Thursday, October 06, 2005

Katrina: What Went Wrong, Part 2

Sorry it's taken me so long to do part 2, but I've been busy with schoolwork and the high holidays. Well, I'm here now, so better late than never, right?

I've already covered the local problems, now I'll cover the state problems. Kathleen Blanco was the Governor of Louisiana, and she's tried to say repeatedly that Bush was at fault. The problem with Blanco was that she was hopelessly out of touch with what she needed to do in response to the hurricane. Mayor Nagin shirked his duty, while Blanco was just totally unsuited for it.

To lay it out, Blanco tried initially to declare a state of emergency ahead of the storm, and she requested provisions and shelter from the Federal government. She didn't ask for military assistance (when it was offered to her) at the time. Nagin actually wanted that military assistance either on the state or federal level, because despite his ineptness, he knew that he'd need their help one way or the other (

Blanco also knew that she didn't have enough National Guardsmen to physically handle the task in LA (actually, she didn't call enough up). President Bush was repeatedly trying to get her to give him the ok to bring in troops from the federal level. But, as per Blanco's own admission, she didn't do that until 2 days after the storm. Two full days of underpreforming national guardsmen and failing local resources (the latter's not Blanco's fault, but recognizing their deficiencies for what they were is), while the federal gov't was forced to sit and wait for a go ahead from the state level to get into Louisiana( . Btw, for reference, Barbour in Mississippi did call ahead for federal aid as soon as possible.

What that means, precisely is that Bush, the military, and FEMA all had to wait to get the majority of their resources into Louisiana and weren't capable of being in place when the levees broke in New Orleans, or even capable of rebuiding the infrastructure (ie; transportation and communication) until AFTER the call went out. What's really scary is that FEMA was already IN Louisiana and New Orleans before the levees broke, which came as a suprise to me. You'd think they were inefficient from listening to the news, but they had services already in place. The problem is twofold- first, FEMA saw that there wasn't enough national guardsmen and knew that the President was unable to get the federal military forces into the state yet. So when they saw how bad it looked in places like New Orleans, they bolted since they had no protection. FEMA did the right thing- they removed themselves from potentially becoming part of the problem. Also, FEMA doesn't HAVE any authority with the military or police, either on a state or federal level. And their main resources are local, not federal, when they first arrive in town. FEMA isn't a first responder, they're more of a second responder within the first week of a tragedy. In this case, they couldn't BE there until Blanco helped get resources from outside the state, in (

And what does Blanco do, in televised interviews? Cry. While folks are trying to get into Louisiana and get the job done, she's effectively sitting there, and saying "why me?" When you get someone who is totally unsuited for crisis management, this is what you get. She's a political player who got into Louisiana politics through the machine politics route, and proved that when push came to shove, she was no leader. In fact, all she could do was lamely blame everyone else for the problems that went down. That's a key in learning how much of a political junkie she is, and how little she really knows about what's going on. She's no Guiliani- her tears weren't for the dead, wounded, and dispossessed. They were for herself, plain and simple. She wasn't crying for anyone else, but the fact that she knew she was out of her league with the disaster, and bumbled her way through. And couldn't escape it.

And on top of that, was her now infamous quote "Does anyone know anything about buses here?" when she got to NO to try to figure out just what went wrong. Even on the state level, there wasn't much planning done in terms of transportation. The most they planned for was "contraflow" evacuations, using both sides of the roadways for single exits from the areas to be hardest hit. And even that plan was faulty, since the police had concerns about actually keeping it open, and they knew at most, it was a half measure. So, there was no state plan in place that they were training for mass evacuations, especially of the poorer people in the state (

Lastly, the state government KNEW that federal assistance would be limited for the first few days. The federal gov't had repeatedly told Louisiana officials, since the near-miss of Ivan in 2004, that it would take at least 76-98 hours for a federal response to be put on the ground from the moment that assistance as asked for. Plus, it would also take the combined Federal and State resources 10 days to get everyone out, with the plans that were in place. So, the Louisiana officials KNEW how things would turn out, and never made the attempt to fix the system (

They turned to blaming others as their goal, instead. I have a feeling that both Blanco and Nagin will find themselves out of a job very soon. And guys like Rudy Guiliani- a true crisis manager- will just get an extra coating of luster added to their resumes when they're compared and contrasted with the likes of Nagin and Blanco. A shame, really, that so many people were affected by those that couldn't see the forest for the trees, and played the political game until the very end. Nero would be proud, fiddling on his violin.


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