Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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September 2, 2005
By: Kevin Drum

EXCUSES....Listening to federal and state officials continue to make feeble excuses for their miserable performance in New Orleans is just infuriating. This is from the New York Times:

On Thursday, disaster experts and frustrated officials said a crucial shortcoming may have been the failure to predict that the levees keeping Lake Pontchartrain out of the city would be breached, not just overflow.

....Local, state and federal officials, for example, have cooperated on disaster planning. In 2000, they studied the impact of a fictional "Hurricane Zebra"; last year they drilled with "Hurricane Pam."

Neither exercise expected the levees to fail. In an interview Thursday on "Good Morning America," President Bush said, "I don't think anyone anticipated the breach of the levees." He added, "Now we're having to deal with it, and will."

Does this matter? Even if they didn't predict the physical collapse of the levees, experts did predict the Lake Pontchartrain would overrun the levees and flood the city. In fact, what actually happened was less severe than what was being forecast as early as Thursday and Friday of last week.

In any case, the basic requirements for responding to the aftermath of this disaster were pretty much the same regardless of whether levees were breached:

  • Food, water, and medicine for those trapped in the city.

  • A plan to immediately evacuate those left behind as soon as the hurricane passed.

  • Temporary shelter outside the city for evacuated refugees.

  • A strong National Guard presence to maintain order during the evacuation.

It took days for this to start happening despite plenty of warning from the weather service and disaster experts and despite the fact that these are the well-understood requirements for almost any large scale disaster. At least, this was all well understood before FEMA got privatized, downsized, and staffed with political hacks. Now all they're left with is pathetic excuses.

Kevin Drum 12:56 PM Permalink | Trackbacks

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