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Hurricane Katrina

Events Leading up to Hurricane Katrina

Project: Hurricane Katrina
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During the 75-year period between 1930 and 2005, more than 1.2 million acres of Louisiana’s coastal wetlands disappear. From 1932 to 1956, Louisiana loses 9,600 acres (15 sq. miles) of wetlands per year. The rate peaks between the years 1956 and 1978 at 26,000 acres (41 sq. miles) per year and then declines, falling to 20,000 acres (31 sq. miles) per year during the 1978-1983 period, and 16,000 acres (25 sq. miles) per year between 1983 and 1990. [Wicker, 1980 pdf file; Dunbar, Britsch, and Kemp, 1992; Barras, Bourgeois, and Handle, 1/1994; Barras et al., 2004 pdf file] After state and federal governments initiate a coastal restoration program in 1990 (see November 29, 1990) at a total cost of more than $400 million, the rate decreases to about 15,300 acres (24 sq. miles) per year. [Barras et al., 2004 pdf file] The decades of wetlands loss brings the Gulf Coast 30 miles closer to New Orleans; so by 2005, only about 20 miles remain between the below-sea-level city and the Gulf waters. [Houston Business Journal, 7/11/2003] Studies have projected that Louisiana’s coast will continue to lose land at a rate of about 6,600 acres per year (10 sq. miles) over the next 50 years, [Barras et al., 2004 pdf file] resulting in another 1000 square miles of wetlands being lost, an area almost equivalent in size to the state of Rhode Island. [Louisiana Coastal Wetlands Conservation and Restoration Task Force and Wetlands Conservation and Restoration Authority, 1998] The net loss of Louisiana’s coastal wetlands has been attributed to several factors, including the maintenance of shipping lanes, the dredging of canals, construction of flood control levees, and the withdrawal of oil and gas. [Environmental Protection Agency and Louisiana Geological Survey, 4/1987 pdf file; National Wetlands Research Center, 9/20/2005] The US Corps of Engineer’s flood control system of levees and dams is considered to be a major cause of wetlands destruction, as it prevents the Mississippi River from depositing sediment that is needed to sustain the wetlands. The oil and gas industry is also responsible for the net loss of wetlands. Thousands of canals for pipelines and drilling rigs are plowed during this period, often by the US Army Corps of Engineers, creating a scarred landscape and eroding the marshlands year after year. [Environmental Protection Agency and Louisiana Geological Survey, 4/1987 pdf file; Times-Picayune, 7/26/2002; Houston Business Journal, 7/11/2003] A study in 1982 estimated that as much as 90 percent of Louisiana’s land loss can be attributed to canals. [Turner, Costanza, and Scaife, 1982 pdf file] Furthermore, the extraction of oil and gas from beneath the Louisiana coast is believed (see 2002) to have increased the rate of subsidence, a term used to describe the phenomena whereby land slowly sinks. [Gulf Coast Association of Geological Societies, 2002 pdf file] Other causes of wetland destruction include wave erosion, land reclamation, and rising sea levels. [Environmental Protection Agency and Louisiana Geological Survey, 4/1987 pdf file] Louisiana’s coast is a vitally important ecosystem and natural feature. It makes up about 40 percent of all US coastal wetlands and provides over-wintering habitat for 70 percent of the migratory birds that come down the Central and Mississippi flyways. [Environmental Protection Agency and Louisiana Geological Survey, 4/1987 pdf file; Louisiana Coastal Wetlands Conservation and Restoration Task Force and Wetlands Conservation and Restoration Authority, 1998; US Army Corp of Engineers, 11/8/2004] The wetlands and barrier islands (some 80 percent of these islands are lost during this period) serve as a natural protective barrier against hurricanes by reducing the size of storm surges. [Environmental Protection Agency and Louisiana Geological Survey, 4/1987 pdf file; Houston Business Journal, 7/11/2003; van Heerden, 2004] The region is also of vital importance to the US economy. By the late 1990s, the region contributes 30 percent by weight of the total commercial fisheries harvest in the continental US; 18 percent of US oil production; and 24 percent of US gas production. Louisiana’s ports outrank all other US ports in total shipping tonnage. [Louisiana Coastal Wetlands Conservation and Restoration Task Force and Wetlands Conservation and Restoration Authority, 1998; US Army Corp of Engineers, 11/8/2004]

Category Tags: Before Katrina, Coastal Wetlands, Land Development, Federal, Private Sector, Environmental Policies/Programs

The population of the New Orleans metro area is 987,695. [CensusScope (.org), 9/15/2005]

Category Tags: Before Katrina, Evacuation Problem

The population of the New Orleans metro area is 1,144,791. [CensusScope (.org), 9/15/2005]

Category Tags: Before Katrina, Evacuation Problem

The population of the New Orleans metro area is 1,303,800. [CensusScope (.org), 9/15/2005]

Category Tags: Before Katrina, Evacuation Problem

The population of the New Orleans metro area is 1,285,270. [CensusScope (.org), 9/15/2005]

Category Tags: Before Katrina, Evacuation Problem

During the 1990s, FEMA’s response plan for responding to a potential major hurricane in New Orleans provides that it would pre-deploy ships with hospital facilities and ships with pumps that could assist in the dewatering of the city, according to former FEMA Director James Lee Witt. [Knight Ridder, 9/1/2005]

Entity Tags: Federal Emergency Management Agency

Category Tags: Response, Federal: FEMA, Before Katrina

Congress passes the Breaux Act, formally called The Coast Wetlands Planning, Protection, and Restoration Act (CWPPRA), establishing a task force charged with planning and prioritizing wetland restoration projects that would then be sent to Congress to be included as part of the president’s annual budget submission. CWPPRA specifies that 70 percent of its authorized funds must go to Louisiana restoration projects; 15 percent to the Coastal Wetlands Conservation Grant Program, a program that provides federal funds to restoration projects in other coastal states; and 15 percent to North American Wetlands Conservation Act projects. All projects funded under the terms of this act will require non-federal matching contributions. [US Code Vol. 16, secs. 3952-3956] Louisiana will generate its portion of funding for projects though taxes on fishing equipment, small engine, and motorboat fuels, as well as import duties. The act is set to expire in 2009 [National Wetlands Research Center, 9/20/2005] , but will be renewed at least until 2019. [ESA Policy News Update, 10/15/2004] By 2004, some $400 million will have been spent on coastal restoration projects as part of the program [van Heerden, 2004] , resulting in at least 52,000 acres being created, restored, or protected. [Louisiana Coastal Area Study, 7/2004 pdf file]

Entity Tags: US Congress, The Coast Wetlands Planning, Protection, and Restoration Act of 1990

Category Tags: Before Katrina, Federal, Coastal Wetlands, Environmental Policies/Programs, Legislation

After flooding from a massive rainstorm kills six people in New Orleans, Congress authorizes the Southeast Louisiana Urban Flood Control Project (SELA). Part of the SELA Project involves strengthening the levee and water pumping systems throughout the greater New Orleans metropolitan area. [Der Spiegel (Hamburg), 9/1/2005] The project is expected to take 10 years [Los Angeles Times, 9/4/2005] , but chronic funding shortages will prevent its completion before Hurricane Katrina strikes in 2005 (see 2001-Early 2004).

Entity Tags: Southeast Louisiana Urban Flood Control Project, US Congress

Category Tags: Federal, Flood Control Programs, Before Katrina

The US Army Corps of Engineers works on the Southeast Louisiana Urban Flood Control Project (SELA) spending $430 million to shore up the levee system in the greater New Orleans area and build pumping stations. Local governments contribute $50 million, or about 12 percent. [Editor & Publisher, 8/31/2005]

Entity Tags: US Army Corps of Engineers, Southeast Louisiana Urban Flood Control Project

Category Tags: Flood Control Programs, Federal, Before Katrina

FEMA director James Lee Witt announces Project Impact, under which FEMA will foster partnerships between federal, state, and local emergency workers, as well as local businesses, to help individual communities reduce their vulnerability to certain types of natural disasters. Describing the new initiative, FEMA Director James Lee Witt says, “Our goal, starting with this summit, is to change the way America prevents and prepares for disasters. We’ve got to break the damage-repair-damage-repair cycle.” Project Impact is part of a broader mitigation program aimed at reducing the $14 billion in federal dollars spent annually on disaster relief. Witt says that prevention is necessary because of the apparent increased severity and frequency of natural disasters. [San Francisco Chronicle, 10/15/1997; Independent Weekly, 9/22/2004] Project Impact becomes the agency’s highest profile program. “In Seattle, Washington, for example, the grants [are] used to retrofit schools, bridges, and houses at risk from earthquakes. In Pascagoula, Mississippi, the project [funds] the creation of a database of structures in the local flood plain—crucial information for preparing mitigation plans. In several eastern North Carolina communities, it [helps] fund and coordinate buyouts of houses in flood-prone areas.” [Independent Weekly, 9/22/2004]

Entity Tags: James Lee Witt, Federal Emergency Management Agency, Project Impact

Category Tags: Federal: FEMA, Disaster Mitigation, Before Katrina

The State of Louisiana, the US Army Corps of Engineers, federal agencies, local governments, academics, and local community groups work together to develop a comprehensive restoration plan aimed at rebuilding Louisiana’s coastal wetlands. The plan, named “Coast 2050: Toward a Sustainable Coast,” outlines more than 80 restoration concepts that will serve as the basis for the more technical “Louisiana Coastal Area (LCA) Comprehensive Coastwide Study” that will eventually be submitted to the White House in 2004 (see October 2003). The Coast 2050 plan is a direct outgrowth of lessons learned from implementation of restoration projects under the Breaux Act (see November 29, 1990) and reflects a growing recognition that a more comprehensive systemic approach is needed. It is estimated that the Coast 2050 plan would cost $14 billion over the next 30 years to implement and require an annual budget of $470 million. It would restore natural drainage along Louisiana’s coast and direct the movement of sediment from the Mississippi to rebuild marshes. One of the plan’s strategies would be to install sediment traps at key locations in the river, from where sediment would be pumped through 100-mile long pipelines to rebuild wetlands and barrier islands. [Louisiana Coastal Wetlands Conservation and Restoration Task Force and Wetlands Conservation and Restoration Authority, 1998; Louisiana Coastal Area Study, 1/2003 pdf file; Civil Engineering, 6/2003; Louisiana Coastal Area Study, 7/2004 pdf file; Civil Engineering, 7/2004; USA Today, 8/30/2005] The Coast 2050 plan is endorsed by all 20 Louisiana coastal parishes, the federal Breaux Act (CWPPRA) Task Force, the State Wetlands Authority, and various environmental organizations, including the Coalition to Save Coastal Louisiana. “This approval is unprecedented,” says the Louisiana Coastal Area website. [National Wetlands Research Center, 9/20/2005]

Entity Tags: Louisiana State Wetlands Authority, CWPPRA Task Force, Coast 2050: Toward a Sustainable Coast, US Army Corps of Engineers

Category Tags: Federal, Louisiana: State, Academia/Professional, NGOs, Environmental Policies/Programs, Coastal Wetlands, Before Katrina

The population of Louisiana’s coastal parishes reaches 2 million, or 46 percent of the state’s entire population. [US Army Corp of Engineers, 11/8/2004, pp. ii] The population of the New Orleans metro area is 1,337,726. [CensusScope (.org), 9/15/2005]

Category Tags: Before Katrina, Evacuation Problem

Congress rejects a proposal to increase federal funding for hurricane-related research from $5 million to $150 million a year. (Congress provides over $100 million for earthquake-related research during this period.) [Advocate (Baton Rouge), 1/23/2003]

Entity Tags: US Congress

Category Tags: Federal, Disaster Mitigation, Before Katrina, Resource Allocation

The fiscal year 2001 federal flood control budget for southeastern Louisiana is $69 million. [Knight Ridder, 9/1/2005]

Category Tags: Flood Control Programs, Federal, Before Katrina

Between 2001 and 2005, the US Army Corps of Engineers requests $496 million to strengthen the 300-mile levee system protecting the low-elevation greater New Orleans area from the waters of the Mississippi River and Lake Pontchartrain. The Bush administration responds to these requests by proposing a $166 million budget. Congress approves a $250 million budget. [Reuters, 9/1/2005; Los Angeles Times, 9/4/2005]

Entity Tags: US Army Corps of Engineers, Bush administration (43)

Category Tags: Flood Control Programs, Federal, Before Katrina, Resource Allocation

As a result of heavy cuts to the US Army Corps of Engineer’s Southeast Louisiana Urban Flood Control Project (SELA), work slows down to a trickle. In early 2004, the Corps stops awarding contracts, putting several projects on hold. . [New Orleans CityBusiness, 2/7/2005; Los Angeles Times, 9/4/2005]

Entity Tags: Southeast Louisiana Urban Flood Control Project

Category Tags: Flood Control Programs, Federal, Before Katrina, Resource Allocation

George W. Bush taking the oath of office.George W. Bush taking the oath of office. [Source: White House/ Wally McNamara]George W. Bush is inaugurated as president, replacing President Bill Clinton. Bush is sworn in after a tumultuous, sharply disputed election that ended with a US Supreme Court decision in his favor (see 9:54 p.m. December 12, 2000). He takes the oath of office on the same Bible his father, George H.W. Bush, used in his own 1989 inauguration; the oath is administered by Chief Justice William Rehnquist. In his brief inaugural address, delivered outside the US Capitol, Bush asks Americans to “a commitment to principle with a concern for civility.… Civility is not a tactic or a sentiment. It is the determined choice of trust over cynicism, of community over chaos.” In words apparently chosen to reflect on the criticisms surrounding former President Clinton and his notorious affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky, Bush says, “I will live and lead by these principles—to advance my convictions with civility, to pursue the public interest with courage, to speak for greater justice and compassion, to call for responsibility, and try to live it as well.” He continues addressing the American people, saying: “I ask you to be citizens. Citizens, not spectators. Citizens, not subjects. Responsible citizens, building communities of service and a nation of character.” At a post-ceremonial luncheon, Bush issues a series of executive orders, some designed to block or roll back several Clinton-era regulations. He also acknowledges that because of the election turmoil, many Americans believe “we can’t get anything done… nothing will happen, except for finger-pointing and name-calling and bitterness.” He then says: “I’m here to tell the country that things will get done. Republicans and Democrats will come together to do what’s right for America.” [New York Times, 1/21/2001]
Thousands of Protesters - Thousands of protesters line the streets during Bush’s ceremonial drive to the Capitol, a fact not heavily reported by many press outlets. Salon reports, “Not since Richard Nixon paraded down Pennsylvania Avenue in 1973 has a presidential inauguration drawn so many protesters—and last time, people were out to protest the Vietnam War.” Though Capitol Police refuse to estimate the size of the crowd lining the street, Salon reports that “many thousands of protesters were in evidence.” Liz Butler of the Justice Action Movement, the umbrella organization that helped coordinate the protests, says: “The level of people on the streets shows that people are really upset about lack of democratic process. They took it to the streets. We saw tens of thousands. We saw far more protesting Bush than supporting him.” Some of the people on the streets are Bush supporters, but many more are not, and carry signs such as “Bush Cheated,” “Hail to the Thief,” “Bush—Racism,” “Bushwhacked by the Supremes,” and others. The crowd, though outspoken in its protests and unrestrained in its heckling of Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, is generally peaceful, and no serious violence is reported, though a few minor altercations do take place, and large contingents of police in riot gear—including personnel from every police department in the District of Columbia as well as the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and from departments in Maryland and Virginia—are on hand. At least one protester throws an egg at the limousine transporting Bush, Cheney, and their families to the inaugural ceremonies; perhaps in response to the protests, Bush breaks with tradition laid down by earlier presidents and does not walk any large portion of the parade route. Nine people are arrested for disorderly conduct, most for allegedly throwing bottles and other debris. Bulter says: “Of course, we’re ashamed that Bush has decided to be a ‘uniter’ by uniting people against him. They all chose to come out in the freezing rain—even the weather couldn’t stop these people.” Protester Mary Anne Cummings tells a reporter: “I think it’s important to remind the incoming administration the country does not want a right-wing mandate. They did not vote for a right-wing mandate.” [Salon, 1/20/2001; CNN, 1/20/2001; New York Times, 1/21/2001] Thousands of protesters march in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and other cities as well. [CNN, 1/20/2001]

After Congress approves the Bush administration’s proposal to terminate Project Impact (see October 14, 1997-2001), FEMA institutes a new program under which pre-disaster mitigation (PDMs) grants are awarded on a competitive basis. Critics, such as the National Emergency Management Association (NEMA), say that under the competitive based program, lower income communities will not be able to effectively compete with higher income areas. [Independent Weekly, 9/22/2004]

Entity Tags: Federal Emergency Management Agency, Project Impact, Bush administration (43)

Category Tags: Federal: FEMA, Disaster Mitigation, Before Katrina, Louisiana: NOLA, Louisiana: SELA, Resource Allocation

President Bush appoints Joseph M. Allbaugh, a longtime Bush aide, to serve as the director of FEMA. In his new role, Allbaugh will coordinate “federal disaster relief activities on behalf of President Bush, including the Federal Response Plan that authorizes the response and recovery operations of 28 federal agencies and departments and the American Red Cross.” Additionally, he will oversee the National Flood Insurance Program and the US Fire Administration and initiate proactive mitigation activities to reduce loss of life and property from all types of hazards. Allbaugh will manage FEMA’s annual budget of about $3 billion, about 2,500 permanent federal employees, and 4,500 temporary disaster assistance employees. Allbaugh has served Bush in the past. He was “the governor’s point person for nine presidential disaster declarations and more than 20 state-level emergencies.” Allbaugh also served as Bush’s national campaign manager for the 2000 election and as the campaign manager for Bush’s first run for Texas governor in 1994. He also served as Governor Bush’s Chief of Staff. Along with Bush’s longtime aides, Karen Hughes and Karl Rove, Allbaugh is known as one of the three members of Bush’s so-called “iron triangle.” [Fire Chief Magazine, 3/1/2005; Federal Emergency Management Agency, 9/16/2005]

Entity Tags: Joseph M. Allbaugh, George W. Bush

Category Tags: Federal, Federal: FEMA, Political Patronage, Before Katrina

The Bush administration’s proposed fiscal year 2002 budget includes a dramatic cut in federal funding for hazard mitigation grants, reducing the federal-state cost-sharing formula from 75/25 to 50/50. Mitigation grants allow localities to prepare for anticipated disasters by building levees and floodwalls, moving homes out of flood plains, and/or strengthening structures at risk from floods, earthquakes or other natural disasters. The Bush administration asserts that by making states pay more, they will spend the funds more wisely. “Shouldering a larger share of the costs will help to ensure that states select truly cost effective projects, an incentive that is missing if most of the funding is provided by FEMA,” the budget proposal reads. The proposed budget also eliminates FEMA’s Project Impact, the popular $25 million model mitigation program implemented during the Clinton administration in 1997 (see October 14, 1997-2001). Bush officials say the project, which has been launched in 250 cities and towns, “has not proven effective.” Additionally, the Bush administration proposes to eliminate $12 million from the National Flood Insurance Program budget by $12 million by denying coverage for thousands of “repetitive loss” properties in flood plains. [Office of Management and Budget, 2/27/2001, pp. 81 pdf file; Washington Post, 5/8/2001] A repetitive loss property is one that has suffered flood damage two or more times over a 10-year period and for which repair costs exceed more than 25 percent of its market value. [FEMA, 10/22/2004] White House spokesman Scott Stanzel explains that proposed cuts to these and other federal emergency management programs are part of “an ongoing effort to shift control and responsibility to the states and give them more flexibility.” [Washington Post, 5/8/2001] Jack Harrald, director of the Institute for Crisis, Disaster and Risk Management at George Washington University, says in an interview with the Washington Post that Bush administration officials “clearly are disassociating themselves from programs closely identified with the previous administration. Whether a broader philosophical process is going on is not entirely clear yet, but I suspect it is.” [Washington Post, 5/8/2001] Congress will reject the administration’s proposal to reduce the 75/50 cost-sharing formula, but agree to end Project Impact. [Independent Weekly, 9/22/2004]

Entity Tags: Scott Stanzel, Jack Harrald, Federal Emergency Management Agency, Bush administration (43), Project Impact

Category Tags: Disaster Mitigation, Federal, Before Katrina, Resource Allocation

The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) submits written testimony to Congress, recommending that it reject certain budget cuts proposed by the Bush administration for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and FEMA. The administration’s proposed $3.3 billion budget for drinking-water and wastewater infrastructure is “totally inadequate,” according to the ASCE. Over the next 20 years, America’s water and wastewater systems need to increase funding by an annual $23 billion, just to meet the existing national environmental and public health priorities in the Clean Water Act and Safe Drinking Water Act and to replace aging and failing infrastructure, the ASCE reports, noting that in it’s recently released 2001 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure, “the drinking water and wastewater categories each received a grade of D.” The ASCE also tells Congress to reject the Bush administration’s proposal to eliminate Project Impact, a $25 million model mitigation program created by the Clinton administration in 1997 (see February 27, 2001) (see October 14, 1997-2001). “Project Impact is a nationwide public-private partnership designed to help communities become more disaster resistant. These types of natural hazard mitigation efforts are precisely what Congress should be funding, in an effort to avoid paying the much higher price after a tornado, earthquake or hurricane hits a local community. ASCE recommends that Congress fully fund Project Impact at the fiscal year 2001 appropriated level of $25 million.” [American Society of Civil Engineers, 3/21/2001 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Federal Emergency Management Agency, American Society of Civil Engineers, Environmental Protection Agency, Bush administration (43), Project Impact

Category Tags: Disaster Mitigation, NGOs, Federal, Before Katrina, Resource Allocation, Mitigation

FEMA Director Joe M. Allbaugh appears before Congress to discuss his agency’s goals and priorities for fiscal year 2002. A chief priority is to reduce the federal government’s role in disaster mitigation and prevention, which, he asserts is “inherently grassroots.” He explains: “These activities involve local decision-making about zoning, building codes, and strategy planning to meet a community’s unique needs. It is not the role of the federal government to tell a community what it needs to do to protect its citizens and infrastructure.… At the same time we are giving more control to state and local governments through the Managing State concept of the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program and other initiatives, we are asking that they take a more appropriate degree of fiscal responsibility to protect themselves. The original intent of federal disaster assistance is to supplement state and local response efforts. Many are concerned that federal disaster assistance may have evolved into both an oversized entitlement program and a disincentive to effective state and local risk management. Expectations of when the federal government should be involved and the degree of involvement may have ballooned beyond what is an appropriate level. We must restore the predominant role of state and local response to most disasters. Federal assistance needs to supplement, not supplant, state and local efforts.… FEMA is looking at ways to develop meaningful and objective criteria for disaster declarations that can be applied consistently. These criteria will not preclude the president’s discretion but will help states better understand when they can reasonably turn to the federal government for assistance and when it would be more appropriate for the state to handle the disaster itself.” Allbaugh also discusses how FEMA will bring Bush’s compassionate conservatism to disaster survivors. “President Bush’s compassionate conservatism is a hallmark of his core philosophy,” Allbaugh states. “The president is promoting faith-based organizations as a way to achieve compassionate conservatism. Not only does FEMA work with… faith-based organizations…, but FEMA’s Emergency Food and Shelter Program is the original faith-based initiative and is a perfect fit with President Bush’s new approach to helping the poor, homeless and disadvantaged. Through this program, FEMA works with organizations that are based in the communities where people need help the most.” [Federal Emergency Management Agency, 5/16/2001; Independent Weekly, 9/22/2004]

Entity Tags: Hazard Mitigation Grant Program, Federal Emergency Management Agency, George W. Bush, Joseph M. Allbaugh

Category Tags: FEMA Restructuring, Federal: FEMA, Mitigation, Disaster Mitigation, Before Katrina

Governor Mike Foster (R-LA) endorses the Coast 2050 plan (see December 1998) to spend $14 billion over a 20 to 30-year period to rebuild Louisiana’s coastal wetlands as a means of protecting the mainland from the full destructive force of a major hurricane. [Chronicle of Higher Education, 4/26/2002]

Entity Tags: Coast 2050: Toward a Sustainable Coast, Ivor Van Heerden

Category Tags: Before Katrina, Louisiana: State, Flood Risk, Environmental Policies/Programs, Coastal Wetlands

During a FEMA disaster training session, agency officials lists a number of catastrophic disasters that could strike the US soon. The three most likely disasters, the report says, are a hurricane striking New Orleans, a massive earthquake in San Francisco, and a terrorist attack on New York City. The study predicts that as many as 250,000 people would be stranded in New Orleans because of the city’s less-than-adequate evacuation routes and that one-tenth of those who remain (25,000 people), would probably die. [Houston Chronicle, 12/1/2001; New Republic, 9/26/2005]

Entity Tags: Federal Emergency Management Agency

Category Tags: Federal: FEMA, Evacuation Problem, Flood Risk, Before Katrina

In a Scientific American article titled “Drowning New Orleans,” journalist Mark Fischetti warns that a “major hurricane could swamp New Orleans under 20 feet of water, killing thousands. Human activities along the Mississippi River have dramatically increased the risk, and now only massive reengineering of southeastern Louisiana can save the city.” [Scientific American, 10/2001]

Entity Tags: Mark Fischetti

Category Tags: Before Katrina, Media, Flood Risk

In “Keeping its head above water: New Orleans faces doomsday scenario,” Houston Chronicle science reporter Eric Berger says New Orleans will be devastated by a major hurricane. According to scientists, “[i]n the face of an approaching storm,… the city’s less-than-adequate evacuation routes would strand 250,000 people or more, and probably kill one of 10 left behind as the city drowned under 20 feet of water. Thousands of refugees could land in Houston. Economically, the toll would be shattering… .” [Houston Chronicle, 12/1/2001]

Entity Tags: Eric Berger

Category Tags: Before Katrina, Media, Flood Risk, Evacuation Problem

The US Army Corp of Engineers’ budget for hurricane protection for the Lake Pontchartrain vicinity is at $14.25 million. [Knight Ridder, 9/1/2005]

Category Tags: Flood Control Programs, Federal, Before Katrina

Former petroleum geologist Bob Morton, now with the US Geological Survey, concludes in a paper that the oil and gas industry’s extraction of millions of barrels of oil, trillions of cubic feet of natural gas, and tens of millions of barrels of saline formation water lying with the petroleum deposits has caused a reduction in subsurface pressure causing underground faults to slip and the land above to subside. “Subsidence rates in coastal Louisiana associated with natural compaction and dewatering of Holocene deltaic sediments should decrease with time; therefore historical rates of delta plain subsidence that accelerate and typically exceed geological subsidence rates are most likely influenced by anthropogenic activities, such as subsurface fluid extraction.” [Gulf Coast Association of Geological Societies, 2002 pdf file; National Geographic, 10/2004] The oil industry and its consultants dispute Morton’s theory, but fail to disprove it. If Morton is correct, any restoration efforts in the area could fail as they would be unable to offset the high rates of subsidence. [National Geographic, 10/2004]

Entity Tags: Bob Morton

Category Tags: Before Katrina, Coastal Wetlands, Land Development, Environmental Policies/Programs

The Bush administration proposes to reduce the US Army Corps of Engineers’ fiscal year 2003 budget by 10 percent, from $4.6 to $4.175 billion. (The Corps requested more than $6 billion.) [Clarion Ledger, 3/7/2002]

Entity Tags: Bush administration (43), US Army Corps of Engineers

Category Tags: Flood Control Programs, Federal, Before Katrina, Resource Allocation

Mitch Daniels, director of the Office of Management and Budget, writes in a memo to President Bush, complaining about Assistant Secretary of the Army Mike Parker’s testimony opposing the administration’s proposed budget cuts (see February 27, 2002). Daniels complains that Parker’s testimony “reads badly… on the printed page,” and that “Parker. . . is distancing [himself] actively from the administration.” [Government Executive, 9/1/2005]

Entity Tags: George W. Bush, Mitch Daniels

Category Tags: Political Patronage, Federal, Before Katrina

Secretary of the Army Mike Parker, a former Mississippi senator, testifies before the Senate Budget Committee and criticizes the Bush administration’s proposal to reduce the Army Corps of Engineer’s fiscal year 2003 budget by 10 percent. According to Parker, the proposed cuts would affect several of the Corps projects including two flood control projects in southeast Louisiana. These two projects, the Yazoo Pumps and the Big Sunflower River Dredging, would be reduced from a combined $9 million in fiscal year 2002 to $565,000 for fiscal year 2003. Parker asserts that the proposed cuts would also force the Corps to cancel $190 million in already-contracted projects and will result in 4,500 lost jobs. His comments to the committee indicate a dissatisfaction with the Bush administration’s priorities. “After being in the administration and dealing with them, I still don’t have warm and fuzzy feelings for them. I’m hoping that OMB (White House Office of Management and Budget) understands we’re at the beginning of the process. If the corps is limited in what it does for the American people, there will be a negative impact.” [Clarion Ledger, 3/7/2002; Washington Post, 3/7/2002; Reuters, 9/1/2005]

Entity Tags: Mike Parker, Big Sunflower River Dredging, US Army Corps of Engineers, Yazoo Pumps

Category Tags: Flood Control Programs, Flood Risk, Federal, Before Katrina, Resource Allocation, Warnings

Scientists, environmental groups, and the US Army Corps of Engineers work together on a comprehensive technical plan to rebuild Louisiana’s disappearing coastal wetlands. The plan aims to “provide a sustainable coastal ecosystem with the essential functions, assets, and values of the natural ecosystem.”The Louisiana Coastal Area (LCA) Comprehensive Ecosystem Restoration Study, as it is called, incorporates the restoration concepts outlined in the 1998 Coast 2050 plan (see December 1998). The LCA study, unlike the Coast 2050 plan, provides the scientific and technical analyses and engineering details that Congress will use to decide if the project meets congressional requirements necessary to secure WRDA authorization. WRDA, or the Water Resources Development Act, provides federal authorization for water resources projects. The team hopes to submit a Chief’s Report by June 2004 so that the plan can be included as a funded action item in the WRDA legislation currently pending in Congress. [Louisiana Coastal Area Study, 1/2003 pdf file; Associated Press, 1/29/2004; Associated Press, 2/3/2004; Louisiana Coastal Area Study, 4/2004 pdf file; Louisiana Coastal Area Study, 7/2004 pdf file; National Geographic, 10/2004]

Entity Tags: US Army Corps of Engineers, Louisiana Coastal Area (LCA) Ecosystem Restoration Study

Category Tags: Before Katrina, Federal, Academia/Professional, NGOs, Environmental Policies/Programs, Coastal Wetlands

FEMA publishes a report on the agency’s flood mitigation efforts in Louisiana. In the introduction, FEMA notes the state’s extreme vulnerability to flooding. “In a sense, Louisiana is the flood plain of the nation, Louisiana waterways drain two-thirds of the continental United States. Precipitation in New York, the Dakotas, even Idaho and the Province of Alberta, finds its way to Louisiana’s coastline. Despite massive improvements to reduce the impacts of severe weather in the last 100 years, flooding is a constant threat. The state of Louisiana has more flood insurance claims than any other state in the country.” FEMA’s report also says that Louisiana has more than 18,000 repetitively flooded structures, more than any other state. [Federal Emergency Management Agency, 3/5/2002; Independent Weekly, 9/22/2004] A repetitive loss structure is one that has suffered flood damage two or more times over a 10-year period and for which repair costs exceed 25 percent of its market value. [FEMA, 10/22/2004]

Entity Tags: Federal Emergency Management Agency

Category Tags: Federal: FEMA, Flood Risk, Disaster Mitigation, Before Katrina

Mike Parker, assistant secretary of the Army, resigns shortly after testifying against the Bush administration’s proposed cuts to the Army Corps of Engineer’s fiscal year 2003 budget, including flood control projects in southeastern Louisiana (see February 27, 2002). According to White House officials, Parker has been forced out by the Bush administration, “as a clear sign that the president will not tolerate open defiance by his appointees.” As an unnamed Bush administration official interviewed by the Washington Post, makes clear, “Either you’re on the president’s team or you’re not.” [Clarion Ledger, 3/7/2002; Washington Post, 3/7/2002]

Entity Tags: Bush administration (43), Mike Parker

Category Tags: Political Patronage, Flood Control Programs, Before Katrina

The Louisiana Board of Regents approves a $3.7 million grant to fund a five-year study intended to learn more about New Orleans’ hurricane risk. The newly-formed LSU Center for the Study of Public Health Impacts of Hurricanes will manage the project. Ivor van Heerden, deputy director of the LSU Hurricane Center, will serve as the project’s head. The project will consider and evaluate possible hurricane scenarios in an attempt to predict the impact of a hurricane strike, the preparations that should be made to prepare for such a strike, and post-disaster recovery. It will also work with health experts to develop plans for dealing with the anticipated health crisis that would result if the city were to flood. The project will employ the use of the LSU Hurricane Center’s supercomputer, SuperMike, to generate computer-based hurricane path and impact prediction models. “Once complete, the model can be applied to other sites nationally and internationally and to other disasters such as tornadoes, chemical spills, or terrorist attacks,” LSU Research reports. [Advocate (Baton Rouge), 4/21/2002; LSU Research, 12/2004] The project’s progress, however, will be impeded by it limited funds (see April 2002-2005).

Entity Tags: Ivor Van Heerden, LSU Hurricane Center, LSU Center for the Study of Public Health Impacts of Hurricanes

Category Tags: Flood Control Programs, Academia/Professional, Public Safety Risk, Flood Risk, Environmental Risk, Recovery, Response, Louisiana: State, Before Katrina

Efforts by a group of scientists at the LSU Hurricane Center to develop a computer model that can predict the public health impacts of a major hurricane hitting New Orleans (see (April 2002)) are hindered by the group’s relatively small $3.7 million budget. “The earthquake community gets over $100 million a year for research from the federal government through the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program that was started in the 1970s, while the federal investment for hurricane and wind damage is only less than $5 million—even though hurricanes cause more dollar damage and kill far more people year in and year out than earthquakes do,” says Marc Levitan, director of the LSU Hurricane Center. Notwithstanding its limited funding, by early 2002, the “computer model… has 60 layers of information for such a disastrous scenario, and the Hurricane Center is still accumulating information.” [Advocate (Baton Rouge), 4/21/2002; Advocate (Baton Rouge), 1/23/2003]

Entity Tags: Marc Levitan, LSU Hurricane Center

Category Tags: Academia/Professional, Response, Resource Allocation, Before Katrina

Mayor Ray Nagin, a Democrat and a former cable television executive, is sworn into office as the mayor of New Orleans Parish, succeeding Marc H. Morial. [US Conference of Mayors, 5/13/2002; Josh Fecht, 9/28/2005]

Entity Tags: Marc H. Morial, Ray Nagin

Category Tags: Before Katrina, Louisiana: NOLA

In a memo to FEMA Director Joe M. Allbaugh, the agency’s inspector general relays concerns over the Bush administration’s proposal to merge FEMA, along with several other agencies, into the newly-constituted new Department of Homeland Security. “There are concerns of FEMA losing its identity as an agency that is quick to respond to all hazards and disasters,” the inspector general writes. [Independent Weekly, 9/22/2004]

Entity Tags: Joseph M. Allbaugh, Federal Emergency Management Agency, US Department of Homeland Security

Category Tags: Federal, Federal: FEMA, FEMA Restructuring, Organization Capacity, Before Katrina

Officials with the City of New Orleans Office Of Emergency Preparedness make plans to deploy Regional Transit Authority buses and school buses to assist in the evacuation of the city’s estimated 134,000 residents who do not own cars. According to RTA spokeswoman Rosalind Cook, an RTA emergency plan would supply 64 buses and 10 lift vans to transport people, either out of town or to local shelters. Its largest buses hold about 60 people each. However, city officials emphasize that the city is overmatched: “It’s important to emphasize that we just don’t have the resources to take everybody out,” says New Orleans Emergency Preparedness Director Joseph Matthews. [Times-Picayune, 7/24/2005] In July 2005, Cook will warn officials that only 100 RTA buses will likely be available for a possible evacuation because the RTA will need to continue its regular operations until shut down by a city curfew. Bus availability will be further limited by the number of volunteer drivers who would agree to drive them away, she says. Moreover, even if the RTA’s entire 364-bus fleet is deployed, it could evacuate only about 22,000 people—less than one-fifth of those needing transportation. [Times-Picayune, 7/8/2005]

Entity Tags: Regional Transit Authority, Rosalind Cook, City Of New Orleans Office Of Emergency Preparedness

Category Tags: Evacuation, Louisiana: NOLA, Before Katrina

The New Orleans Times Picayune publishes a five-part series, titled “Washing Away,” which examines what will happen when Southern Louisiana takes a direct hit from a major hurricane. Part two of the series, titled the “The Big One,” begins with a stark warning: “It’s a matter of when, not if. Eventually a major hurricane will hit New Orleans head on, instead of being just a close call. It’s happened before and it’ll happen again.” Such a storm, the article reports, “would turn the city and the east bank of Jefferson Parish into a lake as much as 30 feet deep, fouled with chemicals and waste from ruined septic systems, businesses and homes. Such a flood could trap hundreds of thousands of people in buildings and in vehicles. At the same time, high winds and tornadoes would tear at everything left standing.” John Clizbe, national vice president for disaster services with the American Red Cross, tells the newspaper that between 25,000 and 100,000 people would die in such a scenario. Another expert, Joseph Suhayda, a Louisiana State University engineer, predicts that that New Orleans’ levee system could fail in such a storm. “It’s not something that’s expected. But erosion occurs, and as levees [break], the break will get wider and wider. The water will flow through the city and stop only when it reaches the next higher thing. The most continuous barrier is the south levee, along the river. That’s 25 feet high, so you’ll see the water pile up on the river levee.” [Times-Picayune, 6/2002; Reuters, 9/2/2005]

Entity Tags: Joseph Suhayda, John Clizbe

Category Tags: Flood Risk, Environmental Risk, Levee Breach/Flooding, Before Katrina

The Brookings Institution publishes a report warning that merging FEMA into the Department of Homeland Security will harm the agency’s capability to respond to natural disasters. “While a merged FEMA might become highly adept at preparing for and responding to terrorism, it would likely become less effective in performing its current mission in case of natural disasters as time, effort and attention are inevitably diverted to other tasks within the larger organization.” [Daalder et al., 7/2002 pdf file; Independent Weekly, 9/22/2004]

Entity Tags: US Department of Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management Agency, Brookings Institution

Category Tags: FEMA Restructuring, Warnings, Organization Capacity, NGOs, Before Katrina

FEMA calls a meeting with New Orleans’s city officials and civic leaders to address the well-known challenge of evacuating the many city residents who do not have cars, and to develop a plan to ensure that “no one [will be] left behind” when a hurricane threatens the city. During the meeting, FEMA officials present a computer simulation showing that a hurricane hitting southeast Louisiana could bring floodwaters all the way to the French Quarter, one of the highest points in the city. The officials also say that detailed surveys and census data reveal that many city residents do not own cars and therefore have no means to evacuate on their own. [Los Angeles Times, 9/13/2005]

Entity Tags: Federal Emergency Management Agency

Category Tags: Evacuation Problem, Flood Risk, Louisiana: NOLA, NGOs, Federal: FEMA, Before Katrina

“The City in a Bowl,” a PBS “NOW With Bill Moyers” program, explores what could happen to New Orleans if it were struck by a major hurricane. The program explains that the shield against damage provided by the area’s wetlands “is breaking apart.… Scientists say if this shield keeps crumbling over the next few decades, then it won’t take a giant storm to cause a disaster. A much weaker, more common kind of hurricane could devastate New Orleans.” Walter Maestri, emergency management director in Jefferson Parish, envisions a scenario where New Orleans “completely fills. And we’ve now got the entire community underwater some 20, 30 feet underwater. Everything is lost.” Jay Combe of the US Army Corps of Engineers says he has been assembling a doomsday manual for such a crisis. He suggests that if a big hurricane hits new Orleans, “I think of a terrible disaster. I think of 100,000 [deaths], and that’s just my guess.” The segment concludes, “If a monster storm strikes New Orleans, this city might never come back.” [PBS, 9/2/2002] The content of this segment will be repackaged and broadcast on National Public Radio later this month. [National Public Radio, 9/2002]

Entity Tags: Jay Combe, Walter Maestri

Category Tags: Before Katrina, Flood Risk

Speaking before her colleagues in the Senate, Sen. Mary L. Landrieu (D-La.) warns that a Category 4 hurricane could wreak massive destruction on Southern Louisiana. She urges Congress to provide sufficient funding for Southern Louisiana flood control projects to mitigate this danger. “I must take this opportunity to bring to light what is at stake when a hurricane or storm takes aim on the Louisiana coast. Not only is the safety, lives and property of Louisiana residents at risk the nation’s critical energy infrastructure and energy supply as well as crucial conservation measures are in danger. Tropical Storm Isidore should serve as a wake-up call to the federal government, which must do more to protect the nation’s resources in Louisiana. Because the City of New Orleans is below sea level and surrounded by levees, every drop of rain that lands there must be pumped out. This important job is accomplished by local, state, and federal agencies working together to ensure that the necessary infrastructure is in place and working much of this work is done by the US Army Corps of Engineers. However, in the President’s budget request submitted to Congress this year, funding for the Southeast Louisiana Flood Control Project, (SELA), was cut by an astonishing 50 percent (see 2001-Early 2004). The SELA flood control project is a smart investment. By investing in these flood control projects, we could prevent the expenditure of hundreds of millions of dollars that will otherwise be spent in federal flood insurance claims and other disaster assistance programs. Fortunately, the Senate Appropriations Committee understands this investment and has approved an increase for this project, which will allow the construction already underway to continue. However, this is not enough. I urge the administration to rethink its priorities and to include sufficient funding for the SELA project in its budget request for fiscal year 2004.… Louisiana’s rapidly eroding wetlands are invaluable in absorbing the surge of storm events like [Hurricane] Isidore. Without them, one can only imagine the damage a hurricane could wreak on South Louisiana and the nation’s energy infrastructure.” [US Congress, 9/30/2002, pp. S9562]

Entity Tags: Southeast Louisiana Urban Flood Control Project, US Army Corps of Engineers, Mary L. Landrieu

Category Tags: Warnings, Flood Risk, Federal, Before Katrina

Sen. Mary L. Landrieu (D-La) urges Congress to protect and rebuild Louisiana wetlands, which would buffer the impact of a major hurricane hitting New Orleans. She also informs her colleagues of the need to improve the region’s transportation infrastructure so residents would be able to safely flee the city in case of a hurricane. “We are telling you and begging this Senate and this Congress to recognize benefits Louisiana provides to the nation. Louisiana is proud of that, but we need extra federal help to secure this marshland, to help rebuild it, and protect us. If Louisiana does not receive help the wetlands will disappear, and the people of Louisiana will be sitting ducks for future floods and storms.… While we are making progress, we have a long way to go. So whether it is at the energy conference, where I hope we will have a positive outcome, or in the new transportation bill where we can talk about the highways and evacuation routes in south Louisiana and the Gulf South need our attention. Not only do they serve as economic highways that are really necessary for commerce to flourish, but, as you know, when the hurricanes come, it is the only way for people to flee the storm. We don’t have trains, as people do in the Northeast, to get out of harm’s way. All we have in Louisiana are highways dangerously crowded with automobiles and pickup trucks. We need to make sure people can get north to higher ground…” [US Congress, 10/2/2002, pp. S9834]

Entity Tags: Mary L. Landrieu

Category Tags: Warnings, Flood Risk, Evacuation Problem, Federal, Before Katrina, Coastal Wetlands

A coalition of governmental agencies, elected officials, environmental organizations, and community groups launch a campaign to increase public awareness about Louisiana’s disappearing coastal wetlands. The campaign—backed with a $3 million grant from Shell Oil, one of the campaign’s partners—is called “America’s Wetland.” The impact of the wetlands’ disappearance on Louisiana’s coastal ecology has been the focus of environmentalists and scientists for years. And scientists have also been warning that the loss of the state’s coastal wetlands and barrier islands has made coastal population centers such as New Orleans increasingly susceptible to hurricane-generated storm surges that could cause massive flooding. What’s unique about this program is that it stresses how the loss of wetlands will impact the oil industry and national economy. The campaign argues that coastal erosion is threatening the oil companies’ network of oil and natural gas rigs, pipelines, and refineries throughout the region. Losing this infrastructure would result in higher oil prices. Furthermore, the state’s fisheries—which make up 30 percent of the nation’s total annual catch—are also vulnerable. “The coast is really about money, aside from the ecological value of it,” explains outgoing Republican Governor Mike Foster, who played a major role in the campaign’s formation. [Associated Press, 6/6/2004; Americas Wetlands, 9/21/2005]

Entity Tags: Royal Dutch/Shell, State of Louisiana

Category Tags: Before Katrina, NGOs, Federal, Louisiana: State, Private Sector, Coastal Wetlands, Flood Risk

FEMA grants $89.5 million in pre-disaster mitigation (PDM) grants to communities in more than 40 different states, possessions, and other territories. [Federal Emergency Management Agency, 7/18/2005] PDM grant requests from Louisiana—which has parishes that have more repetitive loss structures than any parish [or county] in the country [Federal Emergency Management Agency, 3/5/2002] —are denied. [Independent Weekly, 9/22/2004; Gambit Weekly, 9/28/2004] A repetitive loss structure is one that has suffered flood damage two or more times over a 10-year period and for which repair costs will exceed 25 percent of its market value. [FEMA, 10/22/2004]

Entity Tags: Federal Emergency Management Agency

Category Tags: Federal, Disaster Mitigation, Before Katrina, Louisiana: NOLA, Louisiana: SELA, Resource Allocation

The Bush administration’s proposed fiscal year 2004 budget includes $297 million for civil works projects in the US Army Corps of Engineers’ New Orleans district. (Congress will later allocate an additional $40 million.) [New Orleans CityBusiness, 2/16/2004] Only $3 million of this amount is slated for New Orleans’ East Bank Hurricane Levee project. According to Al Naomi, the US Army Corps of Engineers’ project manager, $11 million is needed. (Congress ultimately approves $5.5 million.) [Times-Picayune, 6/8/2004] As a result of the project’s reduced budget, work on the levee system wil halt for the first time in 37 years in June 2004 (see (June 2004)).

Entity Tags: Al Naomi, Bush administration (43), US Army Corps of Engineers

Category Tags: Flood Control Programs, Federal, Resource Allocation, Before Katrina

The Bush administration announces a policy directive and proposed rulemaking that would significantly restrict the scope of the Clean Water Act, removing as much as 20 percent, or 20 million acres, of the country’s wetlands from federal jurisdiction. Officials claim the measures are necessary in order to comply with a 2001 Supreme Court decision that the US Army Corps of Engineers does not have the authority to regulate intrastate, isolated, non-navigable ponds solely on the basis that they are used by migratory birds. But the proposed rule and policy directive ignores a decision by the Department of Justice that the court’s ruling does not necessitate modifying the scope of the Clean Water Act. The administration’s directive and proposed rule interpret the 2001 decision to mean that all “isolated” intrastate, non-navigable waters are outside the jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act. [Environmental Protection Agency, 1/10/2003; New York Times, 1/10/2003 pdf file; Natural Resources Defense Council, 1/10/2003; Environmental Protection Agency, 2/28/2003 pdf file; Natural Resources Defense Council, 7/11/2003; Natural Resource Defense Council et al., 8/12/2004 pdf file] Whereas the proposed rule must go through a lengthy federal process before going into effect, the policy directive is enacted immediately. The directive instructs regional offices of the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers to halt protection of wetlands unless (1) the waterway lies adjacent to navigable rivers, streams and their tributaries or (2) the EPA’s headquarters in Washington has granted explicit approval to exercise regulatory authority. No approval however is required for the commencement of activities that could potentially pollute these waters. As a result of this directive, thousands of acres of wetlands, small streams, and other waters instantly lose federal protection. [New York Times, 1/10/2003 pdf file; Natural Resources Defense Council, 7/11/2003; Natural Resource Defense Council et al., 8/12/2004 pdf file] The proposed rule will generate an immense public outcry. Ninety-nine percent of the 135,000 comments submitted to the EPA and Army Corps on this proposal will be opposed to it. Comments supporting the proposed rule will come from the National Mining Association, the Independent Petroleum Association of America, National Association of Home Builders, and other industry groups. Additionally, environmental and natural resource government agencies from 39 states, including 17 with Republican governors, will oppose the plan, while agencies from only three states will support it. Numerous local government entities, scientific groups, as well as a bi-partisan group of 219 representatives and twenty-six senators, will also come out against the proposal. [Natural Resources Defense Council, 7/11/2003; Natural Resource Defense Council et al., 8/12/2004 pdf file]

Entity Tags: US Army Corps of Engineers, Environmental Protection Agency, Bush administration (43)

Timeline Tags: US Environmental Record

Category Tags: Environmental Policies/Programs, Federal, Before Katrina

(Show related quotes)

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

Category Tags: Political Patronage, Federal, Federal: FEMA, Before Katrina

FEMA is merged into the Emergency and Response Directorate of the Department of Homeland Security. Michael D. Brown, the agency’s new head (see March 1, 2003), assures skeptics that the revamped agency will be “FEMA on steroids.” [Independent Weekly, 9/22/2004] FEMA’s Cabinet status disappears as it becomes one of 22 government agencies to be consolidated into DHS. According to the Washington Post,“For a time… even its name was slated to vanish and become simply the directorate of emergency preparedness and response until then-DHS Secretary Tom Ridge relented.” [Washington Post, 9/4/2005]

Entity Tags: US Department of Homeland Security, Michael D. Brown, Federal Emergency Management Agency

Category Tags: FEMA Restructuring, Federal, Federal: FEMA, Before Katrina

When FEMA is incorporated into the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) (see After March 1, 2003), FEMA loses control of more than $800 million in federal grant money to the Office of Domestic Preparedness, another part of DHS. Included in that sum are funds designated for emergency management preparedness grants, which fund states’ emergency management offices. After the merger, these preparedness grants are no longer given directly to the country’s state emergency management directors. Instead, they are given to state homeland security offices [Wall Street Journal, 8/31/2005] where they are generally designated for use in counterterrorism. [US Congress, 9/6/2005]

Entity Tags: Federal Emergency Management Agency, National Emergency Management Association

Category Tags: FEMA Restructuring, Disaster Mitigation, Federal, Federal: FEMA, Louisiana: State, Before Katrina

After FEMA is incorporated into the Department of Homeland Security (see March 1, 2003), veteran FEMA employees complain of a massive “brain drain.” FEMA “has gone downhill within the department, drained of resources and leadership,” I.M. “Mac” Destler, a professor at the University of Maryland School of Public Policy, will tell the Washington Post shortly after the 2005 Hurricane Katrina disaster. At least one veteran FEMA staff member, Pleasant Mann, complains on the record about the changes FEMA is undergoing (see Mid-September 2004). [Washington Post, 9/9/2005] Local officials complain that FEMA’s new focus on terrorism threatens other necessary prevention programs. “With the creation of Homeland Security, [natural disaster prevention programs] have taken a backseat,” says Walter Maestri, emergency management director in Jefferson Parish. “To us, it is pretty obvious which is the greater threat. One is maybe, the other is when.” [Philadelphia Inquirer, 10/8/2004]

Entity Tags: Federal Emergency Management Agency, Michael D. Brown, US Department of Homeland Security

Category Tags: FEMA Restructuring, Organization Capacity, Resource Allocation, Federal: FEMA, Louisiana: SELA, Before Katrina, Academia/Professional

Patrick J. Rhode, formerly the advance deputy director for Bush’s 2000 presidential campaign, joins FEMA as its chief of staff. In this role, Rhode will be responsible for FEMA’s day-to-day operations and for directing implementation of FEMA Director Brown’s priorities and policies. Rhode, a former television reporter, previously held positions at both the US Commerce Department and the US Small Business Administration under the Bush administration. [Federal Emergency Management Agency, 10/23/2004; Washington Post, 9/9/2005]

Entity Tags: Patrick J. Rhode

Category Tags: Political Patronage, Federal, Federal: FEMA, Before Katrina

FEMA’s headquarters staff is forced to cancel disaster training exercises because of budget cuts, according to 16-year FEMA staff member Pleasant Mann. [Independent Weekly, 9/22/2004]

Entity Tags: Federal Emergency Management Agency

Category Tags: Federal, Federal: FEMA, Resource Allocation, Disaster Preparedness, Before Katrina

The Bush administration releases its “Draft Report on the Environment,” which concludes that by many measures US air is cleaner, drinking water purer, and public lands better protected than they had been thirty years ago. The document, commissioned in 2001 by the agency’s administrator, Christie Whitman, is comprised of five sections: “Cleaner Air,” “Purer Water,” “Better Protected Land,” “Human Health,” and “Ecological conditions.” But it is later learned that many of its conclusions rest on questionable data. Moreover, the report leaves out essential information on global climate change and pollution sources. [Environmental Protection Agency, 2003; New York Times, 6/19/2003] In its “Purer Water” section, the report claims that “94 percent of the [US] population served by community water systems [was] served by systems that met all health-based standards.” But on August 6, the Washington Post will reveal that on June 18 (see June 18, 2003), an internal inquiry had been launched over concerns that the source data was flawed. “Internal agency documents… show that EPA audits for at least five years have suggested that the percentage of the population with safe drinking water is much lower—79 percent to 84 percent in 2002—putting an additional 30 million Americans at potential risk,” the newspaper will report. [Washington Post, 8/6/2003] Another troubling feature of the report is that a section on global climate change was removed (see June 2003) from the report prior to publication because EPA officials were unhappy with changes that had been demanded by the White House (see April 2003). [New York Times, 6/19/2003; CBS News, 6/19/2003; Associated Press, 6/20/2003] In place of a thorough discussion of the issue, the report only says: “The complexity of the Earth system and the interconnections among its components make it a scientific challenge to document change, diagnose its causes, and develop useful projections of how natural variability and human actions may affect the global environment in the future. Because of these complexities and the potentially profound consequences of climate change and variability, climate change has become a capstone scientific and societal issue for this generation and the next, and perhaps even beyond.” [Boston Globe, 6/20/2003; Guardian, 6/20/2003] The EPA’s report also leaves out information on the potentially adverse effects that pesticides and industrial chemicals have on humans and wildlife. [New York Times, 6/19/2003]

Entity Tags: Bush administration (43), Environmental Protection Agency

Timeline Tags: US Environmental Record, Global Warming

Category Tags: Before Katrina, Federal, Environmental Policies/Programs

Daniel A. Craig is appointed director of FEMA’s Recovery Division. In this role, Craig will be responsible for planning and executing FEMA’s recovery efforts following major disasters and emergencies, both natural and man made. Craig came to FEMA in 2001 from the US Chamber of Commerce, where he directed the eastern regional office. Before that he worked as a lobbyist for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association. [Federal Emergency Management Agency, 10/23/2004; Washington Post, 9/9/2005]

Entity Tags: Daniel A. Craig

Category Tags: Political Patronage, Federal, Federal: FEMA, Before Katrina

The US Corps of Engineers submits a draft report package and a Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) on the proposed Louisiana Coastal Area (LCA) wetlands restoration study (see March 2002-October 2003) to the White House’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ). The Corps is hoping that the report will be released this month, so it can be used to request congressional authorization in fall 2004 for the plan’s basic framework. But its release is held up by questions from the OMB and CEQ. In February 2004 (see February 2, 2004), the Bush administration will provide formal comments about the plan to the Corps in its 2005 proposed budget, directing the Corps to develop a less costly plan that focuses on narrower, shorter term objectives. [Associated Press, 1/29/2004; Associated Press, 2/3/2004; Louisiana Coastal Area Study, 4/2004 pdf file; Louisiana Coastal Area Study, 7/2004 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Council on Environmental Quality, Office of Management and Budget, Louisiana Coastal Area (LCA) Ecosystem Restoration Study, US Army Corps of Engineers

Category Tags: Before Katrina, Federal, Environmental Policies/Programs, Coastal Wetlands

President George W. Bush appoints Scott R. Morris as FEMA’s deputy chief of staff. In this role, Morris will manage FEMA’s day-to-day operations, and assist in the implementation of FEMA Director Michael Brown’s priorities and policies. Prior to his appointment, Morris served as the deputy chief of staff and White House liaison for the US Small Business Administration. Before coming to Washington, he was the marketing director for the world’s leading provider of e-business applications software in California, and worked for Maverick Media in Austin, Texas as a media strategist for the George W. Bush for President primary campaign and the Bush-Cheney 2000 campaign. He has also served as the director of political communications for a private communications firm, managed grassroots activities and media strategies for the Dole for President campaign, and assisted the executive director of the Republican National Committee. [Federal Emergency Management Agency, 3/2005; Washington Post, 9/9/2005]

Entity Tags: George W. Bush, Scott R. Morris

Category Tags: Political Patronage, Federal, Federal: FEMA, Before Katrina

Ivor van Heerden, director of the LSU Center for the Study of the Public Health Impacts of Hurricanes, presents the preliminary findings of a five-year study (see (April 2002)) of the hurricane risk to New Orleans at a special meeting held in the district headquarters of the US Army Corps of Engineers. The preliminary findings indicate that a third of the city’s residents would not evacuate in the event of a major hurricane. Of those who do attempt evacuation, many would get stuck in traffic despite plans to use both sides of the highway. The draft findings also indicate that a major hurricane strike on New Orleans would submerge certain parts of the city under as much as 22 feet of water polluted by a mix of oil, gasoline, and other toxic substances released from myriad storage tanks, cars, trucks, flooded homes, stores, and industrial sites during the storm. Wind would cause damage to most buildings, possibly destroying half of them. To mitigate the risk of such a disaster, Van Heerden recommends that federal and state officials revisit two previously rejected proposals to restore the Louisiana coastal wetlands. One of these proposals, which would reroute the Mississippi River to the east of New Orleans, into Breton Sound, had been blocked by shipping interests. The other proposal that should be reconsidered contemplated construction of a barrier wall along the Interstate 10 twin span bridge between eastern New Orleans and the adjacent city of Slidell to reduce the amount of a hurricane storm surge entering the Lake Pontchartrain. [Times-Picayune, 11/22/2003]

Entity Tags: Ivor Van Heerden, LSU Center for the Study of Public Health Impacts of Hurricanes

Category Tags: Academia/Professional, Federal, Evacuation Problem, Before Katrina

The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) issues a report, which states: “Human activity, directly or indirectly, has caused 1,500 square miles of natural coastal barriers to be eroded in the past 50 years. Human activity has clearly been a significant factor in coastal Louisiana land losses, along with subsidence, saltwater intrusion, storm events, barrier island degradation, and relative sea level changes.” It warns that “New Orleans and surrounding areas [will] now experience the full force of hurricanes, including storm surges that top levee systems and cause severe flooding as well as high winds.” [Guardian, 9/1/2005]

Entity Tags: American Society of Civil Engineers

Category Tags: Warnings, Flood Risk, NGOs, Before Katrina

An article in the Journal of Homeland Security and Emergency Management notes: “[Joseph M.] Allbaugh brought about several internal, though questionably effective, reorganizations of FEMA. The Bush-Allbaugh FEMA diminished the Clinton administration’s organizational emphasis on disaster mitigation.” [Sylves and Cumming, 2004; Independent Weekly, 9/22/2004]

Entity Tags: Bush administration (43), Joseph M. Allbaugh, Federal Emergency Management Agency

Category Tags: Mitigation, FEMA Restructuring, Academia/Professional, Before Katrina

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]

Entity Tags: George W. Bush, Louisiana Coastal Area (LCA) Ecosystem Restoration Study, Kathleen Babineaux Blanco

Category Tags: Before Katrina, Federal, Louisiana: State, Coastal Wetlands

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]

Entity Tags: Mike Foster, Kathleen Babineaux Blanco

Category Tags: Before Katrina, Louisiana: State

A survey of 84 FEMA personnel conducted by the American Federation of Government Employees finds that 80 percent of surveyed employees believe that since FEMA’s merger into the Department of Homeland Security, the agency has become “poorer.” Sixty percent say that given the opportunity, they would transfer to another agency if the salary were the same. [Independent Weekly, 9/22/2004; Washington Post, 9/9/2005]

Entity Tags: American Federation of Government Employees, US Department of Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management Agency

Category Tags: FEMA Restructuring, Federal: FEMA, Resource Allocation, Before Katrina

Governor Kathleen Blanco says in response to the release of President Bush’s 2005 budget (see February 2, 2004): “While I am pleased to see that President Bush included some money in his executive budget to address coastal restoration in Louisiana, I must say I am disappointed that the $8 million he proposed is less than one-sixth of what I had requested. We need immediate help… to protect our state and our nation from the continued degradation of the area we call America’s Wetland.” [Associated Press, 2/3/2004]

Entity Tags: Kathleen Babineaux Blanco, George W. Bush

Category Tags: Before Katrina, Warnings, Louisiana: State, Coastal Wetlands

The Bush administration’s proposed fiscal year 2005 budget sets aside $325 million for civil works projects in the US Army Corps of Engineers’ New Orleans district—slightly less than the $337 million approved by Congress the year before. According to Marcia Demma, chief of the Corps’ programs management branch, the Corps will need $425 million for 2005. “We have a backlog of contracts, and it’s just been for the past few years that… we haven’t been funded at our full capability,” Marcia Demma, chief of the Corps’ programs management branch, tells New Orleans CItyBusiness. Of the $325 million proposed in the Bush budget, the Southeast Louisiana Urban Flood Control Project (SELA) would receive $30 million, far short of the $42 million the Corps says it needs, and $4 million less than fiscal year 2004’s actual budget. According to Stan Green, SELA project manager, the $30 million would probably allow the Corps to continue its current work on 12 projects in Jefferson and Orleans parishes. But if it were fully funded, he says, it could award contracts for an additional 14 projects. [New Orleans CityBusiness, 2/16/2004] (Congress ultimately approves $36.5 million for SELA. [Los Angeles Times, 9/4/2005] ) The administration’s proposed budget includes only $3.9 million for the New Orleans’ East Bank Hurricane Levee Project, a mere fraction of the $27.1 million requested by the Corps. According to Al Naomi, who manages this project, the budgeted allotment would not even cover the $4.5 million required for unpaid fiscal year 2004 work. (The sum ultimately approved by Congress for the east bank project is $5.7 million.) [New Orleans CityBusiness, 2/16/2004; Times-Picayune, 6/8/2004; Knight Ridder, 9/1/2005; Knight Ridder, 9/1/2005; Washington Post, 9/8/2005, pp. A01] Additionally, the president’s budget rejects a draft plan, submitted in October 2003 (see October 2003) by the Army Corp of Engineers, to begin a $14 billion dollar project to restore Louisiana’s coastal wetlands. Instead, the president directs the Corps to refocus its ongoing restoration study to produce a single, prioritized list of projects that can be completed in 10 years. Additionally, the corps is directed to include in its study several other larger restoration projects that are not part of the Louisiana Coastal Area study, and determine whether the mouth of the Mississippi can be altered to let sediment create new areas of wetlands to its east and west quickly, while still allowing shipping to reach port facilities in New Orleans and elsewhere along the river. Eight million dollars is allocated to the effort, only a fraction of the $50 million that was requested by Louisiana’s Governor (see January 2004). In the budget’s narrative, the White House acknowledges for the first time that Louisiana’s disappearing wetlands are partly the result of the US Army Corps of Engineers’ channeling of the Mississippi River for shipping and the construction of flood-control levees along the river to protect New Orleans. It also says that canals built by the oil and gas industry, natural subsidence, and rising sea levels are contributing factors to Louisiana’s net loss of coastal wetlands. [Associated Press, 2/3/2004; Times-Picayune, 2/3/2004; Louisiana Coastal Area Study, 4/2004 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Stan Green, Marcia Demma, Louisiana Coastal Area (LCA) Ecosystem Restoration Study, Bush administration (43), Al Naomi, US Army Corps of Engineers

Category Tags: Flood Control Programs, Federal, Resource Allocation, Before Katrina, Coastal Wetlands, Land Development, Environmental Policies/Programs, Louisiana: SELA

Sixty of the nation’s leading scientists, including 20 Nobel laureates, warn in a statement: “Successful application of science has played a large part in the policies that have made the United States of America the world’s most powerful nation and its citizens increasingly prosperous and healthy.… Indeed, this principle has long been adhered to by presidents and administrations of both parties in forming and implementing policies. The administration of George W. Bush has, however, disregarded this principle.… The distortion of scientific knowledge for partisan political ends must cease.” [Union of Concerned Scientists, 2/18/2004] The Bush administration apparently ignores the statement. [Der Spiegel (Hamburg), 9/1/2005]

Entity Tags: Bush administration (43), Union of Concerned Scientists

Category Tags: Environmental Policies/Programs, Academia/Professional, Warnings, Before Katrina

Former FEMA director James Lee Witt tells Congress: “I am extremely concerned that the ability of our nation to prepare for and respond to disasters has been sharply eroded. I hear from emergency managers, local and state leaders, and first responders nearly every day that the FEMA they knew and worked well with has now disappeared. In fact one state emergency manager told me, ‘It is like a stake has been driven into the heart of emergency management.’” [Independent Weekly, 9/22/2004; Reuters, 9/2/2005]

Entity Tags: James Lee Witt, Federal Emergency Management Agency

Category Tags: Warnings, FEMA Restructuring, Federal, Federal: FEMA, Before Katrina

Local, state, and federal officials join the American Red Cross and New Orleans community and faith-based groups to launch a three-year pilot hurricane evacuation program, called “Operation Brother’s Keeper,” under which churches would provide rides to city residents without cars. [Times-Picayune, 7/24/2005; Los Angeles Times, 9/13/2005] The program will be funded through a State Farm Insurance grant to the Red Cross. [Times-Picayune, 5/31/2004; Times-Picayune, 7/24/2005]

Entity Tags: American Red Cross, State Farm Insurance, Operation Brother’s Keeper

Category Tags: NGOs, Louisiana: NOLA, Private Sector, Evacuation, Before Katrina

The General Accounting Office releases a report, titled “Reserve Forces: Observations on Recent National Guard Use in Overseas and Homeland Missions and Future Challenges,” which warns that the nationwide diversion of National Guard troops to Iraq could have a significant negative impact on the Guard’s ability to respond to domestic emergencies. “[There are] urgent personnel and equipment shortages in units that have not yet been deployed,” the report says. “[E]quipment and personnel may not be available to the states when they are needed because they have been deployed overseas. Moreover, the Guard may have difficulty ensuring that each state has access to units with key specialized capabilities—such as engineering or medical assets—needed for homeland security and other domestic missions.… [U]nless DOD, Congress, and the states work closely to address these challenges, Guard units may continue to experience a high pace of operations and declining readiness that could affect their ability to meet future requirements both at home and overseas.” [General Accounting Office, 4/29/2004 pdf file; Associated Press, 5/13/2004]

Entity Tags: US Department of Defense, US Congress, National Guard, Federal Emergency Management Agency

Category Tags: Warnings, Organization Capacity, Federal, Louisiana: State, Before Katrina

The Associated Press reports that disaster management experts and National Guard officials are concerned that the diversion of National Guard Troops to Iraq has severely degraded the Guard’s ability to effectively respond to domestic emergencies, such as natural disasters. The newswire reports that “[m]ore Guard members are deployed now than have been since the Korean War, about a quarter of the 460,000 nationwide.” Chris Reynolds, a battalion fire chief in Tampa, Fla. and instructor of disaster management at American Military University, says the Guard’s more frequent and longer overseas deployments “absolutely” affect states’ ability to respond to emergencies. The significance of the massive deployment goes beyond the sheer number troops that are missing, he explains, what’s so worrisome is that many of the reservists who have been sent to Iraq work in public safety and emergency response. “It’s the tenure and experience that’s missing, and you can’t simply fill the hole with someone,” Reynolds says. [Associated Press, 5/13/2004]

Entity Tags: National Guard, Chris Reynolds

Category Tags: Resource Allocation, Organization Capacity, Before Katrina

Consistent with its strategy to outsource disaster management functions (see Summer 2004), FEMA solicits bids for a contract to develop a hurricane disaster management plan for Southeastern Louisiana. FEMA’s “Scope of Work” for the contract demonstrates that it is acutely aware of the region’s vulnerability to hurricanes, and of the inadequacy of current plans to manage a major hurricane effectively. According to the document, FEMA and the Louisiana Office of Emergency Preparedness “believe that the gravity of the situation calls for an extraordinary level of advance planning to improve government readiness to respond effectively to such an event.” FEMA describes the catastrophe that will result when a hurricane strikes Southeastern Louisiana. For example, FEMA writes that “the emergency management community has long feared the occurrence of a catastrophic disaster” that would cause “unprecedented levels of damage, casualties, dislocation, and disruption that would have nationwide consequences and jeopardize national security.” It cites “various hurricane studies” predicting that “a slow-moving Category 3 or almost any Category 4 or 5 hurricane approaching Southeast Louisiana from the south could severely damage the heavily populated southeast portion of the state creating a catastrophe with which the State would not be able to cope without massive help from neighboring states and the Federal Government.” FEMA also expressly recognizes that “existing plans, policies, procedures and resources” are inadequate to effectively manage such a “mega-disaster.” The work specified in the contract, awarded to Innovative Emergency Management (IEM) in early June (see June 3, 2004), is to be performed in three stages. During Stage I, scheduled for completion between May 19 and September 30, 2004, IEM will conduct a simulation exercise featuring a “catastrophic hurricane striking southeastern Louisiana” for local, state, and FEMA emergency officials. (FEMA will pay IEM $518,284 for this stage (see July 19-23, 2004)) IEM completes this stage when it conducts the “Hurricane Pam” exercise in July 2004 (see July 19-23, 2004). During Stage 2, IEM will develop a “full catastrophic hurricane disaster plan.” FEMA allocates $199,969 for this stage, which is to be completed between September 23, 2004 and September 30, 2005 (see September 23, 2004). The status of Stage 2 is currently unclear. [Department of Homeland Security, 2004 pdf file; Department of Homeland Security, 2004 pdf file; US Congress, 9/9/2005] IEM apparently provides FEMA with a draft document titled “Southeast Louisiana Catastrophic Hurricane Functional Plan,” in August 2004. [Federal Emergency Management Agency, 8/6/2004 pdf file] The Times-Picayune will identify a later 109-page draft, dated September 20, 2004 [Times-Picayune, 9/9/2005] [Times-Picayune, 9/9/2005] , and the Chicago Tribune will report that as Hurricane Katrina bears down on Louisiana during the evening of August 28, 2005, emergency officials are working from a functional plan, based on the 2004 Hurricane Pam exercise, that is only a few months old. The third stage relates to earthquake planning for the New Madrid Seismic Zone (NMSZ) in the Central United States. [US Congress, 9/9/2005; Chicago Tribune, 9/11/2005] The Scope of Work specifies that the contractor must plan for the following conditions:
bullet “Over one million people would evacuate from New Orleans. Evacuees would crowd shelters throughout Louisiana and adjacent states.” [Department of Homeland Security, 2004 pdf file]
bullet “Hurricane surge would block highways and trap 300,000 to 350,000 persons in flooded areas. Storm surge of over 18 feet would overflow flood-protection levees on the Lake Pontchartrain side of New Orleans. Storm surge combined with heavy rain could leave much of New Orleans under 14 to 17 feet of water. More than 200 square miles of urban areas would be flooded.” [Department of Homeland Security, 2004 pdf file]
bullet “It could take weeks to ‘de-water’ (drain) New Orleans: Inundated pumping stations and damaged pump motors would be inoperable. Flood-protection levees would prevent drainage of floodwater. Breaching the levees would be a complicated and politically sensitive problem: The Corps of Engineers may have to use barges or helicopters to haul earthmoving equipment to open several hundred feet of levee.” [Department of Homeland Security, 2004 pdf file]
bullet “Rescue operations would be difficult because much of the area would be reachable only by helicopters and boats.” [Department of Homeland Security, 2004 pdf file]
bullet “Hospitals would be overcrowded with special-needs patients. Backup generators would run out of fuel or fail before patients could be moved elsewhere.” [Department of Homeland Security, 2004 pdf file]
bullet “The New Orleans area would be without electric power, food, potable water, medicine, or transportation for an extended time period.” [Department of Homeland Security, 2004 pdf file]
bullet “Damaged chemical plants and industries could spill hazardous materials.” [Department of Homeland Security, 2004 pdf file]
bullet “Standing water and disease could threaten public health.” [Department of Homeland Security, 2004 pdf file]
bullet “There would be severe economic repercussions for the state and region.” [Department of Homeland Security, 2004 pdf file]
bullet “Outside responders and resources, including the Federal response personnel and materials, would have difficulty entering and working in the affected area.” [Department of Homeland Security, 2004 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Federal Emergency Management Agency

Category Tags: Flood Risk, Organization Capacity, Environmental Risk, Evacuation Problem, Public Safety Risk, Response Level, Federal: FEMA, Evacuation, Response, Shelter, Before Katrina, Disaster Preparedness

Mitch Daniels, Bush’s first budget director, states: “The general idea—that the business of government is not to provide services, but to make sure that they are provided—seems self-evident to me.” [Independent Weekly, 9/22/2004]

Entity Tags: Mitch Daniels

Category Tags: Mitigation, Federal, Outsourcing, Before Katrina

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

Category Tags: Flood Risk, Federal, Before Katrina

Al Naomi, the US Army Corps of Engineers’ project manager, “begs” the East Jefferson Levee Authority for $2 million to fund necessary levee repairs that Washington has refused to fund. “The system is in great shape, but the levees are sinking. Everything is sinking, and if we don’t get the money fast enough to raise them, then we can’t stay ahead of the settlement,” he says. “The problem that we have isn’t that the levee is low, but that the federal funds have dried up so that we can’t raise them.” The authority agrees to fund the repairs. [Editor & Publisher, 8/31/2005; Guardian, 9/1/2005]

Entity Tags: East Jefferson Levee Authority, Al Naomi

Category Tags: Flood Control Programs, Louisiana: SELA, Federal, Before Katrina

Pleasant Mann, a 16-year FEMA veteran who heads the agency’s government employee union, writes a letter to Congress describing how FEMA has changed under the Bush administration. “Over the past three-and-one-half years, FEMA has gone from being a model agency to being one where funds are being misspent, employee morale has fallen, and our nation’s emergency management capability is being eroded,” he writes. “Our professional staff [members] are being systematically replaced by politically connected novices and contractors.” [Independent Weekly, 9/22/2004]

Entity Tags: Pleasant Mann, Federal Emergency Management Agency, Bush administration (43)

Category Tags: FEMA Restructuring, Federal, Federal: FEMA, Organization Capacity, Political Patronage, Before Katrina

For the first time in 37 years, the US Army Corps of Engineers must halt its work on the New Orleans’ east bank hurricane levee system, due to lack of funds. Several sections of the levee system have sunk 2 to 4 feet and need to be raised. [Times-Picayune, 6/8/2004; Knight Ridder, 9/1/2005]

Entity Tags: Walter Maestri, US Army Corps of Engineers

Category Tags: Federal, Flood Control Programs, Resource Allocation, Before Katrina

Innovative Emergency Management (IEM), an emergency management and homeland security consulting firm, announces that the Department of Homeland Security has awarded it a $500,000 contract to lead the development of a catastrophic hurricane disaster plan (see September 23, 2004) for Louisiana and the city of New Orleans. Announcing the award, IEM Director of Homeland Security Wayne Thomas notes that “the greater New Orleans area is one of the nation’s most vulnerable locations for hurricane landfall. Given this area’s vulnerability, unique geographic location and elevation, and troubled escape routes, a plan that facilitates a rapid and effective hurricane response and recovery is critical.” [Innovative Emergency Management, 6/3/2004; Insurance Journal, 6/9/2004; US Congress, 9/9/2005]

Entity Tags: US Department of Homeland Security, Innovative Emergency Management

Category Tags: Outsourcing, Evacuation, Response, Shelter, Federal, Before Katrina, Private Sector

The House Committee on Civil Law and Procedure in Louisiana’s House of Representatives votes against Senate Bill 598, which would have provided immunity from civil liability for private drivers who evacuate carless hurricane evacuees. Voting against the measure are Representatives Shirley Bowler, (R-Harahan), and Austin Badon Jr., (D-New Orleans). The measure, already passed in the Senate with a 33-0 vote, was introduced by Senator Francis Heitmeier (D-Algiers) at the request of the New Orleans emergency preparedness office, as well as a coalition of government officials, the Red Cross, and community groups seeking to implement “Operation Brother’s Keeper,” a program designed to increase evacuation of New Orlean’s poor population (see (Spring 2004)). House members who rejected the bill were reportedly concerned that a drunken driver giving a ride to an evacuee could evade responsibility if there was an accident. Representative Badon also argued that immunity was not necessary since a driver’s insurance policy would provide indemnity in the case of an accident. [Times-Picayune, 6/8/2004; Los Angeles Times, 9/13/2005]

Entity Tags: Operation Brother’s Keeper, American Red Cross, State Farm Insurance

Category Tags: Louisiana: State, Legislation, Evacuation, Before Katrina

The Archdiocese of New Orleans decides that its 142 parishes should not participate in “Operation Brother’s Keeper,” a program under which churches will help evacuate New Orleans residents who lack cars if the city is threatened by a hurricane (see (Spring 2004)), until new legislation has been passed to minimize liability risks, Local Red Cross Executive Director Kay Wilkins says. [Times-Picayune, 7/24/2005]

Entity Tags: City Of New Orleans Office Of Emergency Preparedness, Archdiocese of New Orleans

Category Tags: Evacuation, NGOs, Before Katrina

Walter Maestri, emergency management chief for Jefferson Parish, which borders New Orleans’ west and south side, tells the local Times-Picayune that the war on terror is endangering flood control: “It appears that the money has been moved in the president’s budget to handle homeland security and the war in Iraq, and I suppose that’s the price we pay. Nobody locally is happy that the levees can’t be finished, and we are doing everything we can to make the case that this is a security issue for us.” [Editor & Publisher, 8/31/2005; Knight Ridder, 9/1/2005]

Entity Tags: Walter Maestri

Category Tags: Flood Control Programs, Resource Allocation, Louisiana: SELA, Before Katrina

The Bush administration shifts FEMA funds away from pre-disaster preparation and implements policies to promote outsourcing of relief efforts to private companies. FEMA staff members warn that these policies will slow response times in emergency situations [Independent Weekly, 9/22/2004]

Entity Tags: Bush administration (43), Federal Emergency Management Agency

Category Tags: Federal, Federal: FEMA, Before Katrina, Outsourcing

For the second year in a row, FEMA rejects requests for pre-disaster mitigation funding in Louisiana (see 2003). Flood zone manager Tom Rodrigue, of Jefferson Parish, expresses shock. “You would think we would get maximum consideration” for the funds, he says. “This is what the grant program called for. We were more than qualified for it.” [Independent Weekly, 9/22/2004]

Entity Tags: Tom Rodrigue, Federal Emergency Management Agency

Category Tags: Disaster Mitigation, Louisiana: State, Federal: FEMA, Louisiana: SELA, Before Katrina

A FEMA document lists 222 upcoming FEMA and homeland security exercises designed to prepare federal response personnel for national emergencies. Only two involve hurricanes. “And even in both of those cases, they’re dealing with what would happen if there were a terrorist attack associated with a hurricane event,” reports NBC News analyst William Arkin. [MSNBC, 9/2/2005]

Entity Tags: Federal Emergency Management Agency

Category Tags: Resource Allocation, FEMA Restructuring, Disaster Preparedness, Before Katrina

The East Jefferson Levee Authority provides the US Army Corps of Engineers with another $250,000 after learning that portions of the levee in Metairie have sunk by four feet. The extra work is funded with increased property taxes in Jefferson Parish. [Editor & Publisher, 8/31/2005]

Entity Tags: East Jefferson Levee Authority, US Army Corps of Engineers

Category Tags: Federal, Louisiana: SELA, Flood Control Programs, Policies, Resource Allocation, Before Katrina

In accordance with the Bush administration’s request (see February 2, 2004) to narrow the focus of the Louisiana Coastal Restoration Plan, the US Army Corps of Engineers submits a $2.0 billion restoration plan for Louisiana’s coastal wetlands to the EPA. The plan, downsized from the orginal $14 billion plan and referred to at this point as the Tentatively Selected Plan (TSP), calls for the accelerated implementation of up to five restoration projects that could begin as early as 2006. The projects would cost a total of $786 million. Other projects, such as a 10-year science and technology program, a demonstration program, a beneficial use of dredged material program, and a modification of existing structures program, would also be accelerated and cost about $385 million. The plan also calls for a large scale studies program costing $60 million, and identifies another 10 projects that would be subject to case-by-case authorization by Congress. [Louisiana Coastal Area Study, 7/2004 pdf file; Environmental News Service, 7/7/2004; National Wetlands Research Center, 12/15/2004]

Entity Tags: Environmental Protection Agency, US Army Corps of Engineers, Louisiana Coastal Area (LCA) Ecosystem Restoration Study

Category Tags: Before Katrina, Coastal Wetlands

The Army Corp of Engineers announces that the revised Louisiana Coastal Area Restoration Plan, Draft Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (DPEIS) is available for public review. The comment period begins on July 9 and ends on August 23, 2004. [US Army Corp of Engineers, 7/8/2004 pdf file]

Entity Tags: US Army Corps of Engineers, Louisiana Coastal Area (LCA) Ecosystem Restoration Study

Category Tags: Before Katrina, Coastal Wetlands

In a six-page letter to the congressional conference-committee charged with combining the House (see April 21, 2005) and Senate (see June 28, 2005) versions of the 2005 Energy Policy Act (HR 6), Energy Secretary Samuel W. Bodman expresses the Bush administration’s strong opposition to a provision that would grant coastal oil-producing states like Louisiana a share of the royalties from offshore oil and gas operations. Historically, the royalties have been paid exclusively to the federal government. [Houma Today, 7/21/2005; Houma Today, 7/23/2005; Salon, 9/1/2005] Bodman writes in his letter that “The administration strongly opposes” the new funding. “These provisions are inconsistent with the president’s 2006 budget and would have a significant impact on the budget deficit.” [Salon, 9/1/2005] The statement also says, “The administration recognizes that coastal Louisiana is an environmental resource of national significance and has worked closely with the state of Louisiana to produce a near-term coastal wetlands restoration plan to guide how the next phase of restoration projects in Louisiana will be identified, prioritized, and sequenced.” [Houma Today, 7/21/2005] Craig Stevens, the press secretary for the Department of Energy, later explains to Salon: “We didn’t object to the idea in principle. [Rather, we objected to] part of the way it was crafted.” [Salon, 9/1/2005] Bodman also takes issue with the House’s WRDA bill (see April 13, 2005). WRDA, or the Water Resources Development Act, provides federal authorization for water resources projects. The House bill would require the federal government to pay 65 percent of the cost of the Louisiana Coastal Area (LCA) restoration project, leaving the remaining 35 percent for state and local governments to pay. “The cost-share paid by the general taxpayer for the Everglades restoration effort is 50 percent, and this should likewise be the maximum federal contribution for the Upper Mississippi River and Illinois Waterway and coastal Louisiana restoration efforts.” If the Fed’s portion of the bill were 65 percent, the letter argues, it would “create expectations for future appropriations that cannot be met given competing spending priorities within the overall need for spending restraint, including deficit reduction.” Adam Sharp, spokesman for Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA), notes however that the 50-50 cost-share formula for the Everglades is an exception to the Corps’ practice, not the rule. Indeed, in January (see January 2005), the Corps recommended the 65-35 cost share formula in its report on the coastal plan to Congress saying that such a split would be “consistent with existing law and Corps policy.” [Houma Today, 7/21/2005]

Entity Tags: Louisiana Coastal Area (LCA) Ecosystem Restoration Study, Craig Stevens, Samuel W. Bodman

Category Tags: Before Katrina, Environmental Policies/Programs, Coastal Wetlands

FEMA sponsors a 5-day exercise rehearsing for a mock storm, named “Pam,” that destroys over half a million buildings in New Orleans and forces the evacuation of a million residents. The drill is conducted by Innovative Emergency Management (IEM). [Associated Press, 7/24/2004; Times-Picayune, 7/24/2004; Knight Ridder, 9/1/2005] It is attended by about 250 emergency officials and involves more than 40 federal, state, and local agencies, as well as volunteer organizations. As part of the scenario, about 200,000 people fail to heed evacuation orders. Pam slams directly into New Orleans bringing 120 mph winds, 20 inches of rain, 14 tornadoes, and a massive storm surge that overtops levees flooding the city with 20 feet of water containing a toxic mix of corpses, chemicals, and human waste. Eighty percent of the city’s buildings are damaged. Survivors crawl to the rooftops to wait for help, but rescue workers are impeded by impassable roads. [Federal Emergency Management Agency, 7/23/2004; Knight Ridder, 9/1/2005; New York Times, 9/1/2005; MSNBC, 9/2/2005; Associated Press, 9/9/2005] The flooding results in a massive number of casualties and leaves large portions of southeast Louisiana uninhabitable for more than a year. [Associated Press, 9/9/2005] At the conclusion of the exercise, Ron Castleman, regional director for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, states: “We made great progress this week in our preparedness efforts. Disaster response teams developed action plans in critical areas such as search and rescue, medical care, sheltering, temporary housing, school restoration and debris management. These plans are essential for quick response to a hurricane but will also help in other emergencies.” [Reuters, 9/2/2005] As a result of the exercise, officials come to realize how difficult it will be to evacuate the city’s population in the event of a real hurricane. They expect that only a third of the population will be able leave before the storm hits, in part due to the fact that up to 100,000 residents live in households without a car. When asked how many people might die in such a storm, FEMA spokesman David Passey hesitates before stating, “We would see casualties not seen in the United States in the last century.” [Times-Picayune, 7/20/2004] In December 2004, a 412-page draft report summarizing the exercise will be completed with detailed predictions of what the government should expect in the event that a major hurricane strikes New Orleans.
Predictions - Flood waters would surge over levees, creating “a catastrophic mass casualty/mass evacuation” and leaving drainage pumps crippled for up to six months. “It will take over one year to re-enter areas most heavily impacted,” the report predicts. More than 600,000 houses and 6,000 businesses would be affected, and more than two-thirds of them would be destroyed. Almost a quarter-million children would have no school. “All 40 medical facilities in the impacted area [would be] isolated and useless.” Casualties would be staggering: 61,290 deaths, 187,862 injured, and 196,395 ill. A half million people would be made homeless by the storm. Storm “refugees” would be housed at college campuses, military barracks, hotels, travel trailers, recreational vehicles, private homes, cottages, churches, Boy Scout camps, and cruise ships. [Associated Press, 9/9/2005]
Recommendations - “Federal support must be provided in a timely manner to save lives, prevent human suffering and mitigate severe damage. This may require mobilizing and deploying assets before they are requested via normal (National Response Plan) protocols.” [Associated Press, 9/9/2005]
Top officials briefed - Ivor van Heerden, the Louisiana State University hurricane researcher who ran the exercise, reports that a “White House staffer was briefed on the exercise,” and thus, “there is now a far greater awareness in the federal government about the consequences of storm surges.” [Louisiana State University, 2005] After the Hurricane Katrina Disaster, van Heerden will recall in an interview with MSNBC that the federal government didn’t take the exercise seriously. “Those FEMA officials wouldn’t listen to me. Those Corps of Engineers people giggled in the back of the room when we tried to present information.” When Heerden recommended that tent cities be prepared for displaced residents, “their response… was: ‘Americans don’t live in tents’ and that was about it.” [MSNBC, 9/2/2005]
Follow-up - Another exercise is scheduled the following year, but it’s cancelled when its funding is cut (see 2005).

Entity Tags: Federal Emergency Management Agency, Ivor Van Heerden, Ron Castleman

Category Tags: Disaster Preparedness, Federal: FEMA, Louisiana: State, Louisiana: NOLA, Louisiana: SELA, Private Sector, Outsourcing, Flood Risk, Environmental Risk, Evacuation Problem, Sheltering, Before Katrina

The US Army Corp of Engineers publishes a schedule for local hearings on the revised Louisiana Coastal Area Restoration Plan, Draft Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (DPEIS). Hearings will be held in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Tennessee. [US Army Corp of Engineers, 7/24/2004 pdf file]

Entity Tags: US Army Corps of Engineers, Louisiana Coastal Area (LCA) Ecosystem Restoration Study

Category Tags: Before Katrina, Federal, Environmental Policies/Programs

In the southwest Louisiana parish of Cameron, the US Army Corps of Engineers presents its recently downsized Louisiana Coastal Area (LCA) Restoration Plan (see July 2, 2004) to about 25 local residents, scientists, and environmental activists. People attending the meeting are angered that not one of the 15 major projects included in the revised plan are in southwest Louisiana. Apparently, several proposed projects that were included in the first draft of the LCA plan (see October 2003), including a plan to build major navigational locks at the mouths of the Sabine and Calcasieu rivers to prevent saltwater from seeping into freshwater marshland, are absent in the current plan. In this part of the state, saltwater intrusion has eaten away at the delicate marsh grass, both a key hurricane buffer and marine life breeding ground. [Associated Press, 7/29/2004]

Entity Tags: Louisiana Coastal Area (LCA) Ecosystem Restoration Study, US Army Corps of Engineers

Category Tags: Before Katrina, Environmental Policies/Programs, Coastal Wetlands

Four leading environmental groups—the NRDC, the Sierra Club, Earthjustice, and the National Wildlife Federation—conduct a joint expert study. The report, largely based on Army Corps of Engineers documents obtained through Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, shows that the Bush administration’s policies have allowed developers to drain thousands of acres of wetlands. The loss of wetlands on the Gulf Coast could have a catastophic effect since coastal wetlands weaken hurricanes before they make landfall thereby lessening the impact of such storms on populated inland regions. The report also says the policies have opened America’s waterways to massive amounts of industrial discharge. [Natural Resource Defense Council et al., 8/12/2004 pdf file] “There’s no way to describe how mindless a policy that is when it comes to wetlands protection,” one of the report’s authors says. The study is dismissed by the chairman of the White House’s Council on Environmental Quality, who describes it as “highly questionable,” and claims, “Everybody loves what we’re doing.” [Washington Post, 8/12/2004; Der Spiegel (Hamburg), 9/1/2005; Chicago Tribune, 9/1/2005]

Entity Tags: Bush administration (43), Earthjustice, Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council, National Wildlife Federation, Council on Environmental Quality

Category Tags: Environmental Policies/Programs, NGOs, Federal, Before Katrina

The Bush administration orders the New Orleans Army Corps of Engineers district office not to begin any new studies, including one aimed at determining what New Orleans must do to protect itself from a Category 4 or 5 hurricane. The proposed 2005 fiscal-year budget originally included $300,000 for the study, but in the current version, this amount has been cut out. [Times-Picayune, 9/22/2004; Editor & Publisher, 8/31/2005; Knight Ridder, 9/1/2005]

Entity Tags: US Army Corps of Engineers, Bush administration (43)

Category Tags: Flood Control Programs, Federal, Resource Allocation, Before Katrina

Hurricane Ivan, a Category 5 storm, sideswipes the western tip of Cuba. The Cuban government, which says it has been preparing for a storm of this magnitude for the last 45 years, successfully evacuates between 1.5 and 1.9 million of its residents—more than 13 percent of its entire population—to shelters at higher ground. The entire evacuation takes 72 hours and utilizes every truck and bus available. All the shelters “have medical personnel, from the neighborhood,” according to Dr. Nelson Valdes, a sociology professor at the University of New Mexico, and specialist in Latin America. They also evacuate animals and veterinarians, TV sets and refrigerators “so that people aren’t reluctant to leave because people might steal their stuff,” he says. Though 20,000 homes are destroyed, there is not a single fatality from the storm. [MSNBC, 9/17/2004; United Kingdom, 10/1/2004; Truthout (.org), 9/3/2005] The United Nations International Secretariat for Disaster Reduction (ISDR) later cites Cuba as a model for hurricane preparation. ISDR director Salvano Briceno says, “The Cuban way could easily be applied to other countries with similar economic conditions and even in countries with greater resources that do not manage to protect their population as well as Cuba does.” A UN press release, summarizing the country’s hurricane preparation program, says: “Disaster preparedness, prevention and response are part of the general education curriculum. People in schools, universities and workplaces are continuously informed and trained to cope with natural hazards. From their early age, all Cubans are taught how to behave as hurricanes approach the island. They also have, every year, a two-day training session in risk reduction for hurricanes, complete with simulation exercises and concrete preparation actions. This facilitates the mobilization of their communities at the local level when a hurricane hits Cuba.” [United Nations, 9/14/2004; Seven Oaks, 9/21/2004]

Entity Tags: Hurricane Ivan, Salvano Briceno, United Nations, Cuba

Category Tags: Other, Before Katrina

Hurricane Ivan approaches the Southern Gulf Coast. Residents of New Orleans have been urged to leave the city, but its evacuation routes are “spectacularly clogged, and authorities [acknowledge] that hundreds of thousands of residents [will] not get out in time.” [Dallas Morning News, 9/14/2004; Washington Post, 9/15/2004] Terry Tullier, director of emergency preparedness for the city of New Orleans, explains to the Associated Press. “There is no plan that exists that will keep this logjam from occurring.” [Associated Press, 9/13/2004] Notwithstanding, approximately 600,000 residents will successfully flee the city, [Philadelphia Inquirer, 10/8/2004] though for some the trip takes as long as ten hours. [US News and World Report, 7/18/2005] Ivan will make landfall east of Louisiana near Gulf Shores, Alabama, sparing the city of New Orleans from a catastrophe. [Washington Post, 9/15/2004] Hurricane researchers will hope that the close call will convince the federal government of the need to fund flood control and wetland restoration projects in Southern Louisiana. “Ivan was a real wake-up call. We have to take Ivan’s near-miss to get the federal government to fast-track some of these restoration projects,” says Ivor van Heerden, the deputy director of the LSU Hurricane Center. [Philadelphia Inquirer, 10/8/2004]

Entity Tags: Ivor Van Heerden, Hurricane Ivan

Category Tags: Evacuation Problem, Federal, Federal: FEMA, Louisiana: NOLA, Louisiana: SELA, Louisiana: State, Before Katrina

Sen. Mary L. Landrieu (D-LA) warns colleagues in Senate that US must invest in flood control projects in Louisiana in order to avert a major natural disaster in the event of a hurricane making landfall in Southern Louisiana. “I want to speak this morning about what we can do here in Washington a little better, with a little more energy, with a little more focus to help the people in Louisiana and throughout the gulf coast area. Not only do they deserve our help, but because of the energy industry and the economic benefits they bring to the whole country, they not only need our help, they deserve our help. They deserve our attention…. We are talking about severe devastation when a Category 3 or Category 4 or Category 5 hurricane pushes that water out of the gulf, out of Lake Pontchartrain into the tremendously populated areas around the gulf coast.… We are in Iraq, in an important battle, but part of our objective there is to secure an oil supply for the region and for the Nation and to use that for the betterment of the people of Iraq, for their growth and development and the security and stability of the world, as well as to fight for other issues. We are fighting to get 1 to 3 million barrels out of Iraq, and right here in the Gulf of Mexico, today, we have a facility that has virtually been shut down because of a hurricane. Nearly a million barrels is being imported in this country, and exported, a year.… My point is, I hope we will again use this opportunity to focus on the critical infrastructure needs necessary for Louisiana and the gulf coast of Mississippi and Alabama primarily to protect itself not just from homeland security threats from terrorists but real threats of weather.… Yet time and time again, when Louisiana comes to ask, ‘Could we please have just a portion of the revenue that we send?’—we are not asking for charity; we are asking for something we earned; we are happy to share with the rest of the country to help invest in infrastructure—we are told: We cannot do it this year. We do not have enough money. It is not a high enough priority.… Well, I do not know when it is going to get to be a high enough priority. I hate to say maybe it is going to take the loss thousands of lives on the Gulf Coast to make this country wake up and realize in what we are under-investing.… We also have a bill through the WRDA legislation, which is the traditional funding for the Corps of Engineers, the federal agency primarily responsible to keep the waterways dredged, to keep the levees up as high as possible, to work with our local flood control folks, particularly our levee boards in Louisiana, which are some of the most important public entities we have, that literally keep people dry from heavy rains and from floods and storms of this nature.… We need our federal government to understand that we are happy to share our resources and riches with the world, but we do deserve a greater portion of these revenues to keep our people safe, to keep our infrastructure intact, and, most certainly, to be respectful of what the people of Louisiana and the entire gulf coast contribute to our national well-being and security. .. [A]s a Senator representing the State of Louisiana, the chances of it happening sometime are pretty good. If we do not improve our transportation evacuation routes, invest in protecting this infrastructure, and focusing on reinvesting some of the tremendous wealth that has been taken from this area, and reinvesting it back, we will only have ourselves to blame.” [US Congress, 9/15/2004, pp. S9257-S9260]

Entity Tags: Mary L. Landrieu, US Army Corps of Engineers

Category Tags: Before Katrina, Federal, Flood Risk, Evacuation Problem, Warnings

The Washington Post publishes a front page story examining what might happen if Hurricane Ivan, or any other major hurricane, hits New Orleans. The article cites numerous experts who agree that such an event is inevitable and will be a disaster. Walter Maestri, emergency management director in Jefferson Parish, warns that as many as 50,000 people could drown if a Category 4 hurricane makes a landing on Southern Louisiana’s shores. Windell Curole, director of the South Lafourche Levee District, tells the newspaper: “I’m terrified. I’m telling you, we’ve got no elevation. This isn’t hyperbole. The only place I can compare us to is Bangladesh.” Gregory W. Stone, director of the Coastal Studies Institute at Louisiana State University, says, “I don’t mean to be an alarmist, but the doomsday scenario is going to happen eventually. I’ll stake my professional reputation on it.” [Washington Post, 9/15/2004] Other articles at the same time also point out the danger. For instance, on September 14, the Associated Press publishes the story,“Direct Hit by Ivan Could Sink New Orleans” which discusses a worst-case scenario where a direct strike could leave the city “deep in a stew of sewage, industrial chemicals and fire ants, and the inundation could last for weeks…” Ivor van Heerden, director of Louisiana State University’s Hurricane Public Health Center, states, “My fear is, if this storm passes (without a major disaster), everybody forgets about it until next year, when it could be even worse because we’ll have even less wetlands.” [Associated Press, 9/14/2004] The Dallas Morning News publishes an article giving similar warnings. [Dallas Morning News, 9/14/2004]

Entity Tags: Windell Curole, Gregory W. Stone, Hurricane Ivan, Walter Maestri

Category Tags: Flood Risk, Media, Before Katrina

Eleven local Mormon congregations devise a hurricane evacuation program that would involve matching members with extra space in their cars with those needing transportation. Mormon churches in Jackson, Miss., Hattiesburg, Miss., and Alexandria, La., have agreed to receive evacuees. [Times-Picayune, 7/24/2005]

Category Tags: NGOs, Evacuation, Before Katrina

Pleasant Mann, a 16-year FEMA veteran, says in an interview with the Independent Weekly that changes made to the agency by the Bush administration have so severely harmed FEMA staff morale that people are leaving “in droves.” Part of the problem, he says, has to do with the people Bush selected to run the agency. “The biggest frustration here is that we at FEMA have responded to disasters like Oklahoma City and 9/11, and here are people who haven’t responded to a kitchen fire telling us how to deal with terrorism. You know, there were a lot of people who fell down on the job on 9/11, but it wasn’t us… . Since last year, so many people have left who had developed most of our basic programs. A lot of the institutional knowledge is gone. Everyone who was able to retire has left, and then a lot of people have moved to other agencies.” Mann also complains that FEMA’s “priority is no longer on prevention.” FEMA’s merger into the Department of Homeland Security has made mitigation “the orphaned stepchild,” he says. [Independent Weekly, 9/22/2004]

Entity Tags: Bush administration (43), Federal Emergency Management Agency, US Department of Homeland Security, Pleasant Mann

Category Tags: Federal: FEMA, FEMA Restructuring, Policies, Before Katrina

Page 1 of 2 (140 events)
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Ordering 

Time period


Categories

Period

Before Katrina (140)Pre-Impact Katrina (192)During Katrina (76)Immediate Katrina Aftermath (19)After Katrina (3)

Organization

Federal (138)Federal: FEMA (64)Louisiana: State (72)Louisiana: NOLA (46)Louisiana: SELA (42)Mississippi: State (4)Mississippi: Biloxi (0)Mississippi: Gulfport (0)Mississippi: Other Local (0)Alabama: State (0)Florida: State (0)States: Other States (0)Private Sector (19)Academia/Professional (9)Media (27)NGOs (17)General Public (9)

Knowledge

Flood Risk (28)Evacuation Problem (22)Public Safety Risk (3)Environmental Risk (5)Organization Capacity (10)Levee Breach/Flooding (58)Sheltering (1)Response Level (1)Advisories (81)Increased Chance of Hurricane (1)

Disaster Management Legislation Relevant to Katrina

Legislation (3)

Emergency Preparedness/Response Plans

Evacuation (13)Shelter (4)Response (7)Recovery (1)

Policies that Affected Intensity of Katrina Impact

Environmental Policies/Programs (16)Land Development (3)Flood Control Programs (23)Disaster Mitigation (12)Disaster Preparedness (11)Resource Allocation (29)FEMA Restructuring (16)Outsourcing (5)Political Patronage (9)Canvassing (0)

Progress and Impact Hurricane Katrina

Florida (3)Louisiana: State (2)Louisiana: NOLA (20)Louisiana: SELA (18)Mississippi: Local (0)Mississippi: State (0)Mississippi: Biloxi (0)Mississippi: Gulfport (0)Mississippi: Other Local (0)Alabama: State (0)

Execution of Emergency Plans

Evacuation (22)Sheltering (2)Emergency Response (120)Other States' Assistance (0)

Response in Wake of Katrina Disaster

Response to Evacuation Execution (0)Response to Emergency Response (1)Investigations (0)

Recovery from Katrina

Infrastructure (bridges; roads) (0)Governmental Services (water, electricity, etc) (0)Industry (oil industry, etc.) (0)citizenship (0)

Statements

Policies (5)Warnings (15)Plans (0)Mitigation (4)Katrina (6)Execution of Emergency Plans (25)Response (0)Recovery (0)

Specific Cases and Issues

Coastal Wetlands (27)

Other

Other (4)
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