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Hurricane Katrina

Project: Hurricane Katrina
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The Department of Homeland Security issues a task order for Innovative Emergency Management, Inc. (IEM) to “complete the development of the SE Louisiana Catastrophic Hurricane plan.” IEM is to receive $199,969 for the work. [US Congress, 9/9/2005]

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

Category Tags: Outsourcing, Federal, Private Sector, Disaster Preparedness, Evacuation, Shelter, Response

A National Geographic article hypothesizes a scenario of a major hurricane hitting New Orleans. “[T]he storm gathered steam and drew a bead on the city. As the whirling maelstrom approached the coast, more than a million people evacuated to higher ground. Some 200,000 remained, however—the car-less, the homeless, the aged and infirm, and those die-hard New Orleanians who look for any excuse to throw a party. The storm hit Breton Sound with the fury of a nuclear warhead, pushing a deadly storm surge into Lake Pontchartrain. The water crept to the top of the massive berm that holds back the lake and then spilled over. Nearly 80 percent of New Orleans lies below sea level—more than eight feet below in places—so the water poured in. A liquid brown wall washed over the brick ranch homes of Gentilly, over the clapboard houses of the Ninth Ward, over the white-columned porches of the Garden District, until it raced through the bars and strip joints on Bourbon Street like the pale rider of the Apocalypse. As it reached 25 feet (eight meters) over parts of the city, people climbed onto roofs to escape it. Thousands drowned in the murky brew that was soon contaminated by sewage and industrial waste. Thousands more who survived the flood later perished from dehydration and disease as they waited to be rescued. It took two months to pump the city dry, and by then the Big Easy was buried under a blanket of putrid sediment, a million people were homeless, and 50,000 were dead. It was the worst natural disaster in the history of the United States. When did this calamity happen? It hasn’t—yet. But the doomsday scenario is not far-fetched. The Federal Emergency Management Agency lists a hurricane strike on New Orleans as one of the most dire threats to the nation, up there with a large earthquake in California or a terrorist attack on New York City. Even the Red Cross no longer opens hurricane shelters in the city, claiming the risk to its workers is too great.” Joe Suhayda, a retired coastal engineer at Louisiana State University, says, “I don’t think people realize how precarious we are.” The article further notes, “The chances of such a storm hitting New Orleans in any given year are slight, but the danger is growing. Climatologists predict that powerful storms may occur more frequently this century, while rising sea level from global warming is putting low-lying coasts at greater risk. ‘It’s not if it will happen,’ says University of New Orleans geologist Shea Penland. ‘It’s when.’ Yet just as the risks of a killer storm are rising, the city’s natural defenses are quietly melting away. From the Mississippi border to the Texas state line, Louisiana is losing its protective fringe of marshes and barrier islands faster than any place in the US.” [National Geographic, 10/2004]

Category Tags: Before Katrina, Media, Flood Risk, Evacuation Problem, Environmental Risk, Public Safety Risk

The East Jefferson Levee Authority complains that the federal government refuses to fund a hoped-for $15 million project to better shore up the banks of Lake Pontchartrain. [Editor & Publisher, 8/31/2005]

Entity Tags: East Jefferson Levee Authority

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

In a National Hazards Observer article titled “What if Hurricane Ivan Had Not Missed New Orleans?,” University of New Orleans professor Shirley Laska warns that a Category 4 hurricane hitting New Orleans would be one of the greatest disasters ever to hit the US, with estimated costs exceeding $100 billion. According to Laska, in the aftermath of the hurricane, it would take nine weeks to dewater the city, and “national authorities would be scrambling to build tent cities to house the hundreds of thousands of refugees unable to return to their homes and without other relocation options.” [Natural Hazards Observer, 11/2004]

Entity Tags: Shirley Laska

Category Tags: Before Katrina, Media, Flood Risk

The US Army Corps of Engineers releases its final report and programmatic environmental impact statement on the Louisiana Coastal Area (LCA) Ecosystem Restoration Study. The plan would cost $1.9 billion and take ten years to implement. The Corps recommends a 65-35 federal-state cost-sharing formula, with the federal government contributing $1.28 billion, and the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources paying the rest. The comment period will end on December 6, after which point a Chief of Engineers report will be completed and provided to the Secretary of the Army for review and submission to Congress. [Philadelphia Inquirer, 10/8/2004; US Army Corp of Engineers, 11/8/2004; Louisiana Coastal Area Study, 11/8/2004] The LCA ecosystem restoration plan contains several components:
Near-Term Critical Restoration Features - “The recommended plan includes a number of critical restoration projects, five of which are recommended for near-term continued study, design, and implementation. These five projects address the most critical ecological needs of the coastal area and address a range of effects essential for success in restoring the coast. The five near-term critical restoration features are (1) Mississippi River Gulf Outlet Environmental Restoration Features; (2) Small Diversion at Hope Canal; (3) Barataria Basin Barrier Shoreline Restoration, Caminada Headland, Shell Island; (4) Small Bayou Lafourche Reintroduction; and (5) Medium Diversion at Myrtle Grove with Dedicated Dredging.” In addition to these five projects, an additional ten near-term critical restoration features are recommended for study and future congressional authorization. The strategies that the Corps intends to implement in these projects include “(1) Freshwater and sediment re-introductions by diverting some Mississippi River flows into hydrologic basins; (2) Barrier island restoration through placement of sand from offshore sources or the Mississippi River to sustain key geomorphic structures; (3) This would help protect the ecology of estuarine bays and marshes by reducing gulf influences as well as protect nationally important water bird nesting areas; (4) Hydrologic modifications to help restore salinity and marsh inundation patterns and provide fishery access in previously unavailable habitats; and (5) Creating a marsh platform for habitat in areas near existing navigation channels through the beneficial use of maintenance dredging material.” [US Army Corp of Engineers, 11/8/2004; Louisiana Coastal Area Study, 11/8/2004; National Wetlands Research Center, 12/15/2004]
Science and Technology Program - “The major goal of the program would be to decrease scientific and engineering uncertainties of restoration efforts and to optimize restoration opportunities.” [National Wetlands Research Center, 12/15/2004]
Science and Technology Program Demonstration Projects - “The recommended plan includes funding over a 10-year period for demonstration projects to be developed by the Science and Technology Program. These projects will cost a maximum of $25 million each.” [National Wetlands Research Center, 12/15/2004]
Beneficial Use of Dredged Material Program - This program intends to use “dredged material to restore, protect, and create aquatic and wetland habitats in connection with construction or maintenance dredging of an authorized project.” [US Army Corp of Engineers, 11/8/2004; Louisiana Coastal Area Study, 11/8/2004]
Modifications Program - The Corps will investigate how existing structures or their operation management plans can be modified to improve environmental performance. [US Army Corp of Engineers, 11/8/2004; Louisiana Coastal Area Study, 11/8/2004]
Large-Scale and Long-Term Concepts Requiring Detailed Study - This study will “determine their potential for achieving restoration objectives beyond the critical needs, near-term focus of other LCA Plan components.” [US Army Corp of Engineers, 11/8/2004; Louisiana Coastal Area Study, 11/8/2004]

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

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

A poll conducted by the University of New Orleans finds that 62 percent of greater New Orleans’ 1.3 million residents would feel safe in their homes during a Category 3 storm. Only in the case of a larger Category 4 or 5 hurricane would a majority of the residents—78 percent—decide to evacuate the city. A total of 401 residents from St. Charles Parish take part in the survey. The figures cause grave concern for the university’s researchers who say the results suggest that residents have developed a false sense of security. For decades, residents have successfully rode out moderate-sized hurricanes. But as University of New Orleans pollster Susan Howell explains, Louisiana’s dramatic loss of its coastal wetlands means storms will have a greater impact, thus putting the city’s residents at greater risk. [Times-Picayune, 6/23/2005; Times-Picayune, 6/23/2005]

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

FEMA awards 24 states $27.4 million in pre-disaster mitigation (PDM) grants. For the third consecutive year, grants request submitted by the flood-prone communities of Southern Louisiana are denied. [Federal Emergency Management Agency, 8/8/2005]

Entity Tags: Federal Emergency Management Agency

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

Funding is cut for a FEMA disaster exercise meant to prepare government agencies for a major hurricane in New Orleans. The exercise, a follow-up to the Hurricane “Pam” exercise that was conducted the prior year (see July 19-23, 2004), was to develop a plan to fix such unresolved problems as evacuating sick and injured people from the Superdome and housing tens of thousands of displaced residents. [Knight Ridder, 9/1/2005] “Money was not available to do the follow-up,” Michael Brown, director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, will later say in an interview with the Associated Press. [Associated Press, 9/9/2005] After the disastrous Hurricane Katrina, Eric Tolbert, FEMA’s former disaster response chief, will tell Knight Ridder Newspapers: “A lot of good was done, but it just wasn’t finished. I don’t know if it would have saved more lives. It would have made the response faster. You might say it would have saved lives.” [Knight Ridder, 9/1/2005]

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

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

the US Army Corps of Engineers submits the final draft of the Louisiana Coastal Area (LCA) Ecosystem Restoration Study to Congress for WRDA authorization. WRDA, or the Water Resources Development Act, provides federal authorization for water resources projects. The Corps recommends that Congress approve a federal-state cost sharing ration of 65 percent federal, 35 percent state. A 65-35 split would be “consistent with existing law and Corps policy,” the Corps says. [Houma Today, 7/21/2005]

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

Category Tags: Before Katrina, Coastal Wetlands

Speaking before his colleagues in the House of Representatives, Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-LA) expresses concern about what would happen if a large hurricane were to hit New Orleans. “What would have happened if last September, Hurricane Ivan had veered 40 miles to the west, devastating the city of New Orleans? One likely scenario would have had a tsunami-like 30-foot wall of water hitting the city, causing thousands of deaths and $100 billion in damage. The city has always been at risk because of its low-lying location, but that risk has been increased because of rising sea levels, groundwater pumping and the erosion of coastal Louisiana. Twenty-four square miles of wetland disappear every year, since the 1930s an area one and a half times the size of Rhode Island washed away. Considering the reaction of the American public to the loss of a dozen people in the recent mud slides in California, it is hard to imagine what would happen if a disaster of that magnitude hit the United States. The experience of [the December 2004 tsunami that hit] Southeast Asia should convince us all of the urgent need for congressional action to prevent wide-scale loss of life and economic destruction at home and abroad. Prevention and planning will pay off.” [US Congress, 1/26/2005]

Entity Tags: Earl Blumenauer

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

US Army Corps of Engineer’s Southeast Louisiana Urban Flood Control Project (SELA) has 14 projects planned, worth $114 million, that could be started if funds were available. But because of the drop in federal funding (see 2001-Early 2004) no new contracts have been awarded since early 2004. The 14 projects include widening canals, replacing bridges, and constructing culverts. According to Stan Green, SELA project manager, the projects are “of critical importance in reducing rainfall flooding.… I’d say in the last two or three years, the work that we’ve already done under SELA has made a significant difference. We have a lot of benefits yet to be realized from this work we haven’t built yet.” [New Orleans CityBusiness, 2/7/2005; Los Angeles Times, 9/4/2005]

Entity Tags: Southeast Louisiana Urban Flood Control Project, Stan Green

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

The Bush administration’s proposed fiscal year 2006 budget includes $20 million to help support research, planning, and design work related to efforts to restore Louisiana’s coastal wetlands. The budget would also provide $28 million for southeast Louisiana flood control projects. [White House website, 2/7/2005]

Entity Tags: Bush administration (43)

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

The Bush administration’s fiscal year 2006 budget request includes a six percent reduction in funding for Emergency Management Performance Grants. The cut would reduce the $180 million appropriated by Congress in 2005 to $170 million in 2006. “The grants are the lifeblood for local programs and, in some cases, it’s the difference between having a program in a county and not,” says Dewayne West, the director of Emergency Services for Johnston County, North Carolina, and president of the International Association of Emergency Managers. “It’s awfully difficult. More money is needed.” The White House however insists it is unfair to say Bush’s budget for the performance grants are a “cut,” because it was Congress, not the White House, that had increased the program’s budget in 2005 to $180 million. [Reuters, 9/17/2005]

Entity Tags: George W. Bush, Dewayne West

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

Judge Michael Chertoff is confirmed by the Senate in a 98-0 vote and sworn in as the second Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, succeeding the agency’s previous head, Tom Ridge. Chertoff previously served as the United States Circuit Judge for the Third Circuit Court of Appeal, and prior to that he was the Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division at the Department of Justice. During the 2000 elections, he helped fundraise for George W. Bush and other Republicans during the 2000 election cycle and advised Bush’s presidential campaign on criminal justice issues. Before joining the Bush administration, Chertoff was a partner in the law firm of Latham & Watkins, and from 1994 to 1996 he served as Special Counsel for the US Senate Whitewater Committee. [Department of Homeland Security, 9/16/2005]

Entity Tags: Michael Chertoff, US Congress

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

Total Community Action, a New Orleans faith-based organization, reportedly secures promises from Amtrak to help evacuate the city’s carless residents in the event of a major hurricane. [Los Angeles Times, 9/13/2005]

Entity Tags: Total Community Action, Amtrak

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

Total Community Action, a New Orleans faith-based organization, devises a plan to store life vests and rubber rafts in case the city’s carless residents are unable to evacuate the city and are threatened by hurricane floodwaters. The organization hopes to obtain the majority of its funding for this program from the federal government. (Hurricane Katrina will strike New Orleans before the organization submits the acquisition plan). [Los Angeles Times, 9/13/2005]

Entity Tags: Total Community Action

Category Tags: NGOs, Federal, Louisiana: NOLA, Evacuation, Before Katrina

A Popular Science article predicts that New Orleans could be completely submerged if hit by a Category 5 hurricane. Scott Kiser, a tropical-cyclone program manager for the National Weather Service, calls New Orleans the one city in the US and possibly the world that would sustain the most catastrophic damage from such a hurricane. He points out that the levees need not fail; a storm surge caused by high winds creating huge waves would quickly drown the city. John Hall of the US Army Corps of Engineers similarly calls the city “the most vulnerable major city to hurricanes.” The article notes that “New Orleans has nearly completed its Hurricane Protection Project, a $740-million plan led by [Al] Naomi [Corps project manager for the New Orleans District] to ring the city with levees that could shield residents from up to Category 3 storm surges.” The Army Corps is considering a new levee system capable of holding back a surge from a Category 5 hurricane, but it “is still in the early planning stages; it may be decades before the new barriers are completed.” [Popular Science, 4/2005]

Entity Tags: Scott Kiser, John Hall, Al Naomi

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

The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee approves the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) of 2005 (S.728), which includes authorization (but not appropriation of funds) for the $1.9 billion Louisiana Coastal Area (LCA) Ecosystem Restoration Study. The federal contribution to the project would be 65 percent, with the State of Louisiana, paying the remainder. “This legislation is a major breakthrough toward ensuring the future of our unique way of life in coastal Louisiana,” Rep. David Vitter, (R-LA), says in a statement. “It is critical for this authorization to be included in WRDA so that Congress can aggressively appropriate federal funds to restore Louisiana’s coast.” [Advocate (Baton Rouge), 4/17/2005]

Entity Tags: Louisiana Coastal Area (LCA) Ecosystem Restoration Study, US Congress, David Vitter

Category Tags: Before Katrina, Coastal Wetlands

The House passes its version of the 2005 Energy Policy Act (HR 6). One provision, secured by Louisiana Congressman Bobby Jindal, (R-Kenner), would provide Louisiana with up to $1 billion in offshore oil and gas royalties every year beginning in 2016. Louisiana and its coastal parishes would use the money to fund coastal wetland restoration efforts. Historically, offshore gas and oil royalties have been paid exclusively to the federal government, since these operations are conducted on federal territory. But Louisiana has long argued that a portion of this money should be used to help fund efforts aimed at restoring Louisiana’s coastal wetlands, the disappearance of which has been partly attributed to Gulf Coast oil and gas operations. A similar provision is included in the Senate version of the bill (see June 28, 2005). [Advocate (Baton Rouge), 4/17/2005]

Entity Tags: Bobby Jindal, US Congress

Category Tags: Before Katrina, Coastal Wetlands

A US Army Corps of Engineers memo warns that funding levels for fiscal years 2005 and 2006 will not be enough to finance new construction on the levees protecting New Orleans. [Reuters, 9/1/2005]

Entity Tags: US Army Corps of Engineers

Category Tags: Warnings, Federal, Flood Control Programs, Before Katrina

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) issues its 2005 Atlantic Hurricane Season outlook, predicting that there will be 12 to 15 tropical storms, with seven to nine becoming hurricanes, and three to five of those becoming major hurricanes. Retired Navy Vice Adm. Conrad C. Lautenbacher, Ph.D., the NOAA Director, says, “Forecaster confidence that this will be an active hurricane season is very high.” [NOAA Magazine, 5/16/2005]

Entity Tags: Conrad C. Lautenbacher, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Category Tags: Before Katrina, Federal, Increased Chance of Hurricane

New Orleans Emergency Preparedness Director Joseph Matthews admits in an interview that the city lacks the ability to safely evacuate residents who do not have their own transportation. “It’s important to emphasize that we just don’t have the resources to take everybody out,” he says. [Times-Picayune, 7/24/2005]

Entity Tags: Joseph Matthews

Category Tags: Evacuation Problem, Louisiana: NOLA, Before Katrina

The New Orleans district of the US Army Corps of Engineers formally notifies Washington that if a major hurricane scores a direct hit on the city, two of New Orleans’ biggest pumping stations could be disabled. These pumping stations are needed—even under normal conditions—to keep the city dry. In the event of an overtopped or breached levee and heavy rains, the city would be submerged. [Los Angeles Times, 9/4/2005]

Entity Tags: US Army Corps of Engineers

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

The House of Representatives proposes the steepest reduction in hurricane and flood-control funding for New Orleans in history—$71.2 million, or 21 percent. The Bush administration had earlier proposed a $52.8 million reduction for the New Orleans district’s fiscal year 2006 budget. The cut would be the largest single-year spending cut ever incurred by the district. As a result of the expected cut, the local Corps office postpones a study seeking to determine ways to protect the region from a Category 5 hurricane. Additionally, it imposes a hiring freeze and is unable to start any new jobs or award any new contracts. “I’ve been here over 30 years and I’ve never seen this level of reduction,” said Al Naomi, project manager for the New Orleans district. “I think part of the problem is it’s not so much the reduction, it’s the drastic reduction in one fiscal year. It’s the immediacy of the reduction that I think is the hardest thing to adapt to.” One of the hardest hit projects is the Southeast Louisiana Urban Flood Control Project (SELA). Its budget is being slashed to $10.4 million, down from $36.5 million. The amount is a sixth of what local officials say they need. Funding for levee repairs and other work on Lake Pontchartrain is scheduled to be cut from $5.7 million (see February 2, 2004) this year to $2.9 million in 2006. “We’ll do some design work. We’ll design the contracts and get them ready to go if we get the money. But we don’t have the money to put the work in the field, and that’s the problem,” Naomi says. [New Orleans CityBusiness, 6/6/2005; Editor & Publisher, 8/31/2005; Chicago Tribune, 9/1/2005]

Entity Tags: Al Naomi, Southeast Louisiana Urban Flood Control Project, Bush administration (43)

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

The Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development begins distributing one million evacuation maps to the residents of New Orleans. “We learned the lessons from the Hurricane Ivan evacuation (see September 14, 2004), and we put those lessons to use in developing a new plan,” DOTD Secretary Johnny B. Bradberry says. “This document is proof that government can and does listen to the concerns of citizens.” The initial printing of the maps was paid for by the American Red Cross and the Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness. [Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development, 6/17/2005]

Entity Tags: US Department of Homeland Security, Johnny B. Bradberry, American Red Cross, Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development

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

As part of the program, “Preparing for the Big One,” aimed at ensuring that none of New Orleans residents are left behind during a mandatory hurricane evacuation, the city contracts Total Community Action, a community faith-based network, to produce 70,000 30-minute DVDs. The DVD is meant to serve as a guide for the city’s poorest residents, many of whom do not own cars and live in the city’s lowest, most flood-prone, areas. At one point during the video, Rev. Marshall Truehill, who heads Total Community Action, warns, “Don’t wait for the city, don’t wait for the state, don’t wait for the Red Cross.” He tells the viewers, “It’s your personal responsibility” to escape before a hurricane. Other guests appearing on the video—including Mayor Ray Nagin, local Red Cross Executive Director Kay Wilkins and City Council President Oliver Thomas—reiterate the same message. “You’re responsible for your safety, and you should be responsible for the person next to you,” Wilkins says. “If you have some room to get that person out of town, the Red Cross will have a space for that person outside the area. We can help you.… But we don’t have the transportation.” The Los Angeles Times says that one of the video’s central message is that those without cars would not be able to rely on the city to evacuate them and that they would need to devise their own evacuation strategies. The video suggests that residents without cars should prearrange rides with other residents who do have cars. “Everybody needs to have their own plans,” New Orleans Mayor C. Ray Nagin says on the video. “Check with your neighbors, check with your relatives.” Nagin also warns that public schools are no longer considered safe shelters. Other parts of the program provide advice on how to clear storm drains, pack an evacuation kit and medical supplies, and keep pets safe. [Times-Picayune, 7/24/2005; Los Angeles Times, 9/13/2005]

Entity Tags: Ray Nagin, Preparing for the Big One, Total Community Action, Marshall Truehill, American Red Cross

Category Tags: Evacuation, Federal, Disaster Preparedness, NGOs, Louisiana: NOLA, Before Katrina

The Senate passes its version of the 2005 Energy Policy Act (HR 6). Like the House version of the bill (see April 21, 2005), it includes a provision that would divert a portion of offshore oil and gas royalties to coastal energy producing states like Louisiana. But unlike the House version, which would give Louisiana $1 billion in royalties every year beginning in 2016, the Senate version would only provide Louisiana with $540 million over a four-year period beginning in fiscal year 2007. Louisiana would use the money to fund projects aimed at restoring the state’s coastal wetlands. The bill is referred to a conference committee (see July 29, 2005) charged with resolving the differences between the House and Senate versions. [New Orleans CityBusiness, 6/23/2005]

Entity Tags: US Congress

Category Tags: Before Katrina, Coastal Wetlands

Michael Chertoff, head of the Department of Homeland Security, unveils a massive restructuring plan for the agency. One of the changes envisioned by the plan, dubbed the “second-stage review,” would be to transfer the function of preparedness planning from FEMA to “a strengthened department preparedness directorate.” [Washington Post, 7/13/2005] Chertoff further explains that he plans “to take out of FEMA a couple of elements that were really not related to its core missions, that were generally focused on the issue of preparedness in a way that I think was frankly more of a distraction to FEMA than an enhancement to FEMA.” The Wall Street Journal notes this“would cement FEMA’s reduced role” and “[strip] away longstanding functions such as helping communities build houses outside flood zones.” [Wall Street Journal, 9/6/2005]

Entity Tags: Michael Chertoff, Federal Emergency Management Agency, US Department of Homeland Security

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

Several prominent former Louisiana politicians sign a letter urging President Bush to support the 2005 Energy Policy Act (HR 6)‘s provisions for revenue sharing (see April 21, 2005) (see June 28, 2005). Endorsed by former Governors Mike Foster (R-LA), Buddy Roemer (R-LA), David Treen (R-LA) and former Senators John Breaux (D-LA) and J. Bennett Johnston (D-LA), the letter states: “Louisiana puts an average of $5 billion each year into the Federal treasury from revenues produced off its shore. Energy Bill provisions that would give a meaningful share of those revenues through direct payments to Louisiana and other coastal states that host so much of the nation’s energy production are critical.” [Associated Press, 7/22/2005; Louisiana, 7/22/2005]

Entity Tags: Buddy Roemer, J. Bennett Johnston, Mike Foster, David Treen, George W. Bush, John Breaux

Category Tags: Before Katrina, Coastal Wetlands

The Bush administration proposes an alternative to the offshore gas and royalty revenue-sharing measure that has been proposed in the House (see April 21, 2005) and Senate (see June 28, 2005) versions of the 2005 Energy Policy Act (HR 6). The measure is being strongly pushed by Louisiana politicians because the state stands to earn about half a billion dollars over the next ten years, which they would use to help fund efforts to restore Louisiana’s coastal wetlands. The administration’s proposed alternative would provide the Louisiana with only about $54 million from 2007 through 2015. The White House argues that its approach, based on new oil and gas exploration, would not cut into revenue needed for government expenses. [Advocate (Baton Rouge), 7/26/2005]

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

Category Tags: Before Katrina, Federal, Coastal Wetlands

In a letter to Senators Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.), the leaders of a key Senate committee that oversees the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the National Emergency Management Association (NEMA), a group of state emergency directors, denounces a proposal (see July 13, 2005) to transfer preparedness functions from FEMA to a new preparedness directorate elsewhere in DHS. The NEMA letter argues that the move would disconnect disaster planning staff, grants, and programs from the state, local, and federal agencies that are supposed to respond. “It would have an extremely negative impact on the people of this nation.… Any unnecessary separation of these functions will result in a disjointed response and adversely impact the effectiveness of departmental operations.” David Liebersbach, president of NEMA and director of the Alaska Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, says he believes that the motive behind the proposal relates to terrorism prevention efforts, which are very different than the types of efforts required to mitigate and manage natural disasters. “Losing [the] natural hazards emphasis for FEMA is getting to be quite a concern,” he says. “Prior to FEMA, the very programs that became FEMA were fragmented and were very difficult for states to interface with. Now you start taking pieces out.” [Ledger (Lakeland, FL), 8/21/2005; Wall Street Journal, 9/6/2005; Reuters, 9/17/2005] Now there is a “total lack of focus on natural-hazards preparedness,” he says. “[The emphasis on terrorism] indicates that FEMA’s long-standing mission of preparedness for all types of disasters has been forgotten at DHS.” [Reuters, 9/17/2005]

Entity Tags: National Emergency Management Association, David Liebersbach

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

In a letter to President Bush, Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco urges the president and his energy secretary, Samuel W. Bodman, to visit the Louisiana coast and see first-hand the deteriorating condition of the state’s coastal wetlands. She wants the administration to reconsider its objection (see July 15, 2004) to a provision in the House (see April 21, 2005) and Senate (see June 28, 2005) versions of the 2005 Energy Policy Act (HR 6) that would channel oil and gas royalties from offshore operations to coastal states for coastal wetland restoration. In her letter, she emphasizes how Louisiana’s disappearing wetlands is making the oil and gas industry’s vast network of pipelines increasingly vulnerable to damage. She also stresses that coastal wetlands have historically protected the coast from the full fury of hurricanes and, without this barrier, a major hurricane could devastate low-elevation coastal communities like New Orleans. “Let me show you the fragile wetlands that are the only protection for the thousands of miles of pipelines that connect this nation to 80 percent of its offshore energy supply and to a full third of all its oil and gas, both foreign and domestic. The vulnerability of those protective wetlands is all the more apparent to our two million coastal zone residents during this active hurricane season.” [Louisiana, 7/20/2005; Houma Today, 7/21/2005]

Entity Tags: Kathleen Babineaux Blanco, George W. Bush, Samuel W. Bodman

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

A House and Senate conference committee working to consolidate conflicting House and Senate versions of the 2005 Energy Policy Act (HR 6) agree on a final draft. One conflict between the two versions was a provision that would require the federal government to share royalties from offshore oil and gas operations with coastal oil-producing states. The committee decides in favor of the Senate version (see June 28, 2005), which would provide coastal states with about $1 billion dollars over a period of four years. Most of the money, $540 million, would go to Louisiana. The House version (see April 21, 2005) of the bill would have provided $1 billion in oil and gas royalties annually to Louisiana, but not until 2016. That version was rejected as was a proposal put forth by the Bush administration (see July 22, 2005) that would have reduced Louisiana’s share to only $54 million. Bush signs the bill into law on August 8. [Advocate (Baton Rouge), 7/26/2005; Boston Globe, 9/1/2005]

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

Category Tags: Before Katrina, Federal, Coastal Wetlands, Legislation

ABC News reports that much of the Louisiana National Guard’s equipment—including dozens of high-water vehicles, humvees, refuelers, and generators—is in Iraq. “The National Guard needs that equipment back home to support the homeland security mission,” Lt. Colonel Pete Schneider with the LA National Guard tells ABC. [ABC News, 8/1/2005]

Category Tags: Resource Allocation, Organization Capacity, Federal, Before Katrina

President Bush, who has been on vacation for the month of August, changes venues, traveling to Idaho for more biking and fishing. As he noted 10 days ago during a bike ride with journalists at his Crawford ranch, “I think the people want the president to be in a position to make good, crisp decisions and to stay healthy… . And part of my being is to be outside exercising. So I’m mindful of what goes on around me. On the other hand, I’m also mindful that I’ve got a life to live, and will do so.” [Cox News Service, 8/13/2005; USA Today, 8/24/2005]

Entity Tags: George W. Bush

Category Tags: Pre-Impact Katrina, Federal

President Bush declares that a major disaster exists in Louisiana, releasing federal aid to supplement state and local recovery efforts in the area struck by Tropical Storm Cindy on July 5-6, 2005. [White House, 8/23/2005] Louisiana Governor Blanco had declared a state of emergency in light of Tropical Storm Cindy on July 6, 2005. [Louisiana, 7/6/2005]

Entity Tags: Tropical Storm Cindy, George W. Bush

Category Tags: Pre-Impact Katrina, Federal, Emergency Response

The National Hurricane Center (NHC) issues its first advisory for Tropical Depression 12, noting that a tropical storm or hurricane watch may be required for southern Florida later in the evening. [National Hurricane Center, 8/23/2005] The NHC probabilities notice indicates Miami and West Palm Beach, Florida are most likely to be directly impacted. [National Hurricane Center, 8/23/2005]

Entity Tags: National Hurricane Center, Hurricane Katrina

Category Tags: Pre-Impact Katrina, Advisories

The National Hurricane Center (NHC) issues its second forecast/advisory for Tropical Depression 12, indicating that the storm is organizing and moving northwest. It issues a tropical storm watch for portions of the Florida Keys and Florida East Coast. A tropical storm watch means that tropical storm conditions are possible within the watch area, generally within 36 hours. [National Hurricane Center, 8/23/2005]

Entity Tags: National Hurricane Center, Hurricane Katrina

Category Tags: Pre-Impact Katrina, Advisories

The National Hurricane Center (NHC) issues its third advisory for Tropical Depression 12, indicating that the storm is organizing and moving northwest. The tropical storm watch for portions of the Florida Keys and Florida East Coast remains in effect. A hurricane watch may be required later today for portions of the Florida East Coast. [National Hurricane Center, 8/24/2005]

Entity Tags: National Hurricane Center, Hurricane Katrina

Category Tags: Pre-Impact Katrina, Advisories

Meteorologist Jeff Matthews, Director of the Weather Underground, a popular web-based weather service, reports that several models indicate that Katrina will enter the Gulf of Mexico by Sunday, “where it has an excellent chance of intensifying into a hurricane. Since the GFS is the only model calling for this stall, it is more believable to assume that Katrina will push into the Gulf of Mexico and threaten the US Gulf coast early next week.” [Masters, 8/24/2005]

Entity Tags: Jeff Matthews, Hurricane Katrina

Category Tags: Pre-Impact Katrina, Advisories

The National Hurricane Center (NHC) issues its fourth advisory for Tropical Depression 12, upgrading its forecast to a tropical storm warning and a hurricane watch for the Southeast Florida Coast from Vero Beach to Florida City. A hurricane watch means that hurricane conditions are possible within the watch area, generally within 36 hours. [National Hurricane Center, 8/24/2005]

Entity Tags: National Hurricane Center, Hurricane Katrina

Category Tags: Pre-Impact Katrina, Advisories

The National Hurricane Center (NHC) issues its fifth forecast/advisory. Tropical Depression 12 has been upgraded to Tropical Storm Katrina. The NHC expects additional strengthening in the next 24 hours. The NHC models indicate that Katrina will keep building slowly eastward, moving across South Florida over the next 36-48 hours and into the Gulf of Mexico within 72 hours. The models, however, are inconsistent in predicting the next landfall. One model indicates Katrina will hit New Orleans, others indicate Katrina will make second landfall on the Northern Florida Peninsula. Other aspects of the NHC Advisory include:
bullet Location: At 25.6 N, 77.2 W
bullet Direction and speed: NW at 9 mph
bullet Maximum Sustained Winds: Near 45 mph with higher gusts
bullet Probability that Katrina’s eye will pass within 75 miles of:
bullet West Palm Beach, FL: 29 percent
bullet Panama City, FL: 10 percent
bullet Gulfport, MS: 3 percent
bullet New Orleans, LA: 2 percent [National Hurricane Center, 8/24/2005; National Hurricane Center, 8/24/2005; National Hurricane Center, 8/24/2005]

Entity Tags: Hurricane Katrina, National Hurricane Center

Category Tags: Pre-Impact Katrina, Advisories

Florida Governor Jeb Bush declares a State of Emergency for Florida in light of the impending Tropical Storm Katrina. [WBBM-AM, 8/24/2005; Cox News Service, 8/24/2005; Florida, 8/24/2005 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Hurricane Katrina, John Ellis (“Jeb”) Bush

Category Tags: Pre-Impact Katrina, Emergency Response

In its sixth advisory, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) issues a hurricane warning for Southeast Florida Coast from Vero Beach to Florida City. A hurricane warning means that hurricane conditions are expected in the warning area within the next 24 hours. Preparations to protect life and property should be rushed to completion. A tropical storm watch remains in effect for the East-Central Florida coast. The NHC expects Katrina to become a hurricane on Thursday before reaching the Southeast Florida coastt. In its discussion, The NHC indicates that Katrina has turned west in the past few hours and is expected to continue to move slowly on a westward track for the next 24 to 48 hours. The models continue to diverge significantly on where Katrina will head after entering the Gulf of Mexico. Tracks cover the coast from Mississippi eastward. The official forecast turns Katrina northward over the eastern Gulf of Mexico. One model indicates that Katrina will barely touch the east coast of Florida before moving north, while another model indicates Katrina will travel south of due west across South Florida and the Keys as a very intense hurricane. Other aspects of the NHC Advisory include:
bullet Location: Near 26.0 N, 78.0 W., moving west at 8 mph
bullet Maximum Sustained Winds: Near 50 mph, with higher gusts
bullet Estimated Central Pressure: 1001 mb
bullet Probability that in the next 69 hours, Katrina’s eye will pass within 75 miles of:
bullet West Palm Beach, FL: 40 percent
bullet Panama City, FL: 9 percent
bullet Gulfport, MS: 4 percent
bullet New Orleans, LA: 3 percent [National Hurricane Center, 8/24/2005; National Hurricane Center, 8/24/2005; National Hurricane Center, 8/24/2005]

Entity Tags: National Hurricane Center, Hurricane Katrina

Category Tags: Pre-Impact Katrina, Advisories

The National Hurricane Center (NHC) repeats its hurricane warning for the Southeast Florida Coast from Vero Beach to Florida City. The tropical storm watch remains in effect for the east-central Florida coast. The NHC expects Katrina to strengthen into a hurricane before her center reaches Florida coast. Models are beginning to “agree” that Katrina will turn northward, although “there is still a notable spread.” The NHC predicts that Katrina will become a hurricane before landfall, will weaken while crossing the Florida peninsula, and then will re-intensify over the Golf of Mexico. Other aspects of the NHC Advisory include:
bullet Location: 26.2 N, 78.7 W
bullet Direction and Speed: West at near 8 mph
bullet Maximum Sustained Winds: 50 mph
bullet Estimated Central Pressure: 1000 mb
bullet Probability that in the next 69 hours, Katrina’s eye will pass within 75 miles of:
bullet West Palm Beach, FL: 64 percent
bullet Panama City, FL: 11 percent
bullet Gulfport, MS: 5 percent
bullet New Orleans, LA: 4 percent [National Hurricane Center, 8/25/2005; National Hurricane Center, 8/25/2005; National Hurricane Center, 8/25/2005]

Entity Tags: National Hurricane Center, Hurricane Katrina

Category Tags: Pre-Impact Katrina, Advisories

FEMA issues a press release urging residents to heed the hurricane warnings, noting that, “Even as FEMA continues our work on recovery from the past five storms, we stand with our partners at the state and local levels encouraging Floridians to take the necessary precautionary measures for the looming storm.” [Federal Emergency Management Agency, 8/25/2005]

Entity Tags: Hurricane Katrina, Federal Emergency Management Agency

Category Tags: Pre-Impact Katrina, Federal: FEMA, Emergency Response

In its eight advisory, The National Hurricane Center (NHC) retains the hurricane warning for southeast Florida, and tropical storm watches and warnings elsewhere, noting that the storm continues to strengthen. Models continue to agree Katrina will travel westward across the southern Florida peninsula for next 48 hours or so, but continue to diverge significantly in forecasting when and where Katrina will move north towards Florida panhandle or northwest Florida. One model indicates Katrina will move across northeast Florida, while another indicates Katrina will hit the western Florida panhandle. Katrina could still become a Category 1 hurricane prior to Florida landfall, and expected to re-strengthen after entering the Gulf of Mexico. Other aspects of the NHC Advisory include:
bullet Location: 26.2 N, 79.3 W
bullet Direction and Speed: West at 6 mph
bullet Maximum Sustained Winds: 60 mph
bullet Estimated Central Pressure: 997 mb
bullet Probability that in the next 69 hours, Katrina’s eye will pass within 75 miles of:
bullet West Palm Beach, FL: 99 percent
bullet Panama City, FL: 13 percent
bullet Gulfport, MS: 7 percent
bullet New Orleans, LA: 5 percent [National Hurricane Center, 8/25/2005; National Hurricane Center, 8/25/2005; National Hurricane Center, 8/25/2005]

Entity Tags: National Hurricane Center, Hurricane Katrina

Category Tags: Pre-Impact Katrina, Advisories

FEMA’s Friday Situation Update leads with Katrina, but does not discuss current FEMA operations related to the hurricane. [Federal Emergency Management Agency, 8/25/2005] According to the Saturday Update, however, FEMA will activate its Red Team at the National Response Coordination Center (NRCC) today. [Federal Emergency Management Agency, 8/26/2005] The NRCC, a functional component of the Homeland Security Operations Center (HSOC), is a multi-agency center that provides overall federal response coordination. [US Department of Homeland Security, 9/16/2005] The NRCC activates the following Emergency Support Functions (ESFs) and operations to prepare for Katrina:
bullet 1-Transportation (with an Air Ops Element)
bullet 3-Public Works and Engineering
bullet 4-Fire Fighting
bullet 5-Information and Planning
bullet 7-Resource Support
bullet 15-External Affairs
bullet Military Liaison. Note that FEMA does not list ESFs 14 and 15 as standard functions on its FEMA website. [Federal Emergency Management Agency, 10/24/2004] However, these functions are part of the National Response Plan (NRP) issued by the Department of Homeland Security in December 2004. [US Department of Homeland Security, 12/2004] According to the NRP, ESF-15 provides the resource support and mechanisms to implement the DHS’s Public Affairs policies and procedures. The Public Affairs policies and procedures, in turn, are intended “to rapidly mobilize Federal assets to prepare and deliver coordinated and sustained messages to the public in response to Incidents of National Significance and other major domestic emergencies.” [US Department of Homeland Security, 12/2004] At the same time, FEMA’s Region 4 Response Coordination Center (RRCC), which serves Alabama, Florida, and Mississippi, elevates to Level 2. [Federal Emergency Management Agency, 8/26/2005] The RRCC coordinates regional response efforts and implements local Federal program support until a Joint Field Office is established. [US Department of Homeland Security, 9/16/2005] Region 4’s RRCC activates the ESFs listed above, along with ESF-14 (long-term community recovery and mitigation). [Federal Emergency Management Agency, 8/26/2005] There is no mention of Region 6, which serves Louisiana.

Entity Tags: Hurricane Katrina, Federal Emergency Management Agency, National Response Coordination Center

Category Tags: Pre-Impact Katrina, Federal: FEMA, Emergency Response

Several counties anticipate issuing evacuation orders. Currently, Palm Beach plans to begin evacuations at 1:00 pm today. Voluntary and mandatory evacuations will begin in areas of Broward County, Martin County including the Barrier Islands, and low-lying areas of Miami-Dade County. [Florida, 8/25/2005 pdf file]

Category Tags: Pre-Impact Katrina, Advisories

Tropical Storm Katrina becomes Hurricane Katrina, according to the latest advisory issued by the National Hurricane Center (NHC). Hurricane Katrina now has maximum sustained winds of 75 mph, making it a Category 1 hurricane. The NHC expects that Katrina could strengthen before making landfall, and then weaken as it moves inland across South Florida through Friday. Models indicate that Katrina will move slight south of due west for next 12 hours, before moving northwest than north after 48 hours. NHC models agree on westward motion for next 36 hours, but continue to diverge significantly after that. One model takes Katrina northeast after 72 hours across the Florida panhandle, while three other models take Katrina significantly westward, indicating Katrina landfall between Mobile, Alabama and Grand Isle, Louisiana. However, the NHC gives two of the three models indicating a westward turn “less weight” because they have not been accurate over past 24 hours. Other aspects of the NHC Advisory include:
bullet Location: 26.1 N, 79.9 W
bullet Direction and Speed: West at near 6 mph
bullet Estimated Central Pressure: 985 mb
bullet Probability that in the next 69 hours, Katrina’s eye will pass within 75 miles of:
bullet West Palm Beach, FL: 99 percent
bullet Panama City, FL: 14 percent
bullet Gulfport, MS: 8 percent
bullet New Orleans, LA: 7 percent [National Hurricane Center, 8/25/2005; National Hurricane Center, 8/25/2005; National Hurricane Center, 8/25/2005]

Entity Tags: Hurricane Katrina, National Hurricane Center

Category Tags: Pre-Impact Katrina, Advisories

At 7:00 pm, the eye of Hurricane Katrina makes landfall near North Miami Beach with winds of 80 mph and higher gusts. [National Hurricane Center, 8/25/2005]

Entity Tags: Hurricane Katrina

Category Tags: Pre-Impact Katrina, Advisories

The eye of Hurricane Katrina, now a Category 1 hurricane, is moving southwest across Miami-Dade County, and expected to move into the Gulf of Mexico Friday morning. The National Hurricane Center (NHC) expects Katrina to strengthen as it moves into the Gulf. Two models indicate Katrina will become a major hurricane. Indications are that Katrina will move westward before being forced northerly over the eastern Gulf of Mexico. “All indications are that Katrina will be a dangerous hurricane in the Northeastern Gulf of Mexico in about 3 days.” Other aspects of the NHC Advisory include:
bullet Location: Miami-Dade County, Florida
bullet Direction and Speed: Southwest at near 8 mph
bullet Maximum Sustained Winds: Near 75 mph with higher gusts
bullet Estimated Central Pressure: 961 mb
bullet Probability that in the next 69 hours, Katrina’s eye will pass within 75 miles of:
bullet Panama City, FL: 16 percent
bullet Gulfport, MS: 9 percent
bullet New Orleans, LA: 7 percent [National Hurricane Center, 8/25/2005; National Hurricane Center, 8/25/2005; National Hurricane Center, 8/25/2005]

Entity Tags: Hurricane Katrina

Category Tags: Pre-Impact Katrina, Advisories

Today, 700 Marines stationed at the Marine Reserve Headquarters in New Orleans are ordered to evacuate, according to a Knight Ridder report. [Knight Ridder, 9/11/2005]

Category Tags: Pre-Impact Katrina, Federal, Emergency Response, Evacuation

Today’s Times-Picayune reports that New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin may ask voters to approve a special tax to improve public safety in the city. Increasingly frustrated with the city’s rising murder rate, Nagin wants to “ask voters to tax themselves to help pay for several items aimed at curbing violent crime in the city: additional police officers, higher salaries for cops, better computer systems, more crime cameras and enhanced recreational and youth programs.” “I think this is kind of a put-up-or-shut-up moment,” Nagin said. “How concerned are you, City of New Orleans, about fixing this problem?” Nagin, who seemed poised for unchallenged reelection, acknowledged that some might question the sanity of proposing a big idea that could invite a challenger into the race. “At the end of the day, I may go down as the craziest man that’s ever run for public office in the City of New Orleans’ history,” he said. [Times-Picayune, 8/29/2005]

Entity Tags: Ray Nagin

Category Tags: Pre-Impact Katrina, Louisiana: NOLA

Today, Senator David Vitter (R-La) will argue before a Senate committee hearing that the federal government should bear more of the cost of a 10-year plan to stop coastal land loss. The Bush administration has argued that Louisiana should bear 50 percent of the costs, while Vitter argues that the federal government should bear 75 percent of the cost. [Associated Press, 8/29/2005]

Entity Tags: David Vitter, Bush administration (43)

Category Tags: Pre-Impact Katrina, Federal, Louisiana: State, Policies, Coastal Wetlands

FEMA’s National Situation Update again leads with Katrina, anticipating that Katrina will regenerate today as it travels across the Gulf of Mexico. [Federal Emergency Management Agency, 8/26/2005] The Update indicates that Emergency Operations Centers in Florida, Alabama, Georgia, and Mississippi have been activated at various levels. However, Louisiana is not even mentioned today’s Update. [Federal Emergency Management Agency, 8/26/2005] A team leader critical of FEMA’s response in Louisiana will later speak to the Washington Post on the condition of anonymity, asserting that there was no sense of urgency within FEMA at this time: “Nobody’s turning the key to start the engine.” He wondered, “Why aren’t we treating this as a bigger emergency? Why aren’t we doing anything?” [Washington Post, 9/11/2005] Note, however, that the Washington Post report that FEMA is operating at Level 1 at this time contradicts FEMA’s contemporaneous report, which states that it began operating at Level 2 on Thursday. The National Response Coordination Center (NRCC) will not transition to Level 1 until Saturday, August 27 at 7:00 am EDT. [Federal Emergency Management Agency, 8/27/2005]

Entity Tags: Hurricane Katrina, Federal Emergency Management Agency

Category Tags: Pre-Impact Katrina, Federal: FEMA, Execution of Emergency Plans, Emergency Response

Lt. Gen. Russel Honore will later report that the Northern Command begins coordinating emergency response efforts with Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana between Friday, August 26 and Saturday, August 27. [US Department of Defense, 9/1/2005]
Note - Honore does not identify the state(s) in which efforts begin today; nor does he describe what state-specific efforts are initiated. However, given that Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama have not yet declared states of emergency, it seems unlikely that the Northern Command is coordinating emergency efforts with these states at this time.

Entity Tags: Bobby Jindal, US Northern Command

Category Tags: Pre-Impact Katrina, Federal, Emergency Response

Public works employees in St. Tammany Parish clean storm drains and ditches to prevent them from clogging during heavy rains. Emergency Operations Center employees go on standby alert. [Times-Picayune, 8/27/2005]

Entity Tags: National Emergency Operations Center

Category Tags: Pre-Impact Katrina, Louisiana: SELA, Emergency Response

The Mississippi Valley Division of the US Army Corps of Engineers, based in Vicksburg, Mississippi, begins preparations today to support hurricane response operations in Louisiana and Mississippi, according to an undated Army Corps news release. This same release notes that “[w]ith an estimated 500 Corps personnel still deployed in support of the Global War on Terror, it will require an even larger contingent of Corps personnel to support emergency operations if Katrina comes ashore in our area of responsibility as a Category 4 or 5 hurricane. Anticipating potential requirements to pump water out of New Orleans, the Corps has begun discussions with partners to preposition assets to conduct un-watering operations should Katrina strike the southern Louisiana and New Orleans area.” [US Army Corps of Engineers, 8/29/2005]

Entity Tags: US Army Corps of Engineers

Category Tags: Pre-Impact Katrina, Federal, Emergency Response

The National Hurricane Center (NHC) reports that Katrina has regained hurricane strength upon leaving Florida and entering the Gulf of Mexico. NHC expects Katrina to continue, with slight increase in speed, over next 24 hours. Models generally agree that Katrina will migrate westward, gradually turning northwest. The “consensus” of models has shifted westward. Indications are now stronger that Katrina will be a dangerous hurricane in the northeastern Gulf of Mexico within the next couple of days. The official forecast indicates Katrina winds will strengthen to 100 mph, although two models forecast a major hurricane. Other aspects of the NHC Advisory include:
bullet Location: 25.3 N, 81.5W
bullet Direction and Speed: Due west at near 5 mph
bullet Maximum Sustained Winds: 75 mph with higher gusts
bullet Estimated Central Pressure: 987 mb
bullet Probability that in the next 69 hours, Katrina’s eye will pass within 75 miles of:
bullet Panama City, FL: 17 percent
bullet Gulfport, MS: 11 percent
bullet New Orleans, LA: 8 percent [National Hurricane Center, 8/26/2005; National Hurricane Center, 8/26/2005; National Hurricane Center, 8/26/2005]

Entity Tags: National Hurricane Center, Hurricane Katrina

Category Tags: Pre-Impact Katrina, Advisories

Hurricane Katrina will make landfall in Louisiana in only 72 hours, and critics will later charge that, by failing to call for an evacuation at this hour, local and state officials fail to execute their own emergency plans properly. Other critics will question why the federal government does focus efforts towards Louisiana and, particularly, the New Orleans area today. However, at this hour, Katrina has just reconstituted as a Category 1 hurricane, and it appears more likely to head towards the Florida Panhandle (Northeastern Gulf Coast than towards Louisiana. Indeed, the first National Hurricane Center Advisory to indicate that Katrina threatens New Orleans is still several hours away (see 10:00 am August 26, 2005), and, according to its own reports, FEMA has not yet activated the Region 6 Response Coordination Center, which serves Louisiana.
Note 1 - The particular plan(s) implemented by local, state, and national officials during this crisis remains unclear. While various government websites contain several “plans,” it is not clear that the posted plans are the operative documents at this time, and some reports indicate that officials are operating under another plan (or plans). [Chicago Tribune, 9/11/2005]
Note 2 - Contrary to many published reports, the New Orleans Emergency Plan for Hurricane Evacuations (NOLA Plan), or the version of this Plan available online, does not require evacuation 72 hours in advance of all hurricanes, and does not address the concept of “mandatory” evacuations at all. Rather, the Plan contemplates a maximum time of 72 hours to prepare for a hurricane. The NOLA Plan contemplates that, “Slow developing weather conditions (primarily hurricane) will create increased readiness culminating in an evacuation order 24 hours (12 daylight hours) prior to predicted landfall.” [City of New Orleans, n.d.] In another place, the NOLA Plan states as follows: “Using information developed as part of the Southeast Louisiana Hurricane Task Force and other research, the City of New Orleans has established a maximum acceptable hurricane evacuation time standard for a Category 3 storm event of 72 hours. This is based on clearance time or is the time required to clear all vehicles evacuating in response to a hurricane situation from area roadways. Clearance time begins when the first evacuating vehicle enters the road network and ends when the last evacuating vehicle reaches its destination.” The NOLA Plan continues: “Evacuation notices or orders will be issued during three stages prior to gale force winds making landfall.”
bullet Precautionary Evacuation Notice: 72 hours or less
bullet Special Needs Evacuation Order: 8-12 hours after Precautionary Evacuation Notice issued
bullet General Evacuation Notice: 48 hours or less [City of New Orleans, n.d.]
Note 3 - The two Southeast Louisiana Hurricane Evacuation and Sheltering Plans posted on the Louisiana State website each reference a table which “give[s] information on the times at which action to evacuate people must be taken if the total number of people in the risk area is to be evacuated in Category 3 (Slow), 4 and 5 hurricanes” for parishes in Southeastern Louisiana. However, the referenced table is missing from the plans. [Louisiana, 1/2000 pdf file; Louisiana, 1/2000 pdf file] Therefore, the timetable contemplated under these plans for implementing evacuation orders remains unclear.

Entity Tags: Hurricane Katrina, City of New Orleans, Southeast Louisiana Hurricane Task Force

Category Tags: Pre-Impact Katrina, Advisories

Meteorologist Jeff Matthews, Director of the Weather Underground, reports on the latest modeling: “Although Katrina is currently moving just south of due west, the computer track models unanimously agree that a trough moving across the central US this weekend will ‘pick up’ Katrina and force it on a northward path towards the Florida Panhandle.… While New Orleans [certainly] needs to keep a wary eye on Katrina, it seems that the Florida Panhandle has its usual hurricane magnet in place, and the same piece of coast punished by Ivan and Dennis is destined for another strike by a major hurricane.” [Masters, 8/26/2005]

Entity Tags: Hurricane Katrina, Jeff Matthews

Category Tags: Pre-Impact Katrina, Advisories

Florida’s Situation Report this morning notes that seven counties are under evacuation orders. Forty-one shelters currently house 2,000 evacuees. Several counties have announced school closings, and 1.2 million customers have no power. [Florida, 8/26/2005 pdf file]

Category Tags: Pre-Impact Katrina, Florida

Katrina gains strength as it moves westward away from Florida, according to the latest advisory from the National Hurricane Center (NHC). The NHC expects Katrina to strengthen into a Category 2 hurricane by Saturday. Most of the models indicate that Katrina’s path will flatten out in more westward direction over next 12 hours. Two models indicate “large jump” west over Louisiana, while most other models indicate Katrina will move inland over the Northeast Gulf Coast. The NHC expects Katrina to strengthen into a major hurricane. Other aspects of the NHC Advisory include:
bullet Location: 25.1 N, 82.2 W
bullet Direction and Speed: West at near 7 mph
bullet Maximum Sustained Winds: 80 mph with higher gusts
bullet Estimated Central Pressure: 981 mb
bullet Probability that in the next 69 hours, Katrina’s eye will pass within 75 miles of:
bullet Panama City, FL: 18 percent
bullet Gulfport, MS: 12 percent
bullet New Orleans, LA: 10 percent [National Hurricane Center, 8/26/2005; National Hurricane Center, 8/26/2005; National Hurricane Center, 8/26/2005]

Entity Tags: National Hurricane Center, Hurricane Katrina

Category Tags: Pre-Impact Katrina, Advisories

The National Hurricane Center (NHC) issues a special advisory that Katrina, now a Category 2 hurricane, is rapidly gaining strength as it moves westward. Forecasters expect Katrina to strengthen during the next 24 hours and may become a Category 3 hurricane. Given the drop in pressure, the NHC predicts that Katrina will rapidly strengthen to near Category 4 hurricane within 72 hours. (In fact, Katrina will become a Category 4 hurricane in 61 hours (see 1:00 am August 28, 2005), and will make landfall in only 67 hours .) Other aspects of the NHC Advisory include:
bullet Location: 25.1 N, 82.2 W
bullet Direction and Speed: West near 7 mph
bullet Maximum Sustained Winds: Near 100 mph with higher gusts
bullet Estimated Central Pressure: 971 mb
bullet Probability that in the next 69 hours, Katrina’s eye will pass within 75 miles of:
bullet Panama City, FL: 18 percent
bullet Gulfport, MS: 13 percent
bullet New Orleans, LA: 11 percent [National Hurricane Center, 8/26/2005; National Hurricane Center, 8/26/2005; National Hurricane Center, 8/26/2005]

Entity Tags: Hurricane Katrina, National Hurricane Center

Category Tags: Pre-Impact Katrina, Advisories

Around this time, various weather forums and bloggers begin to discuss the threat to New Orleans that Katrina poses. Brendan Loy, a self-described “meteorology nerd” from Indiana, posts the following blog, titled “New Orleans in Peril,” at 11:37 am: “At the risk of being alarmist, we could be 3-4 days away from an unprecedented cataclysm that could kill as many as 100,000 people in New Orleans. Such a scenario is unlikely—the conditions would have been just right (or rather, just wrong)—but IMHO, it’s not nearly unlikely enough to feel good about things. If I were in New Orleans, I would seriously consider getting the hell out of dodge right now, just in case.” Loy continues: “Normally, watches go up approximately 48 hours before the leading edge of the storm is expected to hit, but I wonder whether the NHC might fudge that a bit, and issue watches earlier, if New Orleans looks like the target, in light of the time-consuming logistical nightmare that a citywide evacuation would be. On the other hand, an evacuation that ultimately proves to have been unnecessary is economically costly and, more importantly, may have a vigilance-lowering ‘boy who cried wolf’ effect, especially since it would be the second time in as many years. So this is going to be a tough call for the NHC. Here’s hoping they get it right… and here’s praying that New Orleans is spared.” [Loy, 8/26/2005] (See also, generally, [Masters, 8/26/2005] )

Entity Tags: Brendan Loy

Category Tags: Pre-Impact Katrina, General Public, Advisories

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

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

Category Tags: Pre-Impact Katrina, Louisiana: SELA, Emergency Response

As set forth in the emergency planning manuals, Walter Maestri, Director of the Emergency Management Center in Jefferson Parish, calls Jeff Smith, Deputy Director of Louisiana’s Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Planning. Maestri learns that NHC Director Max Mayfield has called them too. “So I said, ‘Then you know what he’s sharing?’ And he says, ‘Yes, but the storm right now…’ and I said, ‘Please, please. You’ve indicated you don’t know Max. Let me tell you. When he calls you like that, he’s telling you you need to be ready, be prepared.’” [National Public Radio, 9/9/2005]

Entity Tags: Jeff Smith, Walter Maestri, Max Mayfield

Category Tags: Pre-Impact Katrina, Louisiana: SELA, Emergency Response

The National Hurricane Center (NHC) reports that Katrina, now a Category 2 hurricane, continues to move west-southwest away from Florida, and is expected to gradually turn west on Saturday. Models have now shifted significantly westward. The NHC states that the “projected landfall is still about 72 hours away.” (In fact, Katrina will make landfall in only 55 hours.) The NHC expects that Katrina will strengthen over the next 24 hours, becoming a Category 3—or major—hurricane later today, and may be a Category 4 hurricane at landfall. Other aspects of the NHC Advisory include:
bullet Location: 24.8 N, 82.9 W (approximately 70 miles west-northwest of Key West, Florida)
bullet Direction and Speed: West-southwest at near 8 mph
bullet Maximum Sustained Winds: Near 100 mph with higher gusts
bullet Estimated Central Pressure: 965 mb
bullet Size: Hurricane force winds extend outward from the center up to 25 miles; and tropical storm force winds extend up to 85 miles
bullet Probability that in the next 69 hours, Katrina’s eye will pass within 75 miles of:
bullet Panama City, FL: 17 percent
bullet Gulfport, MS: 16 percent
bullet New Orleans, LA: 15 percent [National Hurricane Center, 8/26/2005; National Hurricane Center, 8/26/2005; National Hurricane Center, 8/26/2005]

Entity Tags: Hurricane Katrina, National Hurricane Center

Category Tags: Pre-Impact Katrina, Advisories

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

Entity Tags: Kathleen Babineaux Blanco, Hurricane Katrina

Category Tags: Pre-Impact Katrina, Louisiana: State, Emergency Response

State officials hold a conference call with emergency preparedness directors for the Southeastern Louisiana parishes to discuss the storm forecasts and state plans. The Louisiana Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness (LOHSEP), has already mobilized its crisis action team, although, representative Mark Smith remarks that while they are getting prepared, they are “in a state of flux. Nobody’s real sure exactly what Katrina is going to do.” The office plans to activate its Baton Rouge Emergency Operations Center Saturday morning at 7:30 am, with a statewide conference call. [Louisiana, 8/26/2005; Times-Picayune, 8/27/2005]

Entity Tags: National Emergency Operations Center, Mark Smith

Category Tags: Pre-Impact Katrina, Louisiana: State, Louisiana: SELA, Emergency Response

Meteorologist Jeff Matthews, Director of the Weather Underground, reports that the latest computer models indicate, “the threat of a strike on New Orleans by Katrina as a major hurricane has grown. The official NHC forecast is now 170 miles west of where it was at 11am, and still is to the east of the consensus model guidance. It would be no surprise if later advisories shift the forecast track even further west and put Katrina over New Orleans. Until Katrina makes its northward turn, I would cast a very doubtful eye on the model predictions of Katrina’s track.” [Masters, 8/26/2005]

Entity Tags: Jeff Matthews, Hurricane Katrina

Category Tags: Pre-Impact Katrina, General Public, Advisories

Florida reports four confirmed fatalities because of Katrina. Over one million customers remain without power. Eleven shelters are housing 546 evacuees. [Florida, 8/26/2005 pdf file]

Category Tags: Pre-Impact Katrina, Florida

CBS News reports that new models indicate that Katrina may shift west towards New Orleans. Noting that New Orleans is “among one of the most vulnerable hurricane places, if not the most vulnerable in the country,” the reporter reminds viewers that although hurricanes generally weaken before hitting land, “Hurricane Camille didn’t in ‘69; there’s no guarantee that this one will. This could very well be a Category 4.” [CBS News, 8/26/2005] ABC News contains a similar report tonight, nothing that Katrina could hit near New Orleans and be a catastrophic hurricane. [ABC, 8/26/2005] MSNBC reports that four out of five computer models indicate that Katrina will hit between New Orleans and the Mississippi-Alabama Border. [MSNBC, 8/26/2005]

Entity Tags: Hurricane Camille, Hurricane Katrina

Category Tags: Pre-Impact Katrina, Advisories, Before Katrina

Florida now has 11 confirmed Katrina-related fatalities. Less than 500,000 customers remain without power. Shelters now house approximately 100 evacuees. [Florida, 8/28/2005 pdf file]

Category Tags: Pre-Impact Katrina, Florida

CNN’s Larry King focuses on Hurricane Katrina tonight. Meteorologists Sam Champion (WABC-TV) and Rob Marciano (CNN) both predict that that Katrina will be a Category 3 or four storm that could hit near New Orleans or western Florida by Monday morning. Marciano warns that the storm could be “as bad if not worse than Hurricane Charlie coming on shore.” Champion characterizes the situation for people from “Pensacola all the way to New Orleans” as “bad news. I think its trouble. I think it certainly is one of those things that you get up and you watch very carefully.” [CNN, 8/26/2005]

Entity Tags: Sam Champion, Hurricane Charlie, Rob Marciano, Hurricane Katrina

Category Tags: Pre-Impact Katrina, Media, Advisories

New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin tells the Times-Picayune that he is alarmed with Hurricane Katrina’s potential path and the lack of time available to prepare for such a large storm. “This storm really scares me,” he says. The state’s new Contraflow Plan calls for evacuation plans to be implemented 50 hours before a storm hits. “That’s why I’m trying to stress to everyone now to get prepared,” Nagin says. City officials will not make a decision regarding emergency measures or evacuations until Saturday, which will not give residents much time to prepare. Officials from Jefferson Parish, St. Bernard Parish, and Plaquemines Parish also encourage residents to prepare for the storm. [Times-Picayune, 8/27/2005]

Entity Tags: Hurricane Katrina, Ray Nagin

Category Tags: Pre-Impact Katrina, Louisiana: NOLA, Evacuation, Execution of Emergency Plans

FEMA Director Michael Brown appears on CNN’s Larry King to report on preparations: “FEMA is positioning all of its material and manpower to be ready to respond as this thing makes—begins to move through the Gulf and make landfall again,” and warns that “all those people living all the way from Louisiana over to the Florida Panhandle need to think now about getting ready for what could be a very major storm.” Brown continues: “You know, everyone has been talking about the fact that we’re over a million people without power [in Florida]. And that’s at a Category 1 level. Think about if this storm moves to a Category 4 level. I want folks in that potential strike zone to think very seriously this weekend about a storm striking anywhere from Louisiana over to the Florida Panhandle area.” Brown also explains FEMA’s role. According to Brown, FEMA prepares for the “maybes” (i.e., places like Mobile, New Orleans, and Mississippi), by pre-positioning things. “We have literally convoys of trucks going to different Air Force bases. We talk to the governors about what their potential evacuation plans are. And we really try to get the message out to individuals in those areas. To listen to your local newscast, listen to your local weather reports, follow those instructions.… And then we try to anticipate where it might make landfall across a broad range of land, and be ready to move in anywhere any governor might ask us to go.” [CNN, 8/26/2005]

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

Category Tags: Pre-Impact Katrina, Federal: FEMA, Execution of Emergency Plans

The National Hurricane Center (NHC) reports that Katrina continues to move west-southwest, but will likely turn west, then west-northwest on Saturday. Katrina is following the typical pattern observed in intense hurricanes, and likely will become a Category 4 hurricane. Indeed, some models indicate it could become a Category 5 hurricane. NHC warns, “most of the reliable numerical model tracks are now clustered between the eastern coast of Louisiana and the coast of Mississippi.” The official forecast indicates that Katrina will move over the north central Gulf of Mexico in approximately 48 hours. Other aspects of the NHC Advisory include:
bullet Location: 24.6 N, 83.6 W
bullet Direction and Speed: West-southwest at 8 mph
bullet Maximum Sustained Winds: 105 mph with higher gusts
bullet Estimated Central Pressure: 965 mb
bullet Size: Hurricane force winds extend outward from the center up to 25 miles; and tropical storm force winds extend up to 85 miles
bullet Probability that in the next 69 hours, Katrina’s eye will pass within 75 miles of:
bullet Panama City, FL: 15 percent
bullet Gulfport, MS: 18 percent
bullet New Orleans, LA: 17 percent [National Hurricane Center, 8/26/2005; National Hurricane Center, 8/26/2005; National Hurricane Center, 8/26/2005]

Entity Tags: National Hurricane Center, Hurricane Katrina

Category Tags: Pre-Impact Katrina, Advisories

At least 21 oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of New Orleans will evacuate today. [ONASA (Bosnia-Herzegovina), 8/27/2005]

Category Tags: Pre-Impact Katrina, Private Sector, Evacuation

The Red Cross is reportedly preparing for 150,000 casualties in New Orleans. [Dallas Morning News, 8/29/2005]

Entity Tags: American Red Cross

Category Tags: Pre-Impact Katrina, NGOs, Response to Emergency Response

As Katrina barrels towards the Gulf Coast, most of the top White House staff members are on vacation, taking advantage of President Bush’s five-week vacation at his Crawford, Texas ranch. Andrew Card, White House Chief of Staff, and a veteran crisis manager who managed the federal response to hurricanes under George H.W. Bush, is vacationing at his lakefront summer home in Maine. Vice President Dick Cheney is vacationing at his Wyoming ranch. Frances Townsend, the White House Homeland Security Advisor who reports to Bush on Homeland Security policy and combating terrorism matters, is vacationing as well. After Katrina sweeps through the Gulf Coast, she will attend several meetings in Washington, before leaving on a previously scheduled trip to Saudi Arabia where she will work on joint counterterrorism projects. Bush will urge Townsend to make the trip despite the unfolding Katrina disaster as a “signal to… the enemy” that the hurricane has not distracted Bush’s attention from terrorists, according to one report. Later, White House representatives will decline to identify the person in charge of preparing for the hurricane in Washington, maintaining that Bush and his aides can run the government just as well from their summer homes. “Andy Card is the chief of staff, and he was in close contact with everyone,” White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan will say at one point. “And the president is the one who’s in charge at the White House.” [Los Angeles Times, 9/11/2005] On Tuesday, August 30, when asked to identify the person leading the White House’s response to Katrina, McClellan will reply that Joe Hagin, Deputy Chief of staff is the “point person in terms of overseeing efforts from the White House.” [White House, 8/30/2005]

Entity Tags: Scott McClellan, Andrew Card, Hurricane Katrina, Joseph W. Hagin, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, George W. Bush, Frances Townsend

Category Tags: Pre-Impact Katrina, Federal, Emergency Response

Katrina, now Category 3 hurricane, will only strengthen during the next 24 hours, The National Hurricane Center (NHC) reports. Katrina’s eye is now clearly visible, and central pressure is dropping. Models now agree Katrina will move west-northwest later today, before turning northwest and north over the next 2-3 days. Katrina is likely to be a major hurricane upon landfall. Other aspects of the NHC Advisory include:
bullet Location: 435 miles southeast of the mouth of the Mississippi River
bullet Direction and Speed: West at near 7 mph
bullet Maximum Sustained Winds: 115 mph, with higher gusts
bullet Estimated Central Pressure: 945 mb
bullet Size: Hurricane force winds extend outward from center up to 40 miles; tropical storm force winds extend outward up to 150 miles
bullet Probability that in the next 69 hours, Katrina’s eye will pass within 75 miles of:
bullet Panama City, FL: 11 percent
bullet Gulfport, MS: 16 percent
bullet New Orleans, LA: 17 percent [National Hurricane Center, 8/27/2005; National Hurricane Center, 8/27/2005; National Hurricane Center, 8/27/2005]

Entity Tags: Hurricane Katrina, National Hurricane Center

Category Tags: Pre-Impact Katrina, Advisories

Louisiana Governor Blanco, determining that the storm will be so big that state and local governments will not be able to handle it, asks President Bush to declare a state of emergency. The exact timing of Blanco’s letter is unclear. The PDF version of the letter is dated August 28. [Louisiana, 8/28/2005 pdf file] However, the Federal News dateline for the letter is 4:27 am EDT August 27. [Federal News Service, 8/27/2005] Governor Blanco’s office and the Times-Picayune will publish the full text of the letter today. [Louisiana, 8/27/2005; Walker, 8/27/2005]

Entity Tags: George W. Bush, Kathleen Babineaux Blanco

Category Tags: Pre-Impact Katrina, Louisiana: State, Emergency Response

FEMA Director Michael Brown will spend today working on hurricane preparations in his office. Brown will sign off on two declarations; one releasing federal money for the response to Katrina, the other approving a similar request for money to battle a California wildfire, FEMA officials will later tell National Public Radio. DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff will monitor the situation from his home, according to a later statement from Russ Knocke, the Homeland Security representative. [National Public Radio, 9/16/2005]

Entity Tags: Michael Chertoff, Michael D. Brown, Russ Knocke

Category Tags: Pre-Impact Katrina, Federal: FEMA, Emergency Response

FEMA’s National Situation Update once again leads with Katrina, noting that the Mississippi and Louisiana governors have declared a state of emergency, due to the threat posed by the hurricane. The Update warns, in bold type, that “New Orleans is of particular concern because much of that city lies below sea level,” and then continues: “[I]f the hurricane winds blow from a certain direction, there are dire predictions of what may happen in the city.” According to the Update, Department of Defense and Rapid Needs Assessment functions “are being activated,” while Region 4 (which serves Alabama, Florida, and Mississippi, among others) remains at Level 2 operations. Curiously, the Update does not mention the status of Region 6, which serves Louisiana. [Federal Emergency Management Agency, 8/27/2005] Leo Bosner, FEMA Emergency Management Specialist (and president of the union representing FEMA staff), will later state that FEMA staff issues this Update at 5:30 this morning, and that they pointedly focused on New Orleans: “We used good, heavy black type. We said there’s a storm going toward New Orleans and it’s a Force—I think it was a Force 3, expected to strengthen into a Force 4 at that point. And we let them know this is a very serious situation. There were some resources being mobilized but really not quite enough for that kind of a scale. They get these things in person. They go to their office computer and to their BlackBerry.” According to Bosner’s later recollection, “We sent the information up and we’d expected that by the time we come in, everything would be swinging into action. We got there, and there was the sounds of silence.” [National Public Radio, 9/16/2005 Sources: Leo Bosner]

Entity Tags: Hurricane Katrina, Federal Emergency Management Agency

Category Tags: Pre-Impact Katrina, Federal: FEMA, Execution of Emergency Plans, Emergency Response

At 6:00 am, FEMA’s National Response Coordination Center (NRCC) transitions to 24-hour operations, activating the Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC). FEMA also activates several more emergency support functions (in addition to those that were activated on Thursday (see 11:00 am EDT August 25, 2005)), including: communications; mass care (managing and coordinating food, shelter and first aid for victims, providing bulk distribution of relief supplies, and operating a system to assist family reunification); health and medical services; urban search and rescue; food delivery; hazardous materials management; and energy (restoring power and fuel supplies). [Federal Emergency Management Agency, 8/27/2005]

Entity Tags: Emergency Management Assistance Compact, National Response Coordination Center, Federal Emergency Management Agency

Category Tags: Pre-Impact Katrina, Federal: FEMA, Emergency Response

The Louisiana State Police activates the Emergency Operations Center in Baton Rouge, and opens a toll-free hotline. The center will monitor the path of Hurricane Katrina. Additionally, local troops have placed additional troopers on telephone standby in preparations to assist with increased traffic flow. [Louisiana State Police, 8/27/2005; Louisiana State Police, 8/27/2005]

Entity Tags: Louisiana State Police, National Emergency Operations Center, Hurricane Katrina

Category Tags: Pre-Impact Katrina, Louisiana: State, Emergency Response

Hurricane Katrina will make landfall in Louisiana in only 48 hours . Governor Blanco has declared a state of emergency (see 4:00 pm August 26, 2005), and requested that President Bush declare a state of emergency, to enable direct federal assistance in the potential disaster (see Early Morning August 27, 2005). FEMA has apparently sent 10-20 staff members to Louisiana by this time (see 11:00 am August 27, 2005).

Entity Tags: Hurricane Katrina

Category Tags: Pre-Impact Katrina, Advisories, Federal: FEMA, Louisiana: State, Emergency Response

Meteorologist Jeff Matthews, Director of the Weather Underground, urges New Orleans residents to leave: “Emergency management officials in New Orleans are no doubt waiting to see where Katrina makes her turn before ordering evacuations. However, if I lived in the city, I would eva[cu]ate NOW! The risks are too great from this storm, and a weekend away from the city would be nice anyway, right? GO! New Orleans needs a full 72 hours to evacuate, and landfall is already less than 72 hours away, so I would get out now and beat the rush. If an evacuation is ordered, not everyone who wants to get out may be able to do so.” Matthews also speculates that Katrina could be the costliest hurricane ever: “Insurers estimate that Katrina already did about $1 to $4 billion in damage.… This is a shocking number for a Category 1 hurricane, and bodes ill for the residents of New Orleans and the US insurance industry if Katrina makes a direct hit on New Orleans as a Category 4 storm, which would likely cost $100 billion. But, New Orleans’ amazing run of luck could well continue at the expense of Mississippi or Alabama or Florida. Like Camille in 1969, Katrina may come ashore far enough east of New Orleans to largely spare it.” [Masters, 8/27/2005]

Entity Tags: Hurricane Katrina, Jeff Matthews

Category Tags: Pre-Impact Katrina, Private Sector, Advisories

Alabama Governor Bob Riley offers Louisiana Governor Blanco and Mississippi Governor Barbour assistance if necessary, upon reviewing this morning’s National Weather Service report showing that Katrina’s most serious impact will most likely be in Louisiana and Mississippi. [Alabama, 8/27/2005]

Entity Tags: Hurricane Katrina, Bob Riley, Kathleen Babineaux Blanco, Haley Barbour, National Weather Service

Category Tags: Pre-Impact Katrina, Louisiana: State, Mississippi: State, Advisories

Phil Capitano, Mayor of Kenner (Jefferson Parish, Louisiana), issues an urgent announcement on the city website: “Residents of Kenner: I AM URGING, I AM BEGGING YOU TO LEAVE TOWN NOW!…Hurricane Katrina is going to deal a devastating blow to Kenner…THIS IS A KILLER STORM…” Capitano states that “If you decide to stay, and again we strongly urge against it…one of the most important things to have is an ax, pick, hammer or some type of device [t]hat will allow you to break through your roof and get away from flood waters…, and we do expect much of Kenner to be under water.” He continues, “I cannot emphasize enough to Kenner residents—the urgency, the absolute need to evacuate,” warning that the weakest spot is the parish line along Airline highway, where the levee board sandbags will only be six feet high, and thus, “they are going to be overrun.” [Kenner, 8/29/2005]

Entity Tags: Hurricane Katrina, Phil Capitano

Category Tags: Pre-Impact Katrina, Louisiana: SELA, Execution of Emergency Plans, Evacuation, Levee Breach/Flooding

Several public schools announce that they will be closed next week. Tulane University announces that it will close at 5:00 pm today, and encourages its students to evacuate. [Times-Picayune Blog, 8/27/2005]

Category Tags: Pre-Impact Katrina, Private Sector, Evacuation

St. Charles Parish issues a mandatory evacuation at 9:00 am. Around the same time, New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin encourages Jefferson Parish officials to follow the state evacuation plan, which calls for low-lying coastal areas to evacuate first, warning that: “The problem with this storm is that it’s going to compress everything. We have a shorter window to deal with this storm and we’ve got to get people to start evacuating.” Jefferson Parish declares a voluntarily evacuation for most of the parish and a mandatory evacuation for the coastal areas of Grand isle, Crown Point, Lafitte and Barataria. Plaquemines Parish declares a mandatory evacuation and begins evacuating special-needs residents by mid-day. St. Bernard Parish officials recommend that all residents evacuate, although Larry Ingargiola, Emergency Management Director, states that the parish will not declare a mandatory evacuation because it will not offer shelters. [Times-Picayune Blog, 8/27/2005 Sources: Jefferson Parish]

Entity Tags: Larry Ingargiola, St. Charles Parish, Ray Nagin

Category Tags: Pre-Impact Katrina, Louisiana: NOLA, Louisiana: SELA, Evacuation

The Louisiana National Guard is alerted this morning, according to Lt. Col. Pete Schneider: “[A]ll of a sudden, on Saturday morning, the call went out, you know, this thing is in the Gulf. The call still went out to, ‘Hey, we got to keep an eye on it a little bit more now,’ but it was still projected to go into the eastern Panhandle. You know, everybody was keeping an eye on it, but—and then Friday—and then Saturday afternoon was, ‘That’s it, you know, it’s not making the turn. It’s time to roll.’” [National Public Radio, 9/9/2005 Sources: Pete Schneider] Approximately 3,500-4,000 National Guard members called to state active duty, along with along with Guard equipment such as vehicles, generators, and Humvees. According to Schneider, troops fan out to staging areas across the state, where they will wait for the storm to pass, before distributing supplies and maintaining order. The emergency plan anticipates the possibility of looting and violence. The plans call for Guard troops to be pre-positioned with the New Orleans Police Department and with state police troops throughout the greater New Orleans area. [Salon, 9/1/2005; National Public Radio, 9/9/2005 Sources: Pete Schneider] As of today, approximately 35 percent of Louisiana’s National Guard troops are serving in Iraq or Afghanistan, according to the National Guard. Approximately 40 percent of Mississippi’s National Guard Troops and approximately 23 percent of Alabama’s National Guard troops are also serving overseas. [American Forces Press Service, 8/29/2005] Louisiana’s 256th Infantry and Mississippi’s 155th Armored, each deployed overseas, contain hundreds of members who serve in “combat support” roles such as engineers, truck drivers, and logisticians, and thus who specialize in the disaster relief functions. [Los Angeles Times, 9/11/2005] Lt. Gen. Steven Blum, head of the National Guard, will later claim that the deployment of Guard troops and equipment oversees has left troops at home without the equipment and vehicles necessary to respond to a crisis such as Katrina. Most of the Guard’s satellite phones, which are essential during power and cell phone service outages that will occur when Katrina sweeps through, are overseas, according to Blum, as is most of the Guard’s best equipment. Sen. John Warner (R-Va.), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, will state that “once again our Guard is, I don’t like to use the word ‘stressed,’ but they are challenged” by commitments at home and overseas. [Chicago Tribune, 9/17/2005] However, top Pentagon officials will deny that the Guard’s deployment in Iraq has any impact on the Guard’s ability to respond to the disaster. “That’s just flat wrong. Anyone who’s saying that doesn’t understand the situation,” Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld will contend. [Los Angeles Times, 9/11/2005]
Note - The exact number of members called to active duty today is unclear. Several news reports indicate that 3,500 members are called to duty. [MacCash and O.Byrne, 8/29/2005; American Forces Press Service, 8/29/2005; Salon, 9/1/2005] . Other news reports state that 4,000 members are called to duty. [National Public Radio, 9/9/2005] The Boston Globe will report that 5,700 Guard members are deployed by Monday. The Baton Rouge Advocate reports that it based on a timeline received from the Louisiana National Guard, 2,000 members are mobilized on Saturday, and 4,000 members are mobilized by Sunday. [Advocate (Baton Rouge), 9/9/2005]

Entity Tags: Steven Blum, New Orleans Police Department, Donald Rumsfeld, Louisiana National Guard

Category Tags: Pre-Impact Katrina, Louisiana: State, Emergency Response

The National Hurricane Center (NHC) issues its first hurricane watch for the southeastern coast of Louisiana, from east of Morgan City to the mouth of the Pearl River, including New Orleans. A hurricane watch likely will be required for other portions of northern gulf coast later today. Models also indicate Katrina will strengthen and could become a Category 5 hurricane, and the hurricane will likely move west-northwest during the next 24 hours. Katrina’s eye has begun a concentric eyewall cycle. Models now agree that Katrina is likely to make landfall in the next 72 hours over the northern Gulf Coast, however, the models disagree about where Katrina will make landfall: Two models indicate landfall will be near Morgan City or Intracoastal City, Louisiana. The other guidance ranges from Grand Isle, Louisiana to Pensacola, Florida. The official NHC forecast calls for landfall in Southeastern Louisiana—in 48-60 hours. (In fact, Katrina will make landfall in only 38 hours .) Other aspects of the NHC Advisory include:
bullet Location: 405 miles southeast of the mouth of the Mississippi River.
bullet Direction and Speed: West at 7 mph.
bullet Maximum Sustained Winds: 115 mph, with higher gusts.
bullet Estimated Central Pressure: 940 mb.
bullet Size: Hurricane force winds extend outward from center up to 65 miles; tropical storm force winds extend outward up to 150 miles.
bullet Probability that in the next 69 hours, Katrina’s eye will pass within 75 miles of:
bullet Panama City, FL: 12 percent
bullet Gulfport, MS: 18 percent
bullet New Orleans, LA: 19 percent [National Hurricane Center, 8/27/2005; National Hurricane Center, 8/27/2005; National Hurricane Center, 8/27/2005]

Entity Tags: Hurricane Katrina, National Hurricane Center

Category Tags: Pre-Impact Katrina, Advisories

Meteorologist Jeff Matthews, Director of the Weather Underground, reports that, “Katrina has increased markedly in size the past 12 hours, and will deliver a widespread damaging blow wherever she comes ashore.… I’d hate to be an Emergency Management official in New Orleans right now. Katrina is pretty much following the NHC forecast, and appears likely to pass VERY close to New Orleans. I’m surprised they haven’t ordered an evacuation of the city yet. While the odds of a catastrop[h]ic hit that would completely flood the City of New Orleans are probably 10 percent, that is way too high in my opinion to justify leaving the people in the city. If I lived in the city, I would eva[cu]ate NOW! There is a very good reason that the Coroner’s office in New Orleans keeps 10,000 body bags on hand. The risks are too great from this storm, and a weekend away from the city would be nice anyway, right? GO! New Orleans needs a full 72 hours to evacuate, and landfall is already less than 72 hours away. Get out now and beat the rush. You’re not going to have to go to work or school on Monday anyway. If an evacuation is ordered, not everyone who wants to get out may be able to do so—particularly the 60,000 poor people with no cars.” [Masters, 8/27/2005]

Entity Tags: Hurricane Katrina, Jeff Matthews

Category Tags: Pre-Impact Katrina, General Public, Advisories, Evacuation Problem

Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour declares a state of emergency for Mississippi. [Mississippi, 8/26/2005; Mississippi, 8/26/2005]
Note - The timing of this declaration is unclear. The official documents are dated Friday, August 26. However, news reports indicate that the declaration occurs on Saturday. [Associated Press, 8/27/2005; United Press International, 8/27/2005] Further, while President Bush signs the disaster declaration for Louisiana today (see (Midday) August 27, 2005), he will not sign the Mississippi emergency declaration until Sunday morning (see Before 11:30 am August 28, 2005).

Entity Tags: Haley Barbour

Category Tags: Pre-Impact Katrina, Mississippi: State, Emergency Response

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

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

Category Tags: Pre-Impact Katrina, Advisories, Federal: FEMA

FEMA activates its National Emergency Response Team (Blue Team), deploying to Baton Rouge, Louisiana. [Federal Emergency Management Agency, 8/28/2005] FEMA Director Michael Brown will tell the New York Times that the team arriving in Louisiana today to review evacuation plans with local officials consists of “10 or 20 people.” [New York Times, 9/15/2005]

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

Category Tags: Pre-Impact Katrina, Federal: FEMA, Emergency Response

Page 2 of 5 (421 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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