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Context of 'After 8:00 pm August 29, 2005: FEMA Director to O’Reilly Factor: New Orleans’ Levees are Breached'

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Michael D. Brown, an Oklahoma lawyer, replaces Joseph Allbaugh as Director of FEMA. Brown, who was Allbaugh’s college roommate, joined the Bush administration in 2001 as FEMA’s general counsel at Allbaugh’s invitation. [Knight Ridder, 9/3/2005; Boston Herald, 9/3/2005; New York Times, 9/7/2005] Upon Brown’s appointment, Allbaugh says, “The president couldn’t have chosen a better man to help… prepare and protect the nation.” However, prior to joining the Bush administration, Brown apparently had little prior experience in disaster relief or prevention. From 1991 to January 2001, Brown worked as the commissioner of judges and stewards of the International Arabian Horse Association, earning about $100,000 per year. In this role, Brown was charged with ensuring that horse-show judges followed the rules and investigating any allegations of cheating. He was asked to resign in 2001 after accepting donations to a personal legal defense fund. [Boston Herald, 9/3/2005; New York Times, 9/7/2005]

Entity Tags: Michael D. Brown, Federal Emergency Management Agency

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

FEMA issues a special announcement “warning residents along Gulf Coast states to take immediate action to prepare for dangerous Hurricane Katrina as it approaches land. ‘There’s still time to take action now, but you must be prepared and take shelter and other emergency precautions immediately,’ said Michael D. Brown, [FEMA Director]. FEMA has pre-positioned many assets including ice, water, food and rescue teams to move into the stricken areas as soon as it is safe to do so.” [Federal Emergency Management Agency, 8/28/2005]

Entity Tags: Hurricane Katrina, Federal Emergency Management Agency

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

Apparently, only moments after saying that the New Orleans levees have not been breached (see 8:00 pm August 30, 2005), FEMA Director Michael Brown tells Fox’s Bill O’Reilly the opposite: “… Now we averted the catastrophic disaster here, but a lot of the things that we anticipated that we practiced for are coming true. We now have breaches. We now have water moving into New Orleans. And you know what? It’s going to be a long time to get that water back out of New Orleans.” [Fox, 8/29/2005]

Entity Tags: Michael D. Brown

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

FEMA Director Michael Brown appears on ABC’s Nightline. When Ted Koppel asks Brown about the massive flooding in New Orleans and the need to drain the water from the city, Brown responds as follows: “[A] few years ago, I decided that FEMA really needed to do some catastrophic disaster planning. And so, the President gave us the money to do that and the first place we did a study was in New Orleans. And as you know, you’ve probably heard everyone talk about the bowl. What happened is, you know, Max Mayfield at the National Hurricane Center was right. We had a huge storm surge that came across those levees. I’m not sure we had breeches but we certainly had some areas where there’s some leaks and flooding continuing to occur. That water all gets in. We now have to rely upon the pumps. We need generators to do that pumping because the power was out. And some of those pumps may or may not fail. So, it’s going to be a long, tedious process to now get that water back out so we can then even start rebuilding homes, let alone let people back into them.” Asked to compare the damage in New Orleans to elsewhere in the region, and even though he has just acknowledged the widespread flooding in the city, Brown responds as follows: “[W]hat happened—believe it or not, I think New Orleans is the one that got off easy because Katrina moved to the east 30 or 45 miles. And that prevented what we would have seen had it hit the bull’s eye. And that is widespread flooding, breeches of all of the levees. And you would have seen downtown inundated also.” [ABC, 8/29/2005]

Entity Tags: Michael D. Brown, Max Mayfield, Ted Koppel, Federal Emergency Management Agency

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

FEMA Director Michael Brown describes the situation to CNN’s Larry King as “a catastrophic disaster,” before focusing on the devastation to New Orleans, which he describes as follows: “It saved downtown New Orleans but it decimated everything east of downtown and then, of course, decimated everything up through Mississippi, so there’s always good news and bad news and it here is it means we don’t have the flooding in downtown New Orleans but we’ve got the flooding everywhere. We’ve got some storm surges that have come across the levees. We have some, I’m not going to call them breaches but we have some areas where the lake and the rivers are continuing to spill over. The flood waters are still spilling into those neighborhoods, so it’s frankly unfortunately going to get worse before it gets better.” Brown reports that FEMA is assessing the situation and remarks that, “It’s just amazing to see the pictures and to hear the firsthand reports of these FEMA folks who have been with the agency for, you know, 15 or 20 years to call in and talk about how this is the worst flooding they’ve ever seen in their entire lives and talking about just neighborhoods after neighborhoods gone.” Brown also praises the Coast Guard rescue efforts: “I can’t say enough about the Coast Guard. They go out and they’re trying to do reconnaissance and the next thing you know there’s a guy on the roof that needs rescuing, so they rescue that guy and try to get him back to safety. That’s the kind of stuff we’re going to find in the near future.” [CNN, 8/29/2005]

Entity Tags: Federal Emergency Management Agency, US Coast Guard, Michael D. Brown

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

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