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Context of 'Between 11:00 am and 12:00 pm August 27, 2005: Louisiana Official Describes Status of Evacuations'

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During President Bush’s visit to Louisiana, Governor Kathleen Blanco asks the president in a private conversation to include $50 million in his budget to begin construction work on the Louisiana Coastal Area (LCA) wetlands restoration project. She follows up with a formal letter outlining her request. (Associated Press 2/3/2004)

Kathleen Babineaux Blanco (D-LA) is sworn into office as Louisiana’s first woman governor, replacing Governor Mike Foster (R-LA). (Louisiana 9/28/2005)

Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco declares a state of emergency in light of the threat to the state posed by Katrina. This declaration effectively activates Louisiana’s emergency response and recovery program under the command of the director of the state office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness. (Louisiana 8/26/2005) According to Deputy Press Secretary Roderick Hawkins, Blanco issued the declaration in anticipation of possible damage from Hurricane Katrina, noting that the declaration effectively places the Louisiana National Guard on alert: “It puts us on standby just in case we need to mobilize the National Guard.” (KSLA 12 (Shreveport) 8/26/2005 Sources: Roderick Hawkins) . This declaration, in fact, grants Blanco broad powers to respond to the pending disaster, including the power to “[d]irect and compel the evacuation of all or part of the population from any stricken or threatened area within the state if he deems this action necessary for the preservation of life or other disaster mitigation, response or recovery.” (Louisiana State Law, Rev. St. sec. 766) Blanco, however, will decline to exercise this power in the coming hours, electing to defer to local officials.

By this time, Louisiana has asked for voluntary evacuations of ten parishes, and mandatory evacuations of St. Charles Parish, according to Jim Ballow, Assistant Chief of Operations of the Louisiana Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness. Local parishes are in conference with Governor Blanco to discuss further evacuations. Ballow explains the challenges of evacuating New Orleans: Evacuating residents “with… limited evacuation routes and some that are susceptible to high water as well, pose[] a challenge. We need to decide early—certain number of hours out, as per state evacuation plan, to begin evacuating them, so we can effectively remove as many people as possible and then stop the evacuation prior to the storm striking.” (CNN 8/27/2005 Sources: Jim Ballow)

Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco, appearing on NBC, Today Show, reports that “I believe the water has breached the levee system, and is—is coming in. I mean, we’ve got water in so many areas there that, you know, none of that’s a big surprise. It’s just a big worry.” (Blanco is likely referring to the Industrial Canal floodwall.) Officials are “hearing of flooding of six-to-eight-foot waters in eastern New Orleans near the parish line of Orleans and St. Bernard. Obviously, our low-lying areas are experiencing a lot of flooding as well.” According to Blanco, the water is rising at about one foot per hour: “And yes, that gives us great concern. The area that we’re talking about is a heavily populated area. We’re hoping that it—that it was 100 percent evacuated. Eight-foot waters are—are very serious.” Blanco warns that, “We have not seen the last of—of the damage. I expect that it will worsen throughout the day.” (MSNBC 8/29/2005)


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