFU, FUBAR, and just plain requiring thinking out of the box instead of ass-covering politics as usual. While I don't buy the notion that the locals (other than Blanco) were total boobs, in the end, it's irrelevant. The government of the United States has a fundamental duty to preserve and protect the life of Americans regardless of what local authorities do, and it failed to perform this duty, and failed miserably, indeed, even hindered the rescue and relief efforts.

Ten buses. Ten (10) buses. And 40 trucks of National Guardsmen. That was the sum total of the federal response at the 72 hour mark. And anybody who thinks that was in any way an adequate response to the biggest disaster to ever hit the United States is smoking some stronger dope than I can get out here where I'm exiled in California...

- Badtux the Remembering Penguin

Posted by: BadTux / 9/16/2005 11:55:00 AM  


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