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Context of 'June 2004: Computer Model Predicts Category 1 or 2 Hurricane Could Cause Extensive Flooding in New Orleans'

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Philip Perry.Philip Perry. [Source: Cornell Law School]Liz Cheney, the eldest daughter of Vice President Dick Cheney, her husband, and their children arrive at a secure government facility at Mount Weather, Virginia, where they have been taken by the Secret Service. Earlier on, Secret Service Special Agent Michael Seremetis, a member of the vice presidential protective division, instructed some of his colleagues to locate Liz Cheney, and then evacuate her and her children to the facility. By 10:55 a.m., Cheney and her children had made it to their home, and 20 minutes later they were being taken to Mount Weather by the Secret Service. Cheney’s husband, Philip Perry, arrived at the White House at around 11:20 a.m. [United States Secret Service, 10/1/2001; United States Secret Service, 11/17/2001 pdf file] Perry is the acting associate attorney general, the third-ranking official at the Justice Department. [US Department of Justice, 8/17/2001; Associated Press, 8/23/2001; US Congress. Senate, 5/19/2005] By 12:40 p.m., Secret Service agents were transporting him to Mount Weather. Cheney, her children, and the Secret Service agents with them arrive at Mount Weather at 12:45 p.m. Perry and the agents with him arrive there at 1.15 p.m. [United States Secret Service, 11/17/2001 pdf file] The facility at Mount Weather is “a massive underground complex originally built to house governmental officials in the event of a full-scale nuclear exchange,” according to The Guardian. [Guardian, 8/28/2006] It is located in rural Virginia, 48 miles from Washington, DC. [Time, 12/9/1991] Cheney, Perry, and their children will remain there until 5:30 p.m., when they will be taken to Camp David, the presidential retreat in Maryland (see 5:30 p.m. September 11, 2001). [United States Secret Service, 11/17/2001 pdf file] Congressional leaders are also taken to the facility at Mount Weather throughout the day, after being evacuated from Washington (see (9:50 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (Between Late Morning and Early Afternoon) September 11, 2001). [ABC News, 9/15/2002; Bamford, 2004, pp. 79-81]

Entity Tags: Mount Weather, Philip Perry, US Secret Service, Elizabeth (“Liz”) Cheney

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Assistant Secretary of the Interior Craig Manson writes to the State of Montana and withdraws a December 2002 environmental impact assessment conducted by National Park Service scientists which had concluded that the emissions from a proposed 780-megawatt coal-fired Roundup Power Plant would negatively affect visibility and air quality at Yellowstone National Park, located 112 miles away from the plant’s proposed site. Manson, a former Sacramento judge, claims that “weather events” had skewed the results of the study. [National Parks Magazine, 3/2003; PEER, 3/16/2003; Bozeman Daily Chronicle, 10/31/2003; Perks, 4/2004, pp. 28 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Craig Manson, Bush administration (43)

Timeline Tags: US Environmental Record

A new computer model developed by the National Weather Service suggests that most areas inside and outside the levees in New Orleans and vicinity would be flooded if a slow-moving Category 2 hurricane were to make landfall at New Orleans. Under certain conditions, even a Category 1 could submerge the city in as much as 9 feet of water, the model predicts. The model, named SLOSH, an acronym for Sea, Lake and Overland Surge from Hurricanes, factors in the effects of Louisiana’s eroding coastline. [Times-Picayune, 6/25/2004]

Entity Tags: National Weather Service

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

A Popular Science article predicts that New Orleans could be completely submerged if hit by a Category 5 hurricane. Scott Kiser, a tropical-cyclone program manager for the National Weather Service, calls New Orleans the one city in the US and possibly the world that would sustain the most catastrophic damage from such a hurricane. He points out that the levees need not fail; a storm surge caused by high winds creating huge waves would quickly drown the city. John Hall of the US Army Corps of Engineers similarly calls the city “the most vulnerable major city to hurricanes.” The article notes that “New Orleans has nearly completed its Hurricane Protection Project, a $740-million plan led by [Al] Naomi [Corps project manager for the New Orleans District] to ring the city with levees that could shield residents from up to Category 3 storm surges.” The Army Corps is considering a new levee system capable of holding back a surge from a Category 5 hurricane, but it “is still in the early planning stages; it may be decades before the new barriers are completed.” [Popular Science, 4/2005]

Entity Tags: Scott Kiser, John Hall, Al Naomi

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

Meteorologist Jeff Matthews, Director of the Weather Underground, a popular web-based weather service, reports that several models indicate that Katrina will enter the Gulf of Mexico by Sunday, “where it has an excellent chance of intensifying into a hurricane. Since the GFS is the only model calling for this stall, it is more believable to assume that Katrina will push into the Gulf of Mexico and threaten the US Gulf coast early next week.” [Masters, 8/24/2005]

Entity Tags: Jeff Matthews, Hurricane Katrina

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

Meteorologist Jeff Matthews, Director of the Weather Underground, reports that the latest computer models indicate, “the threat of a strike on New Orleans by Katrina as a major hurricane has grown. The official NHC forecast is now 170 miles west of where it was at 11am, and still is to the east of the consensus model guidance. It would be no surprise if later advisories shift the forecast track even further west and put Katrina over New Orleans. Until Katrina makes its northward turn, I would cast a very doubtful eye on the model predictions of Katrina’s track.” [Masters, 8/26/2005]

Entity Tags: Jeff Matthews, Hurricane Katrina

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

Alabama Governor Bob Riley offers Louisiana Governor Blanco and Mississippi Governor Barbour assistance if necessary, upon reviewing this morning’s National Weather Service report showing that Katrina’s most serious impact will most likely be in Louisiana and Mississippi. [Alabama, 8/27/2005]

Entity Tags: Hurricane Katrina, Bob Riley, Kathleen Babineaux Blanco, Haley Barbour, National Weather Service

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

Around 7 pm this evening, LSU Hurricane Center scientists share their latest prediction models with emergency officials at the Emergency Operations Center in Baton Rouge. On the giant screen looming over the officials, scientists post the sum of all fears: New Orleans will go under. Everyone knows what that means: a major water rescue of untold thousands. [Time, 9/4/2005] The model predicts that Katrina’s storm surge may weaken and overtop New Orleans’ levees, causing massive flooding of Plaquemines Parish, New Orleans’ 9th Ward, Michoud area, and Mid-City, as well as large parts of Slidell. [Schleifstein, 8/27/2005; Daily Advertiser, 8/27/2005] The Times-Picayune will publish the projected storm surge map the next morning. [Times-Picayune, 8/28/2005 pdf file] Reportedly, the Center also e-mails their modeling results to state and federal agencies, including the National Hurricane Center. [MSNBC, 9/9/2005]

Entity Tags: LSU Hurricane Center, National Emergency Operations Center, National Hurricane Center

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

Meteorologist Jeff Matthews, Director of the Weather Underground, a popular web-based weather service, reports: “We may be on the verge of a rapid deepening phase, and Katrina is growing from a medium sized hurricane to a large hurricane. Where the pressure will bottom out after this deepening phase is anyone’s guess, and I believe something in the 915—925 mb range is most likely, which would make Katrina a strong Category 4 or weak Category 5 hurricane by tomorrow afternoon.” He then laments: “New Orleans finally got serious and ordered an evacuation, but far too late. There is no way everyone will be able to get out of the city in time, and they may be forced to take shelter in the Superdome, which is above sea level. If Katrina makes a direct hit on New Orleans as a Category 4 hurricane, the levees protecting the city will be breached, and New Orleans, which is 6—10 feet below sea level, will fill with water. On top of this 6 feet of water will come a 15 foot storm surge, and on top of that will be 20 foot waves, so the potential for high loss of life is great. Given the current track and intensity forecast, I’d put the odds of this at about 20 percent” [Masters, 8/27/2005]

Entity Tags: Jeff Matthews, Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans Superdome

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

Minutes after the National Hurricane Center issues its Advisory, the National Weather Service for New Orleans issues an urgent weather message, “Devastating Damage Expected,” which could not be more stark: “Hurricane Katrina [is] a most powerful hurricane with unprecedented strength…rivaling the intensity of Hurricane Camille of 1969. Most of the area will be uninhabitable for weeks…perhaps longer. At least one half of well constructed homes will have roof and wall failure. All gabled roofs will fail…leaving those homes severely damaged or destroyed. The majority of industrial buildings will become non functional. Partial to complete wall and roof failure is expected. All wood framed low rising apartment buildings will be destroyed. Concrete block low rise apartments will sustain major damage…including some wall and roof failure. High rise office and apartment buildings will sway dangerously…a few to the point of total collapse. All windows will blow out. Airborne debris will be widespread…and may include heavy items such as household appliances and even light vehicles. Sport utility vehicles and light trucks will be moved. The blown debris will create additional destruction. Persons…pets…and livestock exposed to the winds will face certain death if struck. Power outages will last for weeks…as most power poles will be down and transformers destroyed. Water shortages will make human suffering incredible by modern standards. The vast majority of native trees will be snapped or uprooted. Only the heartiest will remain standing…but be totally defoliated. Few crops will remain. Livestock left exposed to the winds will be killed. An inland hurricane wind warning is issued when sustained winds near hurricane force…or frequent gusts at or above hurricane force…are certain within the next 12 to 24 hours. Once tropical storm and hurricane force winds onset…do not venture outside!” [Times-Picayune Blog, 8/28/2005; National Weather Service, 9/28/2005]

Entity Tags: Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Camille, National Weather Service

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

“The area from New Orleans to the Mississippi-Louisiana border is going to get a catastrophic blow. I put the odds of New Orleans getting its levees breached and the city submerged at about 70 percent This scenario, which has been discussed extensively in literature I have read, could result in a death toll in the thousands, since many people will be unable or unwilling to get out of the city. I recommend that if you are trapped in New Orleans tomorrow, that you wear a life jacket and a helmet if you have them,” states Jeff Matthews, meteorologist with the Weather Underground, a popular web-based weather service. Masters notes: “Katrina [is] the fourth strongest hurricane ever, and the strongest hurricane ever observed in the Gulf of Mexico, surpassing Camille.… Katrina has continued to expand in size, and now rivals Hurricane Gilbert and Hurricane Allen as the largest hurricanes in size. When hurricanes reach such enormous sizes, they tend to create their own upper-air environment, making them highly resistant to external wind shear.… Katrina is so huge and powerful that she will still do incredible damage even at this level.” Recognizing that he has focused primarily on New Orleans, Masters states, “Katrina will do tens of billions in damage all along the coast of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida. Mobile Bay could well see a 10-foot storm surge. And inland areas will take heavy damage as well; Katrina will still be a hurricane 180 miles inland, and cause widespread flooding throughout the Tennessee Valley.” Masters ends by urging readers to pray for those in Katrina’s path. [Masters, 8/28/2005]

Entity Tags: Hurricane Gilbert, Hurricane Allen, Jeff Matthews

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

The National Weather Service’s New Orleans local weather statement reiterates the stark warnings announced yesterday: “Direct strike of potentially catastrophic and life threatening hurricane expected late tonight and early Monday.” The Statement recommends the following actions: “Protect you and your family. Follow local emergency managers recommendations. With the approach of hurricane force winds and heavy squalls people are urged to seek refuge of last resort in strong…well constructed buildings. If life threatening storm surge flooding develops…move to higher floors or house attics. Bring tools to make an emergency exit should these higher floors or attics become inundated.” [National Weather Service (Birmingham), 8/29/2005; Wall Street Journal, 9/12/2005]

Entity Tags: National Weather Service, Hurricane Katrina

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

Before dawn this morning, as Katrina approaches the coast of Southeastern Louisiana, the hurricane’s easterly winds from its northern quadrant shove a rising surge into the marshy Lake Borgne area east of St. Bernard. There, two hurricane levees come together into a large V-shape. Storm surge researchers later say that this point “acts as a giant funnel: Water pouring into the confined area rises up—perhaps as much as 20 feet in this case—and is funneled between the levees all the way into New Orleans.” The water probably tops the levees along the north side adjacent to eastern New Orleans, which average only 14 or 15 feet. The surge reaches the Industrial Canal before dawn and quickly overflows on both sides, the canal lockmaster reports to the Corps. At some point not long afterward, Corps officials believe a barge breaks loose and crashes through the floodwall, opening a breach that accelerated flooding into the Lower Ninth Ward and St. Bernard Parish. [McQuaid, 9/7/2005]
Note - Reports about when this breach occurs vary. For example, the Army Corps of Engineers will report this evening that this breach occurs later, “during the storm.” [US Army Corps of Engineers, 8/29/2005 pdf file] The Boston Globe will report that this breach occurs around 9:00 am. [Boston Globe, 9/11/2005] However, it appears more likely that at least one breach of occurred on this canal early this morning. Army Corps engineers will later indicate that this Industrial Canal breach occurs overnight as the storm is barreling towards New Orleans [McQuaid, 9/7/2005] ; while the 17th Street Canal levee-floodwall is not breached until sometime around 9:00 am during the height of the storm’s pass near New Orleans (see (9:00 am) August 29, 2005).

Entity Tags: US Army Corps of Engineers, Hurricane Katrina

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

Jeff Matthews, meteorologist with the Weather Underground, a popular web-based weather service, reports that it appears New Orleans will be spared a catastrophic hit. “As the eye passes east of the city later this morning, north winds of about 100 mph will push waters from Lake Pontchartrain up to the top of the levee protecting the city, and possibly breach the levee and flood the city. This flooding will not cause the kind of catastrophe that a direct hit by the right (east) eyewall would have, with its 140 mph winds and 15-20 foot storm surge. New Orleans will not suffer large loss of life from Katrina.… [A]lthough the damage will be incredible, it could have been much, much worse.” [Masters, 8/29/2005]

Entity Tags: Hurricane Katrina, Jeff Matthews

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

The New Orleans Local Weather Statement issued by the National Weather Service states that the eye of Hurricane Katrina is now less than 70 miles from New Orleans. “Severe tidal flooding will also develop along low lying areas surrounding Lake Pontchartrain…with severe inundation likely.… Severe storm surge flooding is expected develop through the remainder of the morning…with highest values along the Louisiana coast east of the Mississippi River…Mississippi coast…and along the shore line of Lake Pontchartrain and Maurepas.” [National Weather Service (Birmingham), 8/29/2005; Wall Street Journal, 9/12/2005]

Entity Tags: National Weather Service, Hurricane Katrina

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

The National Weather Service (NWS) issues a flash flood warning for Orleans Parish, reporting that a breach has occurred along the Industrial Canal at Tennessee Street. It expects three to eight feet of flooding due to the breach. The warning includes New Orleans, including the 9th Ward, St. Bernard Parish, Chalmette, and Arabi. The NWS urges residents to “[m]ove to higher ground. A flash flood warning means that flooding is imminent or occurring. If you are in the warning area move to higher ground immediately.” [Wall Street Journal, 9/12/2005]

Entity Tags: National Weather Service

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

The National Weather Service’s Local Weather Statement for New Orleans advises that the eye of Hurricane Katrina is in eastern St. Bernard and Orleans Parishes, packing sustained winds near 135 mph, with higher gusts. A storm surge of 10 to 12 feet will be occurring in the southwest part of Lake Pontchartrain affecting the east banks of Jefferson, St. Charles, St. John the Baptist, and Livingston parishes. “Severe storm surge flooding is expected develop through the remainder of the morning… with highest values along the Louisiana coast east of the Mississippi River…Mississippi coast…and along the shore line of Lake Pontchartrain and Maurepas.” [National Weather Service (Birmingham), 8/29/2005; Wall Street Journal, 9/12/2005]

Entity Tags: National Weather Service, Hurricane Katrina

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

Around 9:00 am this morning, the 17th Street Canal levee-floodwall system is breached. However, according to Al Naomi, Army Corps of Engineers’ New Orleans project manager, the breach occurs in mid- or late-morning after Katrina’s eye has passed east of New Orleans. By that time, north winds have pushed storm surge water in Lake Pontchartrain south against the hurricane levees and into the canals, and then the wind shifts to the west. “As I remember it the worst of the storm had passed when we got word the floodwall had collapsed,” Naomi later says. “It could have been when we were experiencing westerly winds in the aftermath of the storm, which would have been pushing water against it.” Naomi and other Corps officials will later say that they believe that the water in the canal topped the levee on the Orleans Parish side, weakening its structure on the interior side and causing its collapse. Ivor Van Heerden, LSU Hurricane Center expert, however, will say that he does not believe the water was high enough in the lake to top the 14-foot wall and that the pressure caused a “catastrophic structural failure.” [McQuaid, 9/7/2005 Sources: Al Naomi, Ivor Van Heerden]
Note - Reports about when this breach occurs vary. For example, Knight Ridder reports that the breach occurred at 3:00 am this morning, and that the breach was reported to the Army Corps of Engineers around 5:00 am. [Knight Ridder, 9/11/2005] Later today, the Army Corps of Engineers will report that the breach occurred “overnight” and that the Industrial Canal breach occurs at this time. [US Army Corps of Engineers, 8/29/2005 pdf file Sources: US Army Corps of Engineers] The Boston Globe will report that the breach occurs later this afternoon. [Boston Globe, 9/11/2005] The Chicago Tribune will report that the breach does not occur until August 30. [Chicago Tribune, 9/11/2005] However, it appears more likely that the 17th Street Canal floodwall-levee is breached around this time, and that the early morning breach reported is the breach of the floodwall(s) in the Industrial Canal.

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

“Although the damage will be incredible, it could have been much, much worse,” states Jeff Matthews, meteorologist with the Weather Underground. Masters notes, however, that the National Weather Service “is reporting that the levees in Orleans and St Bernard parishes have been overtopped by the storm surge, and there are reports of life-threatening flooding, roof damage, and building collapses in the city.” Masters warns that “Bay Saint Louis, Biloxi, and Gulfport Mississippi will take the full force of Katrina’s right eyewall, and a storm surge of 15-20 feet is likely along the west and central Mississippi coast.” Masters closes his post with a personal note: “A special thanks need to be given to the Air Force Hurricane Hunters based at Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi, Mississippi, who have flown Katrina around the clock while their families remained on the ground in Biloxi. Biloxi will suffer Katrina’s harshest blow, and many of the Hurricane Hunters will see their homes destroyed or heavily damaged.” [Masters, 8/29/2005] Tomorrow morning, Masters will recall the initial relief after Hurricane Andrew: “As news reports begin to filter in from the hardest hit areas, the scope of Katrina’s destruction is slowly being realized. Remember in the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew, how there was a lot of relief about how much worse it could have been, and how well Miami fared? This cheerfulness faded once the search teams penetrated to Homestead and found the near-total devastation there [W]ith a two block long breach in the Lake Pontchartrain levee allowing the entire City of New Orleans to flood today, we are witnessing a natural disaster of the scope unseen in America since the great 1938 Hurricane devastated New England, killing 600. Damage from Katrina will probably top $50 billion, and the death toll will be in the hundreds.” [Masters, 8/30/2005]

Entity Tags: National Weather Service, Jeff Matthews, Hurricane Andrew, Keesler Air Force Base, Air Force Hurricane Hunters

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

The Associated Press reports that, according to the National Weather Service, a floodwall has been breached on the Industrial Canal near the St. Bernard-Orleans parish line (see (9:00 am) August 29, 2005). Three to eight feed of flooding is possible. [Associated Press, 8/29/2005 Sources: National Weather Service] The Associated Press will report on breaches in New Orleans’ levee system at least 15 times before the end of the day, identifying both the Industrial Canal floodwall breach and the 17th Street Canal floodwall-levee breach.

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

The National Weather Service’s local weather statement for Mobile Alabama repeats the 8:14 am Flash Flood Warning (see 8:14 am August 29, 2005), which reported that the Industrial Canal is breached at Tennessee Street. [Wall Street Journal, 9/12/2005]

Entity Tags: National Weather Service

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

The St. Bernard Parish website reports on the breach to the Industrial Canal floodwall, near the St. Bernard-Orleans parish line (Tennessee St.), citing the National Weather Service advisory (see 8:14 am August 29, 2005). According to Larry Ingargiola, Director of St. Bernard’s OEP, both parish shelters, housing 300 residents, are suffering significant flooding damage. Chalmette High is losing its roof; many windows are broken at St. Bernard High. “We cannot see the tops of the levees!” [St. Bernard Parish, 8/29/2005]

Entity Tags: National Weather Service, Chalmette High School

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

National Weather Service (NWS) Regional Public Affairs Director Jim Teet sends an email to employees of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) informing them that all requests for contact from the national media must “now receive prior approval by” the Commerce Department. According to the memo, when a media request is made, employees must obtain the “name of the reporter and their affiliation; [t]heir deadline and contact phone number; [n]ame of individual being requested for the interview and purpose of the interview; [a]dditional background about the interview subject, and expertise of requested interviewee on this subject,” and then provide this information to the NWS press office. From there, the request shall be forwarded to the Commerce Department’s public relations office, whose staff will then decide how to handle the media request. According to an unnamed NOAA employee, “prior to this policy change, if a media organization called our office (or any other National Weather Service office) and wanted an interview, we would do our best to accommodate the request as quickly as possible. While often such requests are from local media, local offices do get requests from national media if a weather event is big enough to be a national story.” But NOAA Public Affairs Director Jordan St. John insists that “the policy has been in existence all along,” and that he had rewritten it in June 2004 (see June 28, 2004) with lawyers and Commerce Department policymakers. But NOAA employees tell the Raw Story that they had never been informed of these restrictions before, and some suggest that the timing of Teet’s email may be related to the political impact of hurricane Katrina. According to Raw Story, there is a substantial difference between the June 2004 policy and the one emailed by Teet. “[T]he emailed policy states that routine contact with national media outlets has to be pre-cleared with the Commerce Department, requiring extensive information about the journalist and media outlet [while] [t]he media policy St. John provided does not stipulate such restrictions on interacting with national media. Nor does it state that the Commerce Department must approve media requests,” Raw Story reports. [Raw Story, 10/4/2005; New Republic, 2/11/2006; Union of Concern Scientists and Government Accountability Project, 1/30/2007, pp. 31 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Jordan St. John, National Weather Service, Jim Teet

Timeline Tags: Global Warming

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