Hurricane Pam and New Orleans


I would like to say that I will come up with something brilliant never before said about New Orleans and Hurricane Katrina. I wish that were true. There have been endless books investigating the Hurricane Katrina tragedy from multiple angles. David Brinkley’s book, the Great Deluge, maybe the most complete. New Orleans’s own daily newspaper, the Times Picayune, has done a magnificent job at relentlessly chasing down details. Finally, Spike Lee’s documentary, When the Levees Broke, personalizes some of the pain and suffering.

Before Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Georges hit the Gulf Coast in 1998 and narrowly missed New Orleans. This hurricane revealed several problems. City, state and federal officials met in 1999 in order to plan an adequate response. The state of Louisiana formally wrote FEMA and requested a planning exercise in August of 2000. It took four years before the exercise actually happened. In July 2004, Hurricane Pam began. There were over 300 participants in this five-day exercise. Hurricane Pam, by all accounts, was a realistic category three hurricane with sustained winds up to 120 mph. Using simulations from the National Weather Service and the US Army Corps of Engineers, the participants simulated over 20 inches of rain falling in parts of southern Louisiana. The storm surge topped the levees. The simulation assumed that over 300,000 people could not get out of the city in spite of mandatory evacuations. They also assumed that over half million buildings would’ve been destroyed. Over 100,000 people were injured and 60,000 killed. This was serious.

After the simulation, an after action report was filed. The most remarkable thing about this after action report is the number of areas where the letters TBA (to be announced) up here in the report. The report is incomplete. Large responsibilities have not been decided. In football, there is a saying, “You play like you practice.” In this case, the simulation showed huge gaps in our response. In reality, there is huge gaps in our response. In my opinion, any serious look at Katrina must start with a look at Hurricane Pam and the inter-agency problems that Pam revealed.

  • Joe White

    The mayor of New Orleans and governor of Louisiana usually seem to get a pass in post mortem discussions like these. Maybe that's because they are Democrats.

  • Joe White

    A blast from the past (Sept. 6, 2005):

    “In New Orleans, those in peril and those in power have pointed the finger squarely at the federal government for the delayed relief effort.

    But experts say when natural disasters strike, it is the primary responsibility of state and local governments — not the federal government — to respond.

    New Orleans' own comprehensive emergency plan raises the specter of “having large numbers of people … stranded” and promises “the city … will utilize all available resources to quickly and safely evacuate threatened areas.”

    “Special arrangements will be made to evacuate persons unable to transport themselves,” the plan states.

    When Hurricane Katrina hit, however, that plan was not followed completely …………

    ………….There's no question the federal government plays a major role in disaster relief. But federal officials say in order to get involved, they must first be asked to do so by state officials.

    As one FEMA official told ABC News, Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco failed to submit a request for help in a timely manner.

    Shortly before Katrina hit, she sent President Bush a request asking for shelter and provisions, but didn't specifically ask for help with evacuations. One aide to the governor told ABC News today Blanco thought city officials were taking care of the evacuation. “


  • MoRage

    the sand–sand–that was used to anchor the levees was a travesty and it's one the Corps of Engineers should have to answer for.

    I will make sure I don't miss Harry Shear's new movie coming out on New Orleans and Hurricane Katrina, too.

    Mo Rage
    the blog

  • Joe —

    This was a failure on all levels. The governor failed. The mayor failed. Unfortunately, if the federal government would have would've performed up to marginal standards, food, clothing, shelter and transportation should have been there at 48 hours. The rule of thumb for disaster response is the first 24 hours is local, the next 24 hours a state everything after that is federal.

    Nobody gets a pass. Then again, this is a ploy used by conservatives all the time. Instead of admitting that there were problems, is like the conversation to something else like… the Democrats don't get enough criticism. The bottom line is that the system failed. The system worked well during the 1990s. So what happened?

  • did you read any of my links? I have links to the original documents. You can read exactly who had what responsibility. You don't have to go to ABC news to do it.

    Kathleen Blanco was on the record as asking for federal aid prior to Katrina reaching landfall. she asked for — everything. She didn't get help with anything.

  • you are hundred percent correct. Harry's movie will be awesome. He was personally affected by the disaster.

    Thanks for your comments.

  • Joe White

    ABC makes three important points: local officials didn't follow the plan that was in place, they didn't know who was doing what and they didn't request federal help with evacuation in a timely manner. (if you dont believe ABC's report then please present evidence, not assertions, that prove it incorrect)

    You want to focus on the feds. 'Any serious look must start with (the federally co-ordinated exercise known as) Hurricane Pam'

    Why cant a serious look actually start with what actually happened?

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