Katrina Chaos - Local Government to Blame? Not Really...

Just a quick follow-up to Ben's comment that "the relevant local and (especially) state authorities deserve some blame here." To a certain extent of course, he's right. There are a few obvious things that could have been done that they really did not do. Chartering buses for evacuation come to mind, though Mayor Nagin did apparently set up some shuttles to bring people to the Superdome who could not have otherwise evacuated. But the bulk of the blame for not properly responding to this catastrophe goes to the Department of Homeland Security.

Oddly enough, the proof of this also comes from America Blog, which points to the DHS website:

Preparing America

In the event of a terrorist attack, natural disaster or other large-scale emergency, the Department of Homeland Security will assume primary responsibility on March 1st for ensuring that emergency response professionals are prepared for any situation. This will entail providing a coordinated, comprehensive federal response to any large-scale crisis and mounting a swift and effective recovery effort. The new Department will also prioritize the important issue of citizen preparedness. Educating America's families on how best to prepare their homes for a disaster and tips for citizens on how to respond in a crisis will be given special attention at DHS.

Also linked from that page is a further declaration about the limited responsibilities of state and local governments in major crises:

A Guide to the Disaster Declaration Process and Federal Disaster Assistance
Local and State governments share the responsibility for protecting their citizens from disasters, and for helping them to recover when a disaster strikes. In some cases, a disaster is beyond the capabilities of the State and local government to respond.

So, "the Department of Homeland Security will assume primary responsibility ... for ensuring that emergency response professionals are prepared for any situation" and that "[i]n some cases, a disaster is beyond the capabilities of the State and local government to respond." They say it's their responsibility? Let's hold them to it.

Tags: Misc (all tags)

Comments

37 Comments

Reasonable and unreasonable expectations
It's not reasonable to expect the local or state authorities to take the blame for what has gone wrong. Even if they reacted perfectly, the mistakes of the Federal level would have resulted in most of the deaths that we've seen. So why we try to parse facts, and look on websites, think about this: who was in the better position to help a city, 80 percent of which was buried under water, the state which was also experiencing the hurricane, the city buried under water, or the federal agency that is not in the thick of the hurricane, and can bring outside resources to the problem that could not be brought locally?
by bruh21 2005-09-03 04:03PM | 0 recs
Evacuation?
You say chartering buses is soemthing they should have done.  It is taking how long to evacuate people that have already accumulated at weigh stations?  It would have taken longer to evacuate them in advance of the hurricane.  Not only that it would be difficult to come up with that number of buses.  Even if you used school buses that means you have to declare the bus drivers as working for the evacuation effort instea d of fleeing themselves.  Certainly by the time such a decision would be prudent it would be difficult if not impossible to get those buses organized.  Note that the roads are clear right now (well cler to Houston at least).  Buses in an advance evacuation would not be reusable.  They would all have been sitting in traffic.  Thats 1333 buses if you have 100000 people at 75 a bus.  I suspect Mayor Nagin did everything in his authority that he could do in the time allowed.  And of course by the time they were certain it would have been too late for such a meausre.  Yes, do what you can but beyond that count on relief efforts after the fact.  The local and state government had every reason to expect a quick response.  Who before hand would have anticipated this failure to react?

Its in this where the failure occurred.  There was no relief effort to speak of.  Within a day or two they chose to evacuate the existing shelters and buses were brought in through an apparently clear road to Houston.  Amazingly enough FEMA was hacking its way through the wilderness instead of using this clear road.

The state government could really only call on the National Guard and clearly they were not available in any strength to speak of or they chose to follow someone else's orders.  

No, in this case the best that local and state leaders could do was call foul and do so as publicly as possible.  They can't call foul until they are certain there is a failure to respond.  It would be rude to the extreme to do so too early.  So time passed and frustrations rose until finally it was obvious no one was coming.  In this case I believe Mayor Nagin to be a great man.  He had the balls to call it like it is in a world all too carried away with political games.  Political games that may very well be responsible for the catastrophe.

by jrflorida 2005-09-03 04:05PM | 0 recs
300+ school buses were right there
This comment will probably get deleted like an earlier comment I left, but in the meantime take a look at AP Warned of New Orleans Disaster:

--] "In the case of Katrina, there was huge fleet of school buses the mayor could have dispatched to aid in evacuating people unable to leave on their own. Instead, the buses sat in parking lots that later flooded, making them unusable when tens of thousands were stranded in the flooded city." [--

Obviously, if anyone is concerned with niceties like licensing or requisition notices, then that would tend to point towards part of the failure involved here.

You can see a picture of the buses here.

Also, feel free to google for this AJC article:

--] In scripted appearances being recorded now, officials such as Mayor Ray Nagin, local Red Cross Executive Director Kay Wilkins and City Council President Oliver Thomas drive home the word that the city does not have the resources to move out of harm's way an estimated 134,000 people without transportation." [--

by TheLonewackoBlog 2005-09-03 04:59PM | 0 recs
Re: 300+ school buses were right there
500 school busses X 100 passengers = 50,000 people. NO has over 500,000 to get out. How do all these people get to these busses? How do any of them even know where the damn busses are? (less than 10,000 made it to the Superdome.) (And the bastards made them abandon their pets !!!)
by blues 2005-09-03 06:26PM | 0 recs
Re: 300+ school buses were right there
And they have a day to do it in
by jrflorida 2005-09-03 08:44PM | 0 recs
Re: 300+ school buses were right there
Let's assume the Mayor had the authority to comandeer the buses. Let's also assume he had done FEMA's job of establishing centralized locations where citizens of New Orleans could board the buses.

300 buses would have held, let's be generous and say 50 people per bus for a total of 1,500 people. Where would he tell the bus drivers to take them?

Where would he get another 3,000 busses and drivers? Where would he tell the bus drivers to go?

There is a good reason they call them national disasters wacko.

Compare the response of Bush's FEMA to the response of Clinton's FEMA after 9/11 and after Hurricane Dennis.

Now that Bush has neutered FEMA, we see the results of Bush's theory of governance as well as his incompetence.

by Gary Boatwright 2005-09-03 07:56PM | 0 recs
Re: 300+ school buses were right there
Jabbar Gibson got 50 to 70 people aboard his bus, and others have said there are over 200 buses in the photo of the flooded buses. Let's say 60 people per bus X 200 buses = 12,000 people.

I might be wrong about this, but I believe the Red Cross had already opened shelters about 60 miles north of N.O.

Anyone who'd wonder whether they had the right to comandeer a bus in a situation like this has absolutely no right to any position of authority.

by TheLonewackoBlog 2005-09-03 09:27PM | 0 recs
Re: 300+ school buses were right there
They were better off in the shelter because it survived the storm and the federal government will send food and water to support them once the storm has passed.  They could do this because they can have the trucks, the national guard, FEMA, and the Red Corss enter the city the same way the evacuation buses did two days prior to the real arrival of help on Friday.  Who would drive the  buses?  The bus drivers went out of town with their family.  The bus issue is a non issue.  Had those buses not been shown you would find a series of SUVs parked in a dealership lot and say the same thing.  The best thing the local government did was to tell people to get to that shelter.  The worst thing they did was count on George F W Bush and his hatchlings, I mean henchmen, I mean...
by jrflorida 2005-09-03 09:46PM | 0 recs
Re: 300+ school buses were right there
And there would still be how many thousands of people still in the city, still in the Superdome?  How many tens of thousands would still be there, would still have been dieing, would still have been suffering the worst humiliation in the history of this country.  You know you are wrong.  Go look in the mirror, take your time.
by jrflorida 2005-09-03 09:48PM | 0 recs
Re: 300+ school buses were right there
Anyone who'd wonder whether they had the right to comandeer a bus in a situation like this has absolutely no right to any position of authority.

Oh yeah. Jabbar Gibson. That's the kid they were talking about pressing felony grand theft charges against.

So let's see. The Mayor could have ordered the bus company to do what? Call up the bus drivers and tell them to forget about their families and their evacuation plans, because they had to report to work?

If I recall nearly 50% of the New Orleans police force refused to show up for work. They were probably evacuating their families or something stupid like that. The owner of the bus company probably would have said "Sure thing Mayor. You can have my buses. Here's the keys and I'll call up the bus drivers personally, because I can't get any of my clerical workers to come into work to call the bus drivers to come into work."

Yeah, that's a brilliant plan. Why didn't the Mayor think of that? Maybe he's not batshit crazy as TheLonewacko.

When did the Red Cross set up shelters? Before Hurrican Katrina hit? How many people did their shelters hold? Would they have been able to feed and shelter 12,000 people? Those are some pretty big shelters to set up on speculation.

I don't suppose you have a link to the conclusion that you "could be wrong about." How about maybe you're just making shit up?

What else would you expect from a troll bullshit artist who is bat shit crazy?

by Gary Boatwright 2005-09-03 10:12PM | 0 recs
Re: 300+ school buses were right there
Don't forget how long it takes to fill those buses.  How long has it taken to evacuate the peopl ein the Superdome?  Now imagine adding in the time it takes for the people to not line up after having been seeted at the Superdome but instead having to walk from their homes, if they chose to do it.  These people thought they could ride it out in their third floor apartment.  And they were probable right about the storm.  Its the aftermath that became the problem.  For those people to get out, for all of them to load up on buses with their wheelchairs and oxygen tanks, with their sick children, with their feeble grandmothers, that storm was still a Category 2 and potentially destined for the Texas - Mexico border.  Not that the tracking didn't pan out but you can't spend that kind of money and risk lives doing it with the storm that far out.  This bus theory is 20-20 hindsight and with a really nice pair of rose colored glasses on.  Consider your argument completely thrashed.
by jrflorida 2005-09-03 10:31PM | 0 recs
Does your standard apply to Bush?
Anyone who'd wonder whether they had the right to comandeer a bus in a situation like this has absolutely no right to any position of authority.

Exactly what do you think Bush's responsibility is in this whole picture? What responsibility does the President of the United States have in a situation like this?

I mean aside from eating cake and playing the banjo while New Orleans drowns.

capt.azsw10208291734.bush_azsw102

by Gary Boatwright 2005-09-03 10:55PM | 0 recs
Cat got your tongue Lonewacko?
This comment will probably get deleted like an earlier comment I left

Why are you crying about having your previous racist comment deleted if you don't respond when you do have the opportunity?

Oh, sorry. I forgot you were just another ignorant drive by troll.

by Gary Boatwright 2005-09-03 11:02PM | 0 recs
And it's not just New Orleans!!
People are suffering from this in Mississippi and Alabama as well. It isnt a local issue when it is affecting people in three states.
by jj32 2005-09-03 04:59PM | 0 recs
But New Orleans Gave Them Cooties!
So it's all New Orleans' fault, after all!
by Paul Rosenberg 2005-09-03 06:19PM | 0 recs
Re: How About Some Common Sense
Some Common Sense --

http://www.michaelmoore.com/words/message/index.php?messageDate=2005-09-02

by blues 2005-09-03 06:16PM | 0 recs
Re: How About Some Common Sense
7.) George Bush is the least racist President in mind and soul there has ever been and this is shown in his appointments over and over. To say otherwise is scandalously untrue.
Obviously you've never heard the phrase "Uncle Tom."  

Can you go back to Rigel 7 now? Because obviously you know nothing about life on Earth.

by Paul Rosenberg 2005-09-03 06:18PM | 0 recs
Try Consistency
It's pretty difficult to excuse the Mayor & Governor, who happen to be Democrats, while bashing Bush, without appearing to be more interested in partisan gain than the facts. There's plenty of "blame" to go around, but it's also true that the scope of the disaster was unprecedented.

The locals did nothing to evacuate those that were unable to evacuate themselves. Not only was no transportation provided, there were no pre-planned evacuation destinations that people could head for if they didn't have someplace else. The city may not have been able to get everyone out, but they could have taken a lot of those who were willing to go but lacked the means, as opposed to those who thought they could just ride it out. Here's a picture of over 255 school busses at just one now flooded location:

http://news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/050901/480/flpc21109012015

Not only were those busses not used, they weren't even moved to higher ground and are now useless. Published reports indicate that the local transit system had about 350 more busses that also went unused.

The local officials simply did what they had done for other lesser storms - put people in a large sturdy structure (the Superdome) that was likely to withstand the storm. That worked, but they didn't have any plan to deal with flooding from the hurricane directly or a levee breach, either of which were quite possible.

Did the Mayor ever go to the Superdome? I don't believe so, and I think that's also true for the Convention Center. Given the geography of New Orleans, any practical plan for a hurricane of this magnitude has to assume that it will take several days for aid to reach the city from the outside. Thus, I find it less than admirable that the locals didn't seem to have a plan beyond calling in the feds.

by SLinVA 2005-09-03 06:41PM | 0 recs
Re: Try Complex Mathematical Formulas
OK, let's take 600 busses and multiply times 50. That's 30,000 people. Let's assume the Mayor had the authority to comandeer the busses and order the drivers to show up at designated locations all gassed up.

Let's assume the Mayor did FEMA's job and put out an alert for citizens of New  Orleans to come to designated locations to board the busses.

Where was he supposed to send them? Would hotels have accepted 30,000 people gratis? Would gas stations have filled their tanks for free?

There is a reason Hurricane Katrina is a national disaster.

by Gary Boatwright 2005-09-03 07:59PM | 0 recs
Global warming and storm intensity.. Scary...
When global temperatures (entropy - variability) rise, I think that the temperature differentials driving storms and all other atmospheric phenomena will also rise..

The possibility also exists of nonlinear phenomena such as massive climate shifts - but from what I have heard this is extremely difficult to model accurately.. Still, what we do know is not very reassuring..

Scientists are talking about things like increased storm intensity (which we are seeing), the migration of tropical diseases and fungi/bacteria environments northward and southward (this also has major public health implications - especially if healthcare is not available to large segments of a population, say, because of its cost or their immigration status)

Its also possible that some temperate areas (most of the US is in the temperate zone) that are currently viable for human habitation or farming might become hotter or sometimes, colder, and also perhaps somewhat nonviable for people.. (too hot for example.. without entailing prohibitive energy costs for cooling - or too dry...)

and also that areas currently not very viable.. (like some of the subarctic parts of Canada) might become viable, or even optimal....

This would be happening all over the world.. not just in any one country.. so we could see massive migrations of people trying to flee the suddenly inhispitable weather conditions..

At least, that is what one (unclassified) Pentagon report I saw forsaw..

NIH's Environmental Health Perspectives magazine also has done a lot of good articles about the health implications of climate change..

Worth reading..

See
http://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/topic/climate.html

by ultraworld 2005-09-03 09:43PM | 0 recs
Re: Try Consistency
And you know what, putting them in that big structure was exactly the right decision.  The only problem is it counts on the federal government to hold up its end of the bargain to come in after the storm and supply relief.  The federal government failed.  George Bush screwed those people and there is simply no excuse for the negligence shown by this government.  As for a plan, guess what, thats what the federal government and FEMA is there for.  To protect us, to relieve us, to help us in times of crisis and they failed completely.  They failed not because it was inevitable, they failed because the leadership is incompetent.  It took SHAME to get them off their asses.  Those buses are a red herring and you know it.  Your playing a game either with us or with yourself.  It won't work.  They couldn't have been trusted to do the job, they couldn't have been moved to pickup people from all over the city in a day and not end up clogging up traffic more than was already causing problems.  And on top of that they were not enough.  Here's a game for you.  Bush probably played it as a kid.  Apparently he wasn't very good then either because he just got caught with the hot potato.  He's the man in the seat, he's the guy in charge, he is responsible for this governments failings.  The response to this disaster can be taken as nothing less than what we would receive in the event of a nuclear weapon, dirty bomb, terrorists blowing the levees, a biological disaster.  The only thing is we got off lucky that it was only a category 5 hurricane and it did as little damage as it did compared to some of the alternatives.  I've been consistent from the start.  The feds are to blame, the local and state governemnts did everything in their power and made the right decisions assuming the federal government is to hold up its end of the bargain.
by jrflorida 2005-09-03 09:04PM | 0 recs
Re: Try Consistency
The local officials simply did what they had done for other lesser storms - put people in a large sturdy structure (the Superdome) that was likely to withstand the storm. That worked, but they didn't have any plan to deal with flooding from the hurricane directly or a levee breach, either of which were quite possible.

You had a good point until here, and then you overreached.  The disaster cleanup was FEMA's job.

You have to do a significant amount of "monday morning quarterbacking" and playing "professional disaster planner" to second-guess the local official's decisions.  On the other hand, it's not that hard to realize that a president who should know a very serious national disaster is taking shape had better get his ass off of a golf-and-guitar vacation to oversee federal disaster recovery efforts.

So once again, we have the right wing pushing personal responsibility for everyone but them.  And yet, you have the gall to shout about hypocrisy?

by jonweasel 2005-09-03 10:32PM | 0 recs
WaPost:: White House Shifts Blame
So, "the Department of Homeland Security will assume primary responsibility ... for ensuring that emergency response professionals are prepared for any situation" and that "[i]n some cases, a disaster is beyond the capabilities of the State and local government to respond." They say it's their responsibility? Let's hold them to it.

I agree, but the WH spin machine has been turned on:

Sunday morning's WaPost:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/09/03/AR2005090301680.html

Between Ben's Diary and this one, I feel frustrated and angry.  Sure, elected and appointed leaders with principle should accept fault for inaction.  However, this Administration has a stellar record for redirecting accountability and assigning blame to others.

by Bill Felmlee 2005-09-03 07:14PM | 0 recs
Re: WaPost:: White House Shifts Blame
That article was particularly depressing.  We'll see if they get away with it this time.  The Washington Post and New York Times both have front page articles on their web sites entitled, respectively, "White House Shifts Blame" (the one you cite above) and "As White House Anxiety Grows, Bush Tries to Quell Political Crisis."  The press has not been impressed with Bush's response, as far as I can see, and I don't think they're going to roll over and accept the official talking points quite as easily this time.

I suppose there are only so many times you can lie to these reporters before they start noticing there's something fishy.

You know, I have been perfectly happy to wait to assign blame until the dust has settled and a thorough investigation completed.  I suspect there's some blame to be shared by quite a number of people and government entities.

But if the White House is treating this like a political operation and sending in their pit bulls to deflect accountability, as the WaPo article seems to imply, then they've crossed the line yet again.  That alone disgusts me, regardless of what the true magnitude of their errors proves to be.

by arenwin 2005-09-03 08:20PM | 0 recs
SIng to the tune of
I'm A Girl Watcher:

I've got a troll stalker,
I've got a troll stalker,
Watchin' trolls go by,

My, my, my.

Here comes one now

It's callled metonym,
It's called metonym,
Rating abuse troll,

My, my, my.

by Gary Boatwright 2005-09-03 08:03PM | 0 recs
You know they're full of it...
...when they start "moving heaven and earth" again.  Don't they have any other catchphrases?  From NYTimes:

Mr. Chertoff said Saturday: "Not an hour goes by that we do not spend a lot of time thinking about the people who are actively suffering. The United States, as the president has said, is going to move heaven and earth to rescue, feed, shelter" victims of the storm.

Condi Rice must be furious at the plagiarism!

by arenwin 2005-09-03 08:05PM | 0 recs
Re: You know they're full RESOLVE!
Don't forget the resolve arenwin. I'm sure they are moving heaven and earth with RESOLVE. As long as you have RESOLVE, results don't matter.
by Gary Boatwright 2005-09-03 10:16PM | 0 recs
Re: You know they're full RESOLVE!
But they are making progress
by jrflorida 2005-09-03 10:32PM | 0 recs
Re: You know they're full RESOLVE!
Yes, and hard work, too.  Working hard to move heaven and earth with resolve.  It's amazing these folks get any rest at all.
by arenwin 2005-09-04 06:53AM | 0 recs
This mess has to take all of the wind ...
...out of the republican party. The photos paired with the caption "This is what the republicans want to do for you - nothing." -with the exception of making laws that effect your freedoms given to all of us by the Constitution.

This is really important that the political tide change right now since Rehnquist has died.

by leftofcenter 2005-09-03 08:44PM | 0 recs
Re: How About Some Common Sense
Not a single person here or in the media or in the liberal community has blamed Bush for the hurricane. That is a diversion. We blame Bush for having his thumb up his ass for three days while people died in front of us.  We blame him for doing so with full knolwedge of what was going on because he either didn't care or had an alterior motive.  That motive most clearly expressed in item 12, the desire to take apart government by intentionally being negligent in his response.  No amount of spinning is going to get you out of this one.  And as for your closing remarks...fuck Bush!
by jrflorida 2005-09-03 08:52PM | 0 recs
Bush is not responsible.
Such is the mantra of the Republican Party: "Bush is not responsible."  He isn't responsible for anything or anyone.  Everything and everyone is the responsibility of someone else.

Why do they even call him "President?"  They should call him "King."  I expect a president to bear some responsibility for his actions, or his failure to act.  A king?  He's just there.  And that's exactly true of Bush.  He's just there.

by Drew 2005-09-03 09:31PM | 0 recs
How about thinking for yourself?
This is quite possibly the most asinine, pathetic, weak, counterfactual strawman of a defense I've ever seen, and since I've read other stuff from Stein, that's saying something.

We'll let you wingnuts play God and assign blame for the hurricane.  And there will be time enough to assess what went wrong at the state and local level with evacuation plans for the 100,000 or so folks who couldn't evacuate because they didn't have cars or the money for a tank of gas.

What I blame Bush for is this:

  • Failure to treat the emergency seriously and cut his "golf and guitar" vacation short when it was known a potentially catastrophic condition was taking shape, so he could personally oversee federal disaster recovery efforts and straighten out any problems
  • Failure to take disaster prevention seriously when he assigned incompetent people to head DHS and FEMA, and cut funding for critical infrastructure improvements

I blame Bush for not doing his goddamned job, the job we elected him and paid him for.

Simple enough?  Really, you guys know this.  You're trying so very, very hard to pretend you don't.  But it doesn't matter.  Bush's abject failure is evident to anyone with an IQ over 67, which (unfortunately for those of you who care more for party and power than people and country), is the vast majority of the population.

The Republican Party: personal responsibility, for everyone except fellow Republicans, and especially George Bush.

Enough's enough.

by jonweasel 2005-09-03 10:07PM | 0 recs
Ok, it happened. Storm has passed...
Do you think the next time there is an order to evacuate the city because of a hurricane approaching, they (people) will leave or stay?
by LootersSuck 2005-09-04 03:51PM | 0 recs
Depends...
On whether they have a way out.

Pretty simple, huh?

by jonweasel 2005-09-04 03:56PM | 0 recs
Re: Ok, it happened. Storm has passed...
They survived the storm.  Those on the coast will leave but those that survived on third floor apartments in the heart of the city will likely stay.  It all depends on whether the federal government can restore confidence in its response to a crisis instead of assisting in creating one.
by jrflorida 2005-09-04 07:40PM | 0 recs
Re: Depends...
Well I saw lots of cars there, people refusing to leave their homes. I doubt tens of thousands of people will ignore the warnings in the future.
by LootersSuck 2005-09-04 04:25PM | 0 recs

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