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Context of '(7:30 pm) August 29, 2005: FEMA Representative Details New Orleans’ Levee System Breaches, Flooding, and Damage to Mayor and officials at FEMA Headquarters'

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Louis O. Giuffrida is confirmed by the Senate to become the next director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Guiffrida, who was recently promoted to the rank of general in the California National Guard, served under President Reagan when Reagan was governor of California. Giuffrida headed the California Specialized Training Institute (CSTI) (see 1971) and was an “adviser on terrorism, emergency management, and other special topics.” According to Reagan, Giuffrida has a “lengthy career as a military and civilian expert in crime prevention and investigation, industrial defense, physical security, civil disturbances and disasters, confinement, and rehabilitation responsibilities.” [Nomination of Louis O. Giuffrida To Be Director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, 2/24/1981; Bumgarner, 1/18/2008, pp. 142] Giuffrida wrote a paper while at the US Army War College advocating martial law and the emergency roundup and detention of millions of “American Negroes” (see 1970). He will resign in 1985 amid allegations of corruption (see July 24, 1985).

Entity Tags: Ronald Reagan, Federal Emergency Management Agency, Louis Giuffrida

Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties

Big Sky Resort, Montana.Big Sky Resort, Montana. [Source: FedCenter.gov]Emergency managers from around the US, including Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Director Joseph Allbaugh and representatives from the emergency management agencies of 47 states, are in Big Sky, Montana, attending the annual conference of the National Emergency Management Association (NEMA), where the main focuses include the issues of domestic terrorism and weapons of mass destruction.
Most State Emergency Managers in Attendance - Conference attendees include around 350 government and industry emergency specialists. [New York Times, 9/12/2001; State Government News, 10/2001 pdf file] Among them are almost all of America’s state emergency management directors and most of the senior FEMA staff. [Stateline (.org), 9/13/2001] They are there, reportedly, “to hear briefings on the latest issues in domestic preparedness, improve state and local capabilities, address energy shortages, and discuss lessons from the February 2001 Nisqually earthquake.” [State Government News, 10/2001 pdf file] The attendees discuss anti-terrorism planning courses, and the status of federal aid and cooperation efforts. [Stateline (.org), 9/10/2002] Allbaugh is the event’s keynote speaker and gives his talk on September 10, in which he describes his focus on improving emergency capabilities and preparing for disaster. [New York Times, 9/12/2001; State Government News, 10/2001 pdf file]
Conference Ends Early Due to Attacks - The NEMA conference is originally scheduled to run until September 12. [Natural Hazards Observer, 3/2001; National Emergency Management Association, 8/15/2001] But because of the terrorist attacks on September 11, it ends a day early (see After 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). [119th Fighter Wing, 10/25/2001] Special arrangements are then made for some of the emergency managers in attendance to be flown home on military aircraft, while others have to drive long distances back to their states (see (After 11:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001, (After 11:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001, and (After 4:30 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [Stateline (.org), 9/13/2001; State Government News, 10/2001 pdf file]
Timing of Attacks Inconvenient - In May this year, President Bush put FEMA in charge of responding to any terrorist attacks in the United States, charging it with creating an Office of National Preparedness to coordinate the government’s response to such attacks (see May 8, 2001). [White House, 5/8/2001; Los Angeles Times, 5/9/2001] Following the attacks on September 11, FEMA spokesman Mark Wolfson will note the inconvenience of these attacks occurring at the same time as the NEMA conference. He will say that FEMA officials do not know whether the attacks were timed to catch emergency officials off guard, but “it is something that law enforcement investigators might be looking at.” [Stateline (.org), 9/13/2001] NEMA is the professional association of state emergency management directors. [Natural Hazards Observer, 3/2001] Its annual conference is being held in Montana this year because its president, Jim Greene, is the administrator of the state’s Disaster and Emergency Services Division. [Billings Gazette, 10/5/2000; National Journal, 1/16/2001; New York Times, 9/12/2001]

Entity Tags: Federal Emergency Management Agency, Mark Wolfson, Joseph M. Allbaugh, National Emergency Management Association

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Around this time, Marty Bahamonde, a FEMA spokesman, who has spent the day at the Superdome before surveying the damage from a Coast Guard helicopter, briefs New Orleans Mayor Nagin on the extent of the damage. Bahamonde describes the surge of water flowing through the city as “surprising in its intensity.” Mayor Nagin is devastated, Bahamonde will later recall. Others attending the briefing begin to cry. [Knight Ridder, 9/11/2005] According to a later Newsweek report, Bahamonde asks for a phone. “I need to call Washington,” he says. “Do you have a conference-call line?” He seems a little taken aback when the answer is no, according to a Mayor’s aide. Bahamonde manages to find a phone that works, but he has trouble reaching senior officials in Washington. When he finally gets someone on the line, the city officials hear him repeating, “You don’t understand, you don’t understand.” [Newsweek, 9/19/2005] According to Knight Ridder, Bahamonde also calls the FEMA team at Louisiana’s Emergency Command Center in Baton Rouge to brief them on the situation. [Knight Ridder, 9/11/2005]

Entity Tags: US Coast Guard, Ray Nagin, Federal Emergency Management Agency, Marty Bahamonde

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

Mayor Nagin appears on WWLTV to provide viewers with a “status report” on the city: “My heart is heavy. I don’t have any good news to really share. Other than at some point in time the federal government will be coming in here in mass. But, the city is in a state of devastation. Eighty percent of it is under water, as much as 20 feet in some places. There’s an incredible amount of water in the city. Residents are on roofs and trapped in attics, awaiting rescue. Fire, Police, and National Guard personnel are out rescuing those trapped right now. Both airports are under water. Twin spans in New Orleans East are totally destroyed. Three huge boats have run aground. An oil tanker has run aground and is leaking oil. There is a serious [floodwall-levee] break at 17th Street Canal,” and the water continues to rise. Houses have been picked up off their foundation and moved. The Yacht Club has burned; it’s totally destroyed. A barge has hit one of the main structures of High Rise (a bridge/span) and we’re not sure that the High Rise is structurally sound. All of Slidell is under water. Most of Metaraie is under water. “The list just goes on and on.” There are gas leaks throughout the city. It’s not a pretty picture. On the somewhat good news side, many people have survived. Uptown is pretty dry. The French Quarter and Central Business District is dry, but they also have buildings that look like a bazooka was shot through. There is no clear path in or out of the city, whether east or west. I-10 West is still full of water.… The water system has been contaminated except for the Central Business District and Algiers. We have no electricity and they expect electricity to be out about 4-6 weeks. “And the list goes on and on.” Nagin reports that flooding is worst in New Orleans East and in the Lower 9th Ward, but it’s “coming from everywhere.” Nagin is basing his information on a briefing he received, apparently from Marty Evans, President of the Red Cross. Nagin states that he is reading from a briefing provided by a FEMA official (later identified as Marty Bahamonde). “The FEMA guy here is saying that 80 percent of New Orleans is under water and a significant portion of Metaraie and Kenner—everything north of I-10 is under water.” Nagin also reports that St. Bernard is in even worse shape: “There is total devastation in St. Bernard alone.” (WWLTV reporter notes earlier Associated Press report that 40,000 houses in that parish are under water.) [WWLTV 4 (New Orleans), 8/29/2005]

Entity Tags: National Guard, Federal Emergency Management Agency, Marty Bahamonde, Marty Evans, Ray Nagin

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

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