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Context of 'Afternoon August 27, 2005: NHC to New Orleans: ‘This is really scary’ '

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Walter Maestri, Director of the Emergency Management Center in Jefferson Parish, receives a call from Max Mayfield, Director of the National Hurricane Center. As Maestri later recalls, “Max said to me, ‘Walter, I just want to alert you that a couple of the models are heading this thing right to New Orleans, and I think this thing is going to seriously intensify. You need to be ready.’ At that time, the track was going up the west coast of Florida, so I said to Max, ‘Are you kidding me?’ And he said, ‘No, Walt, this is real.’” Maestri immediately convenes his staff to begin preparations. According to Maestri, government officials—at all levels—have prepared for this event for years. During conferences, officials repeatedly have repeatedly discussed the fact that a hurricane could flood all of New Orleans and kill up to 40,000 people. Manuals, spanning hundreds of pages, set forth who (local, state, and federal) will do what and when, when the “monster storm hits.” These officials have repeatedly run hurricane exercises to practice execution of the plans. Mayfield will also warn Louisiana and FEMA officials. He briefs FEMA headquarters in a video teleconference, so that he can see the decision-makers during the call. [National Public Radio, 9/9/2005]

Entity Tags: Walter Maestri, Max Mayfield, Federal Emergency Management Agency

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

During FEMA’s daily video conference, Max Mayfield, National Hurricane Center Director, warns FEMA officials that Hurricane Katrina could make landfall near New Orleans as a Category 4 hurricane: “This one is different… It’s strong, but it’s also much, much larger.” Mayfield also warns FEMA that the anticipated storm surge could overwhelm the levees. Mayfield will later recall that he sees many “newcomers to the disaster world” around the table during this conference. However, he knows that many professionals listening in from the Gulf states have been through his hurricane prep course and they know that this is no drill: “The emergency guys, they know what a Cat 4 is,” Mayfield states. Jack Colley, State Coordinator for Texas’ Division of Emergency Management similarly recalls that, “Clearly on Saturday, we knew it was going to be the Big One.… We were very convinced this was going to be a very catastrophic event.” [Washington Post, 9/11/2005]

Entity Tags: National Hurricane Center, Federal Emergency Management Agency, Max Mayfield, Hurricane Katrina

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

Max Mayfield, Director of the National Hurricane Center, warns the Times-Picayune that Hurricane Katrina poses an imminent danger to New Orleans: “The guidance we get and common sense and experience suggests this storm is not done strengthening.… This is really scary. This is not a test, as your governor said earlier today. This is the real thing.” Katrina “is a very, very dangerous hurricane, and capable of causing a lot of damage and loss of life if we’re not careful.” “This thing is like Hurricane Opal,” Mayfield says, referring to the 1995 Category 3 hurricane that hit the Florida panhandle. “We’re seeing 12-foot seas along the Louisiana coast already.” [Times-Picayune Blog, 8/27/2005]

Entity Tags: Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Opal, Max Mayfield

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

Max Mayfield, Director of the National Hurricane Center (NHC) appears on CNN to warn that Hurricane Katrina is a very dangerous storm: “Well, it’s very serious. And it can not only cause a lot of damage, but large loss of life if people don’t heed the advice of those local officials. This could be stronger than Hurricane Betsy in 1965. And I know there’s been a lot of focus on New Orleans, as there should be, but we don’t want to forget about Mississippi and Alabama. They’re going to have a tremendous storm surge, not only near, but well out to the east to where the center of this hurricane makes landfall.” Mayfield states that “I certainly would [evacuate] if I lived in a place that did not have some high terrain. And that’s much of southeast Louisiana. This has always been our greatest, you know, concern anywhere on the Gulf of Mexico. And I think when we start talking about storm surge values, up as high as Camille, you know, that will get people’s attention. We’re going to very likely put up the hurricane warning later tonight.” [CNN, 8/27/2005]

Entity Tags: Hurricane Katrina, Max Mayfield, Hurricane Betsy

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

NHC Director Max Mayfield personally calls Louisiana Governor Blanco and Mississippi Governor Barbour. Mayfield tells Barbour that Katrina may be a “Camille-like storm.” He tells Blanco that this one will be a “big, big deal.” “I wanted to be able to go to sleep that night,” he will later recall. According to Mayfield, Blanco is unsure that New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin has fully grasped the situation and urges Mayfield to call him. [Washington Post, 9/11/2005]

Entity Tags: Ray Nagin, Hurricane Camille, Haley Barbour, Max Mayfield, Kathleen Babineaux Blanco

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

NHC Director Max Mayfield calls New Orleans Mayor Nagin: “This is going to be a defining moment for a lot of people.” [Houston Chronicle, 9/8/2005; Washington Post, 9/11/2005] Nagin will tell City Councilwoman Cynthia Morrell early Sunday morning, “Max Mayfield has scared me to death.” [Newsweek, 9/19/2005] Nagin will later recall that Mayfled’s message “scared the crap out of me.” “I immediately said, ‘My God, I have to call a mandatory evacuation,’” according to a later Knight Ridder report. [Knight Ridder, 9/11/2005] Nagin will call for the evacuation Sunday morning at 9:30 am (see (9:30 am) August 28, 2005).

Entity Tags: Max Mayfield, Cynthia Morrell, Ray Nagin

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

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