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Hurricane Katrina

Project: Hurricane Katrina
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FEMA Director Michael Brown appears on CNN to discuss the pending crisis in New Orleans posed by Hurricane Katrina. According to Brown, FEMA has “done a lot of planning for a hurricane striking New Orleans because of New Orleans lying below sea level.” He urges residents to evacuate, warning that there will be significant flooding, and travel will be impossible: “So, people have between now and Sunday afternoon to really get ready and I encourage them to do that right now.” According to Brown, FEMA has already dispatched teams to Mississippi and Louisiana, and “[w]e’re ready to respond in every possible way, because we do anticipate this being a very significant event.” Brown states that Governor Blanco is currently in conference with emergency officials, and, “once she gets all the detailed information from the hurricane center, from FEMA and the rest of us,” she will decide when to implement the Contraflow plan to facilitate the evacuation. Brown warns residents in the storm’s path: “[Y]ou have about 36 hours now to understand how serious this storm is, and to make your preparations to keep your family and to keep your business safe. You’ve got to do that now, tomorrow and Monday is going to be too late.” (CNN 8/27/2005)

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

President Bush declares an emergency for Louisiana, and orders federal aid to supplement state and local response efforts in the affected area. This declaration activates the National Response Plan, and authorizes FEMA to provide appropriate assistance for required emergency measures to save lives, protect property and public health and safety for parishes in the storm’s path and to minimize or avert the threat of a catastrophe in multiple parishes. Bush’s declaration authorizes FEMA to provide appropriate assistance for required emergency measures, including specifically, “[m]easures undertaken to preserve public health and safety and to eliminate threats to public or private property.” In response to this declaration, FEMA Director Michael Brown appoints William Lokey as the Federal Coordinating Officer for federal recovery operations in the affected area. (White House 8/27/2005; US Department of Homeland Security 9/7/2005) . As Governor Blanco will later note, this pre-impact declaration is extremely unusual. The last time a president issued a pre-impact declaration was when Hurricane Andrew was bearing down on Florida in 1992. (CNN 8/27/2005) Note that while President Bush’s emergency declaration identifies 39 parishes, it does not identify the parishes in Katrina’s path, apparently due to a clerical error. (Knight Ridder 9/11/2005) This omission has no practical effect, and a corrected declaration will be issued on Monday. (US Department of Homeland Security 9/7/2005)
Note 1 - Reuters will later incorrectly report that Bush appoints William Lokey as the Federal Coordinating Officer, and will imply that such action is somehow unusual. (Entous 9/15/2005) In fact, as reflected in the official Federal Register entry, and in the White House release, Brown appoints Lokey as the coordinating officer for Louisiana. This appointment is consistent with standard practice: For each declared emergency, a different (lower level) individual is appointed as the federal coordinating officer.
Note 2 - Knight Ridder (and other news media) will later incorrectly report that Bush failed to trigger the federal government’s responsibility, and that it is not triggered until DHS Secretary Chertoff’s August 31 announcement that the Katrina disaster is an “Incident of National Significance.” (Knight Ridder 9/11/2005; McCaffrey, Young, and Borenstein 9/15/2005) In fact, Bush’s declaration (a) effectively authorizes FEMA to provide a full and immediate federal response to the unfolding crisis, and (b) makes the crisis an “Incident of National Significance.” (US Department of Homeland Security 12/2004) , at 7 (“Note that while all Presidentially declared disasters and emergencies under the Stafford Act are considered Incidents of National Significance, not all Incidents of National Significance necessarily result in disaster or emergency declarations under the Stafford Act.”); (US Department of Homeland Security 9/7/2005) (granting FEMA full authority to respond to the emergency.) The strategy behind DHS Secretary Chertoff’s much ballyhooed—and inaccurate—August 31 announcement that his declaration triggers for the first time a coordinated federal response to states and localities overwhelmed by disaster remains unclear at this time.

Louisiana’s Department of Health and Hospitals (DHH) announces that special triage telephone numbers for residents with special needs who need shelter will open at noon today. The DHH provides a toll-free number for each of the state’s seven regions, as well as a special number for the New Orleans area. “Residents in the area who anticipate the need for Special Needs Shelter services must call this number.… Because of limited staffing, those going to a Special Needs Shelter must have a caretaker to assist with ongoing support and they should bring all necessary supplies including sheets, blankets, and pillows.” (Louisiana Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness 8/27/2005) As of this afternoon, two shelters well away from Katrina’s anticipated path are open, and the state will open more if they become necessary. The two open shelters are in Alexandria (215 miles northwest of New Orleans) and Monroe (330 miles northwest of New Orleans) (Times-Picayune Blog 8/27/2005)

The Coast Guard issues its second Katrina-related safety bulletin, ordering all oceangoing vessels to leave port immediately and reiterating its notice that the affected waterways will be closed no later than 2:00 am Monday, August 29. (US Coast Guard 8/28/2005)

Some state governors request additional assistance today, according to Army Lt. General Honore who does not identify which specific states (i.e., Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, or Mississippi) request assistance at this time. (US Department of Defense 9/1/2005)

Delta, the second-biggest carrier at New Orleans, cancels its entire schedule for Sunday. The last Delta Flight will take off shortly after midnight tonight. (McCartney 9/2/2005) Other airlines will continue to fly planes until early Sunday Evening (see 1:00 pm August 27, 2005).

All American Airlines, flights scheduled after 1:00 pm today have been cancelled. However, American used larger planes for its last two flights, transporting 300 extra passengers out of the area. (McCartney 9/2/2005)

Alabama Governor Bob Riley orders the evacuation of residents south of Interstate 10 in Mobile County and in low-lying areas of Baldwin County due to the significant threat posed by Hurricane Katrina. The evacuation for areas in Baldwin County goes into effect at 1:00 pm and the evacuation order for areas south of I-10 in Mobile County goes into effect at 1:30 pm. (Alabama 8/28/2005)

Louisiana Governor Blanco and local officials from Southeastern Louisiana parishes hold a special press conference to urge residents to evacuate. Blanco reports that the parishes are cooperating in following the evacuation plan, and encourages residents to listen to their parish leaders regarding when they should leave their area. Aaron Broussard, President of Jefferson Parish, then outlines the particulars of the evacuations, noting that residents of low-lying regions need to leave immediately, so that other residents can follow. New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin warns residents that Hurricane Katrina poses a grave danger to the city: “This is not a test. This is the real deal. Things could change, but as of right now, New Orleans is definitely the target for this hurricane.” Nagin says that New Orleans will follow the state’s evacuation plan, and thus, he will not officially order evacuations until 30 hours before expected landfall, to allow those residents in low-lying surrounding areas to leave first. However, he recommends that residents in low-lying areas of the city, such as Algiers and the 9th Ward, get a head start, noting: “We want you to take this a little more seriously and start moving—right now, as a matter of fact.” Acknowledging that many residents have no independent means of transportation, Nagin says that the city might open the Superdome as a shelter of last resort for evacuees with special needs, but advises evacuees who plan to stay there to bring their own food, drinks, and other comforts necessary. Police Chief Eddie Compass states that New Orleans likely will issue a curfew at some point, and the police department will station police officers at shopping centers to prevent looting. Blanco sums up the situation: “We have been very blessed so far. We’ve escaped the brunt of most of the hurricanes that have been generated. But now it looks like we’re going to have to bear some of the brunt of this storm.” (CNN 8/27/2005; Times-Picayune Blog 8/27/2005; Associated Press 8/27/2005; Glasser and Grunwald 9/11/2005)

The Coast Guard orders most vessels to leave several Gulf Coast ports and prohibits vessels from entering the ports, in anticipation of Hurricane Katrina. The Coast Guard warns that all waterways will close no later than 2:00 am Monday, August 29. (US Coast Guard 8/27/2005)

Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco orders Louisiana State Police and Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development to implement the Contraflow Plan (see 4:00 pm August 27, 2005) beginning 4:00 pm. State Police announce that they have already staged necessary assets in anticipation of the Contraflow implementation. Police remind all drivers to be cautious. If a minor crash occurs, motorists should move the vehicles off the roadway and notify local law enforcement. Traffic will be heavy. Police request that residents “please be patient and courteous to other motorists.” (Louisiana State Police 8/27/2005)

Throughout this afternoon and evening, Katrina’s threat to New Orleans dominates the airwaves and the internet. Residents, officials, and weather experts repeatedly plead with residents to evacuate and warn of the inevitability of massive flooding Katrina will bring. Douglas Brinkley, historian and New Orleans resident, sums up the twin problems as follows: “Unfortunately, this is an economically depressed city. And a lot of poor people living in shotgun shacks and public housing don’t have the ability to get in a car and just disappear. And we’ve made openings at the Superdome where people will be fed and have a place to sleep if they want to get out of their low-lying house.” With respect to the flooding threat, Brinkley laments: “The Army Corp. of Engineers has done a good job with the levee system. Not good enough. I’ve heard it, it’s almost become a cliche, but it is like a tea cup or bowl here in New Orleans. And if you get hit from the east, Pontchartrain water comes flooding in. And that’s—at all costs, we don’t want that to happen. By and large, more than any major city in the United States, New Orleans is unprepared for a disaster from a hurricane. It’s just the—one of the names you called it the Big Easy. It’s also the City Time Forgot, and sometimes we let things get into disrepair, you know. Potholes and weak levees are recipes for potential disaster when a hurricane like Katrina comes around the bend.” (Fox 8/27/2005) Online news and blogs buzz with the coming catastrophe. (Associated Press 8/27/2005; Masters 8/27/2005)

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

Announcing President Bush’s declaration of emergency for Louisiana (see (Midday) August 27, 2005), White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan states that, “We urge residents in the areas that could be impacted to follow the recommendations of local authorities.” Bush, who is vacationing at his ranch in Crawford Texas, is receiving regular updates on the storm, according to McClellan. (Shreveport Times 8/27/2005; Associated Press 8/27/2005)

Ivor Van Heerden, a scientist at the LSU Hurricane Center tells the Time-Picayune that the storm surge from Hurricane Katrina will weaken the Lake Pontchartrain levees and cause additional overtopping: “The bottom line is this is a worst-case scenario and everybody needs to recognize it,” he said. “You can always rebuild your house, but you can never regain a life. And there’s no point risking your life and the lives of your children.” (Times-Picayune Blog 8/27/2005)

This afternoon, New Orleans officials meet in a closed-door session. Mayor Ray Nagin, Police Superintendent Eddie Compass, the city’s department heads, and several City Council members attend. The atmosphere is “calm, routine,” according to Jasmine Haralson, council member Jay Batt’s chief of staff, who attended the meeting. City officials assume that state and federal resources will assist the city in responding to the storm’s aftermath, according to Batt, who will later recall: “I expected State Police.… I expected the National Guard. I expected the Marines. I expected federal support, bringing in Black Hawk helicopters, basically locking down parts of the city in turmoil.” (O'Brien and Bender 9/11/2005)

Officials at New Orleans’ police headquarters, who are receiving reports of the pending storm, remain calm this afternoon, according to later reports. The general feeling is that the 1,600-officer force could handle the storm just as it has handled storms in the past, Deputy Chief Steve Nicholas of the New Orleans Police Department will later recall. The Police department is prepared to lose some radio communication (though not for days on end), and they expect some flooding (though not the massive flooding that will occur). Police officials believe that if their resources prove insufficient, state and federal officials that (they assume) are pre-deployed outside of the city, will step in to meet the need. (O'Brien and Bender 9/11/2005) According to the Boston Globe, the department has four boats at its disposal, and believes that this will be sufficient. However, the Times-Picayune will report that, according to Mayor Nagin, the city has 30 boats at its disposal, “but may need far more, depending on the water level in the city after the storm.” (Russell 8/29/2005)

In a meeting with aides this afternoon, President Bush discusses the coming storm. Aides inform Bush that the evacuations are proceedings as planned, and that 11,000 National Guard troops will be in a position to respond to the emergency, according to a senior White House official. (The actual number in position will be less than half of this number, however.) Bush tells senior advisor Dan Bartlett that he may need to rearrange his schedule to add a trip to the Gulf Coast next week. (Glasser and Grunwald 9/11/2005)

The Louisiana Department of Transportation (DOT) suspends tolls on the Lake Ponchartrain Causeway and on the Crescent City Connection. Officials warn that the DOT may close ferries and bridges Sunday if high winds begin to occur. (Times-Picayune Blog 8/27/2005)

St. Tammany Parish President Kevin Davis declares a State of Emergency, and parish officials prepare for the coming storm, setting up five sandbag distribution stations. (Times-Picayune Blog 8/27/2005)

St. Tammany Parish issues an evacuation order, asking residents to evacuate by noon on Sunday. Officials announce that two shelters will open at noon on Sunday. Parish President Kevin Davis warns, “The… probabilities of a strike in our area are increasing. Therefore, I urge residents to make storm preparations today.” (Times-Picayune Blog 8/27/2005)

Police activate the state’s redesigned Contraflow Plan, which allows traffic to use both sides of highways leading out of the New Orleans area, including I-10, I-12, I-55, I-59, and the Causeway. Thousands of southeastern Louisiana residents clog all major freeways as they flee the area for higher ground. (Louisiana State Police 8/27/2005; Times-Picayune Blog 8/28/2005)

The National Hurricane Center (NHC) expands the hurricane watch westward to Intracoastal City, Louisiana and eastward to the Florida-Alabama border, and states that a hurricane warning likely will be required for portions of the Northern Gulf Coast later tonight or Sunday. Landfall in southeast Louisiana is likely in “a little under” 48 hours. (In fact, Katrina will make landfall in 32 hours .) According to the NHC, Katrina will likely strengthen, and may become a Category 5 hurricane before landfall. Katrina likely will move west-northwest during the next 24 hours. Models continue to diverge, with some indicating Katrina will turn northward, while others indicate Katrina will shift westward. Other aspects of the NHC Advisory include:
bullet Location: 380 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: 945 mb
bullet Size: Hurricane force winds extend outward from center up to 45 miles; tropical storm force winds extend outward up to 160 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: 20 percent
bullet New Orleans, LA: 21 percent (National Hurricane Center 8/27/2005; National Hurricane Center 8/27/2005; National Hurricane Center 8/27/2005)

Senator Mary Landrieu (D-La) appears on CNN to discuss the challenges to evacuating Southeastern Louisiana. Landrieu first notes, “[W]e don’t have enough highways.… We have urged the federal government to stay focused on helping us to expand our highway infrastructure just for this purpose.… We don’t, literally, have enough highways to get people out.” Landrieu also describes the challenges to an evacuation of New Orleans: “About 30 percent of the population doesn’t have access to an automobile or owns an automobile. So they’ve got to count on extended families or friends or neighbors. The evacuation of the elderly is always a challenge of course and those that are in hospitals. The mayor is working and has been working diligently on that plan. Hopefully it will be carried out,” although, she notes, 3,000 of Louisiana’s National Guard are in Iraq and thus unable to assist in the evacuation. (CNN 8/29/2005)

The National Hurricane Center (NHC) reports that “dangerous Hurricane Katrina” is now moving west-northwest, and is expected to strengthen. Portions of the northern Gulf Coast are already experiencing 12-foot waves. The Central Gulf Coast can expect 5-10 inches of rainfall, with 15 inches in some areas, on Sunday. The expanded hurricane watch from Intracoastal City, Louisiana and eastward to the Florida-Alabama border remains in effect; a hurricane warning likely will be required for portions of the Northern Gulf Coast later tonight. Other aspects of the NHC Advisory include:
bullet Location: 360 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: 944 mb.
bullet Size: Hurricane force winds extend outward from center up to 45 miles; tropical storm force winds extend outward up to 160 miles. (National Hurricane Center 8/27/2005)

Around 7 pm this evening, LSU Hurricane Center scientists share their latest prediction models with emergency officials at the Emergency Operations Center in Baton Rouge. On the giant screen looming over the officials, scientists post the sum of all fears: New Orleans will go under. Everyone knows what that means: a major water rescue of untold thousands. (Ripley 9/4/2005) The model predicts that Katrina’s storm surge may weaken and overtop New Orleans’ levees, causing massive flooding of Plaquemines Parish, New Orleans’ 9th Ward, Michoud area, and Mid-City, as well as large parts of Slidell. (Schleifstein 8/27/2005; Bradshaw 8/27/2005) The Times-Picayune will publish the projected storm surge map the next morning. (Times-Picayune 8/28/2005 pdf file) Reportedly, the Center also e-mails their modeling results to state and federal agencies, including the National Hurricane Center. (MSNBC 9/9/2005)

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

When Leo Bosner, FEMA Emergency Management Specialist (and president of the union representing FEMA staff), returns to FEMA’s Emergency Operations Center this evening, he and his colleagues are “aghast” at the lack of preparations taking place, according to a later interview with National Public Radio: “We’d been expecting that, given our reports and so on, that there’d be some extraordinary measures taking place. So when we come in Saturday night and nothing much had happened—you know, we had a few medical teams, a few search teams were in place, but there was no massive effort that we could see. There was no massive effort to organize the city of New Orleans in an organized way that clearly had to be done. There was no massive mobilization of national resources other than the few that were out there. And I think most of us—I can’t speak for everyone, but I know that I and a number of my colleagues just—we felt sort of shocked.… You assume that if there’s a fire, you’re gonna pull that lever and—someone will pull the lever, and you assume if you pull the lever that in no time these trucks and sirens are gonna come roaring up to your building and people will jump out and will have hoses and fire extinguishers and rescue equipment and things will be taken care of. Well, you sort of imagine now if your building catches fire and you pull that lever and nothing happens, the lever comes off in your hand, there’s nothing there; that’s, I think, how we felt.” Senior FEMA officials deny Bosner’s claim, although their denial reflects an expectation that state and local officials will handle the emergency. “We pleaded and informed state and local officials of the severity of this and encouraged everyone to take it seriously,” Russ Knocke, DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff representative, will later contend, after asserting that, “Without question, there was a significant amount of recognition and appreciation for the magnitude of this storm.” (National Public Radio 9/16/2005)

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

New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin tells local WWLTV that, “Come the first break of light in the morning, you may have the first mandatory evacuation of New Orleans.” Nagin states that that his legal staff is researching whether he can order a mandatory evacuation of the city, a step he’s been hesitant to do because of potential liability on the part of the city for closing hotels and other businesses. (Nolan 8/28/2005)

Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco appears on CNN to discuss the evacuation: “We’re asking neighbors to be concerned about their neighbors.… We want people to help each other. I’m actually encouraging the ministers, who’s flock may be showing up for services in the morning, to encourage their people say a prayer and send them home packing, and help each other get out of town. I think the mayor’s also arranging for some transportation measures. We’ve got to work this whole thing together.” (CNN 8/27/2005)

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

Meteorologist Jeff Matthews, Director of the Weather Underground, a popular web-based weather service, reports: “We may be on the verge of a rapid deepening phase, and Katrina is growing from a medium sized hurricane to a large hurricane. Where the pressure will bottom out after this deepening phase is anyone’s guess, and I believe something in the 915—925 mb range is most likely, which would make Katrina a strong Category 4 or weak Category 5 hurricane by tomorrow afternoon.” He then laments: “New Orleans finally got serious and ordered an evacuation, but far too late. There is no way everyone will be able to get out of the city in time, and they may be forced to take shelter in the Superdome, which is above sea level. If Katrina makes a direct hit on New Orleans as a Category 4 hurricane, the levees protecting the city will be breached, and New Orleans, which is 6—10 feet below sea level, will fill with water. On top of this 6 feet of water will come a 15 foot storm surge, and on top of that will be 20 foot waves, so the potential for high loss of life is great. Given the current track and intensity forecast, I’d put the odds of this at about 20 percent” (Masters 8/27/2005)

The last Amtrak train leaves New Orleans, with equipment—but no passengers. Earlier, Amtrak decided to run a nonscheduled train from New Orleans to Macomb Mississippi to move equipment out of harm’s way. Amtrak representative Cliff Black will later assert that Amtrak offered to take New Orleans evacuees on the train, which has room for several hundred passengers, but the city declined the offer. (Glasser and Grunwald 9/11/2005) Mayor Ray Nagin, however, denies this claim, asserting, “Amtrak never contacted me to make that offer. As a matter of fact, we checked the Amtrak lines for availability, and every available train was booked, as far as the report that I got, through September. So I’d like to see that report.… I would love to have had that call. But it never happened.” (MSNBC 9/11/2005) The Los Angeles Times will later report that Total Community Action, a non-profit community based agency serving disadvantaged New Orleans residents, had previously secured a commitment from Amtrak to transport residents without cars to safety in the event of an evacuation (see (Spring-Summer 2005)). Most reports indicate that no such transport occurred, although the Los Angeles Times article references “reports that at least one Amtrak train got out of the city with evacuees.” (Riccardi and Rainey 9/13/2005)

The National Hurricane Center (NHC) elevates the hurricane watch to a hurricane warning for the area between area between Morgan City, Louisiana and the Alabama-Florida border. A hurricane warning means that hurricane conditions are expected in the, within the next 24 hours. “Preparations to protect life and property should be rushed to completion.” The NHC warns that Katrina can cause a costal storm surge of 15-20 feet above normal, with higher surges to 25 feet near and to the east of where landfall occurs. Katrina’s wind field is expanding and conditions are ripe for the hurricane to strengthen even further. “The bottom line is that Katrina is expected to be an intense and dangerous hurricane heading toward the North Central Gulf Coast… and this has to be taken very seriously.” The NHC also issues a tropical storm warning and hurricane watch for parts west and east of the warning areas. Other aspects of the NHC Advisory include:
bullet Location: 335 miles south-southeast of the mouth of the Mississippi River
bullet Direction and Speed: West-northwest at 7 mph
bullet Maximum Sustained Winds: 115 mph, with higher gusts
bullet Estimated Central Pressure: 939 mb
bullet Size: Hurricane force winds extend outward from center up to 45 miles; tropical storm force winds extend outward up to 160 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: 23 percent
bullet New Orleans, LA: 26 percent (National Hurricane Center 8/27/2005; National Hurricane Center 8/27/2005; National Hurricane Center 8/27/2005)

St. Bernard’s Parish reportedly will issue a mandatory evacuation order at some point today. This afternoon, the Times-Picayune will refer to the mandatory order, and report that two shelters of last resort are open. (Times-Picayune Blog 8/28/2005) St. Bernard’s website will later reference the mandatory order, stating that “Hurricane Katrina has decimated St. Bernard Parish. Parish government ordered a mandatory evacuation Sunday, August 28.” (St. Bernard Parish 9/18/2005)

Beginning this morning, and throughout the day, FEMA representatives and other officials appear on TV shows throughout the day. When asked to identify the biggest challenge to preparing for Katrina, FEMA Director Michael Brown replies as follows: “Primarily making sure that as many people as possible get out of the way of the storm. The more people that are in the way of the storm, the more potential they have of becoming a disaster victim.” When asked whether it is possible for the area to weather the storm without loss of life, Brown responds that such an expectation is unreasonable. (CNN 8/29/2005)

Emergency Director Walter Maestri sends the parish fire department to the streets. Beginning this morning, and throughout the day, fire trucks travel throughout the parish, their loudspeakers blaring, “‘Alert! Alert! For your information, you live in a low-lying area that is highly prone to flooding. And it is the recommendation of your parish government that you immediately evacuate.’” (National Public Radio 9/9/2005)

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff will spend today monitoring the path of Hurricane Katrina from his Washington DC office, according to representative Russ Knocke. (McCaffrey, Young, and Borenstein 9/15/2005 Sources: Russ Knocke)

Coast Guard Admiral Robert Duncan, head of the Eighth District in New Orleans, deploys cutters, helicopters, and other vessels today, and requests additional forces from the commander of the Coast Guard’s Eastern Area, in Norfolk, Va., which is responsible for everything east of the Mississippi, according to Coast Guard officials. In response to Duncan’s request, Jayhawk rescue helicopters from Coast Guard locations along the Eastern Seaboard take off today. They will follow the hurricane to the Gulf Coast and arrive just behind Katrina. “We don’t have to get approval to execute,” according to Richard J. Dein, a retired Coast Guard commander and a search-and-rescue specialist. “The Coast Guard is organized by geography. All of those districts act autonomously. They each have a command and control center. What you [have is] a ready response network.” (O'Brien and Bender 9/11/2005 Sources: Richard J. Dein) }

The Defense Department dispatches emergency coordinators to Alabama, Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi “to provide a wide range of assistance including communications equipment, search and rescue operations, medical teams and other emergency supplies,” according to an Associated Press report. Pentagon representative Lawrence Di Rita says that the states have adequate National Guard units to adequately respond to the hurricane; at least 60 percent of the Guard available in each state. According to Di Rita, the First US Army, based at Fort Gillem near Atlanta, has 1,600 National Guard troops that were there training to go to Iraq, and they will be available to assist the states or evacuate Camp Shelby in Mississippi, if necessary. (Associated Press 8/29/2005)

The Environmental Protection Agency dispatches emergency crews to Louisiana and Texas, to address potential oil and chemical spills. The agency sets up facilities to assess the damage, but will not actually deploy until it can safely send more people into the field. An EPA employee dispatched to Baton Rouge will oversee the agency’s after-storm review of petrochemical, wastewater treatment and drinking water plants, according to Sam Coleman, a regional director for EPA’s Superfund toxic waste division in Dallas. Colman tells the Associated Press that, “We have the equipment standing by, an aspect plane for surveillance that can see petrochemical spills from the air, but it’s not cleared to fly in high winds or dangerous weather.” (Associated Press 8/29/2005)

FEMA will pre-stage supplies and responders in Louisiana and the surrounding region today. Pre-staged supplies include generators, water, ice and food, baby formula, and communications equipment. (Schmid 8/29/2005) The Chicago Tribune will report that FEMA stages its emergency supplies at Camp Beauregard in Pineville, Louisiana, about four hours from New Orleans. (Martin, Simpson, and James 9/11/2005) The FEMA responders who are pre-positioning today include Urban Search & Rescue (USAR) Teams and Disaster Medical Assistance Teams (DMATs). Just how many responders are deployed remains unclear. The Dallas Morning News, will later report FEMA deploys 500 people in search-and-rescue and medical teams to Shreveport, Louisiana today. (Dallas Morning News 8/29/2005) FEMA will report that it has deployed 18 DMATs to staging areas in Houston, Anniston and Memphis, including nine full DMATs (35 members per team) and nine strike teams (5 members per team). (Federal Emergency Management Agency 8/28/2005) ABC News will report that FEMA pre-positions approximately 1,300 disaster assistance workers before landfall. (ABC News 9/8/2005)

Governor Blanco will send a letter to President Bush today, requesting that he declare an “expedited major disaster” for Louisiana in light of the approaching hurricane. According to Blanco, “this incident will be of such severity and magnitude that effective response will be beyond the capabilities of the State and the affected local governments and that supplementary Federal assistance will be necessary.” (Louisiana 8/28/2005 pdf file) Note: A Presidential declaration of a major disaster expands the federal assistance programs available to assist the affected area in recovering from the impact of the disaster, while the earlier declaration of emergency authorizes shorter-term federal assistance to protect lives, property, and the public safety immediately before or after a disaster. (Federal Emergency Management Agency 1/21/2006)

The Waterford nuclear power plant, located about 20 miles west of New Orleans, will shut down today. (US Nuclear Regulatory Commission 8/28/2005; Government Executive 8/29/2005)

Louisiana Governor Blanco and Mississippi Governor Barbour will specifically request additional security forces, beginning today, according to General Honore does not specifically identify the governor(s) who make this request. According to Honoree through collaboration between the adjutant general and the National Guard Bureau, additional security force capabilities begin flowing into Louisiana and to Mississippi “approximately around Sunday.” FEMA requests support in search and rescue beginning Sunday as well. (US Department of Defense 9/1/2005 Sources: Russel Honore) According to a later New York Times report, FEMA will deploy only seven of its 28 urban search and rescue teams by the end of today, and will send no FEMA staff into New Orleans until after the storm has passed. (Lipton et al. 9/11/2005) On the other hand, Knight Ridder will report that FEMA will deploy 18 search and rescue teams and 39 medical teams before the storm. (Borenstein 9/1/2005)

The National Hurricane Center (NHC) issues a special advisory that, with sustained winds of 145 mph, Katrina has become a Category 4 hurricane. Katrina also continues to grow, as hurricane winds now extend 70 miles from the center, and NHC warns that Katrina can yet strengthen, and will likely move northwest later today. Other aspects of the NHC Advisory include:
bullet Location: 310 miles south-southeast of the mouth of the Mississippi River
bullet Direction and Speed: West-northwest at 8 mph
bullet Maximum Sustained Winds: 145 mph, with higher gusts
bullet Estimated Central Pressure: 935 mb
bullet Size: Hurricane force winds extend outward from center up to 75 miles; tropical storm force winds extend outward up to 160 miles (National Hurricane Center 8/28/2005)

The Louisiana State Police issue a report outlining the status of evacuation orders in Southeastern Louisiana as of 1:30 am this morning:
bullet Ascension Parish: Recommended Evacuation at dawn Sunday
bullet Assumption Parish: Recommended Evacuation
bullet Jefferson Parish: Recommended Evacuation, except for Grand Isle, Crown Point, and Barateria
bullet Jefferson Parish—Grand Isle, Crown Point, and Barateria: Mandatory evacuation
bullet Orleans Parish: Recommended Evacuation
bullet Lafourche Parish: Evacuation ordered at dawn Sunday
bullet Plaquemines Parish: 50 percent of residents have evacuated so far; 40 percent expected to evacuate between 2:00 and 6:00 am. All remaining residents should evacuate by 2:00 pm Sunday
bullet St. Bernard Parish: Strong recommendation of evacuation
bullet St. Charles Parish: Mandatory evacuation effective 9:00 am Sunday
bullet St. James Parish: Recommended evacuation of low-lying areas for mobile and manufactured homes
bullet St. John Parish: Recommended evacuation. If track of storm remains the same, a mandatory evacuation will be issued by 7:00 am.
bullet Tangipahoa Parish: Precautionary evacuation. Further evacuation notification will begin at 7:00 am Sunday
bullet Terrebone Parish: Recommended evacuation for south of Intercoastal City. Mandatory evacuation begins at 6:00 am Sunday. (All other areas under recommended evacuation) (Louisiana State Police 8/28/2005)

The National Hurricane Center’s (NHC) 2:00 am advisory leads with the warning that potentially catastrophic Hurricane Katrina is beginning to turn northward toward Southeastern Louisiana and the Northern Gulf Coast and that sustained hurricane-force winds are already occurring along the Southeastern Louisiana Coast. Katrina will likely make landfall with Category 4 or Category 5 intensity. The NHC warns that winds will be significantly stronger on upper floors of high-rise buildings than those near ground level. An 83 mph wind gust has been reported just east of the Chandeleur Islands (Mississippi), a 75 mph gust at Grand Isle, Lousiana, and a 60 mph gust has already been reported in New Orleans. Coastal storm surge flooding of 18 to 22 feet above normal tide levels can be expected, with some surges reaching as high as 28 feet. Some levees in the greater New Orleans area may be overtopped. A bouy 50 miles east of the Mississippi River has reported waves as high as 40 feet already. Other aspects of the NHC Advisory include:
bullet Location: 70 miles south-southwest of the mouth of the Mississippi River; 130 miles south-southeast of New Orleans
bullet Direction and Speed: North at near 12 mph
bullet Maximum Sustained Winds: 155 mph with higher gusts
bullet Estimated Central Pressure: 910 mb
bullet Size: hurricane winds extend 105 miles from the center; tropical storm force winds extend 230 miles (National Hurricane Center 8/29/2005)

The National Hurricane Center (NHC) warns that Katrina, still a Category 4 hurricane, continues to intensify and grow larger. The NHC reiterates the hurricane warning for Louisiana to Florida, and expands the area covered by a tropical storm warning. It warns further that, “While the details of the landfall intensity cannot be known at this time… Katrina will be a very dangerous hurricane at landfall…. It must be emphasized that the exact landfall point cannot be specified and that Katrina is a large hurricane that will affect a large area,” warns the NHC. “NHC now expects Katrina’s path to move north later today.” Other aspects of the NHC Advisory include:
bullet Location: 275 miles south-southeast of the mouth of the Mississippi River
bullet Direction and Speed: West-northwest at 10 mph
bullet Maximum Sustained Winds: Near 145 mph, with higher gusts
bullet Estimated Central Pressure: 935 mb
bullet Size: Hurricane force winds extend outward from center up to 85 miles; tropical storm force winds extend outward up to 185 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: 26 percent;
bullet New Orleans, LA: 29 percent (National Hurricane Center 8/28/2005; National Hurricane Center 8/28/2005; National Hurricane Center 8/28/2005)

“Katrina is in the midst of a truly historic rapid deepening phase… [and] is now the sixth strongest hurricane ever measured in the Atlantic,” states Jeff Matthews, meteorologist with the Weather Underground. “At the rate Katrina is deepening, she could easily be the third or fourth most intense hurricane ever, later today.” Katrina’s “winds are likely to increase to ‘catch up’ to the rapidly falling pressure, and could approach the all-time record of 190 mph set in Camille and Allen. Winds of this level will create maximum storm surge heights over 25 feet, and this storm surge will affect an area at least double the area wiped clean by Camille, which was roughly half the size of Katrina. Katrina has continued to expand in size, and is now a huge hurricane like Ivan. Damage will be very widespread and extreme if Katrina can maintain Category 5 strength at landfall.” Masters warns that, “Given that the storm is so large and is already pushing up a huge storm surge wave in front of it, even a weakened Category 3 Katrina hitting at low tide will cause an incredible amount of damage. A stretch of coast 170 miles long will experience hurricane force winds, given the current radius of hurricane force winds around the storm. A direct hit on New Orleans in this best-case scenario may still be enough to flood the city, resulting in heavy loss of life and $30 billion or more in damage.” (Masters 8/28/2005)

The National Hurricane Center (NHC) warns that Katrina is now a “potentially catastrophic Category 5 hurricane” and is headed for the Northern Gulf Coast. Although the NHC cannot predict the exact strength at landfall, Katrina is “expected to be a devastating Category 4 or 5 hurricane at landfall.” The NHC forecasts coastal storm surge flooding 15 to 20 feet above normal tide levels, with higher surges of up to 25 feet, as well as large and dangerous battering waves near and to the east of where the center makes landfall. Other aspects of the NHC Advisory include:
bullet Location: 250 miles south-southeast of the mouth of the Mississippi River
bullet Direction and Speed: West-northwest at 12 mph
bullet Maximum Sustained Winds: Near 160 mph, with higher gusts
bullet Estimated Central Pressure: 908 mb (National Hurricane Center 8/28/2005; National Hurricane Center 8/28/2005)

After noting that the Red Cross has predicted that as many as 100,000 people could die if a hurricane would hit New Orleans, ABC reporter Kate Snow asks Louisiana Governor Blanco how the evacuation is proceeding. Blanco responds: “We started evacuations early yesterday. Started encouraging people to voluntarily evacuate from the low-lying areas surrounding the Orleans area. And today we’re focusing on the final people who are still in the city, encouraging them to leave. There will be all sorts of modes of transportation available to those who have no transportation. City buses will be available. Other people are bringing buses in. We also, I believe are lining up trains to move as many people out as possible.” (ABC 8/28/2005) Note that Amtrak’s last train reportedly left Saturday evening around 8:30 pm (see 8:30 pm August 27, 2005).

FEMA’s Situation Update indicates that it is starkly aware of the dire situation in New Orleans, including the lack of transportation for many of the poorer residents: “Katrina could be especially devastating if it strikes New Orleans because the city sits below sea level and is dependent on levees and pumps to keep the water out. A direct hit could wind up submerging the city in several feet of water. Making matters worse, at least 100,000 people in the city lack the transportation to get out of town.” FEMA outlines preparations as follows: FEMA’s National Response Coordination Center (NRCC) Red Team and the National Emergency Response Team (Blue) have been fully activated. Region 4 (serving Alabama, Florida and Mississippi, among others) and Region 6 (serving Louisiana) are also fully activated. At the state level, both Mississippi’s and Louisiana’s Emergency Operations Centers are fully activated. (Federal Emergency Management Agency 8/28/2005)

Inside FEMA’s National Emergency Operations Center this morning, “None of the things that [are] supposed to be happening at the national level are happening. Nobody [is] mobilizing extra National Guard troops or organizing buses to help evacuate New Orleans,” Leo Bosner, FEMA Emergency Management Specialist, will later claim. (Bosner is president of the union representing FEMA staff.) According to Bosner, at one point today, he looks around and counts only 12 people in the office: “We [are] sitting around and somebody [says], you know, ‘Where are the buses? Where are the resources to get these people out of here?’ And I think we all just felt pretty despondent, let down, kind of numb about the whole thing.” (National Public Radio 9/16/2005) FEMA Director Michael Brown, however, will paint a very different picture of FEMA’s preparation to President Bush (see (10:00-11:00 am) August 28, 2005), and to the public (see (8:05 am) August 28, 2005) later today.
Note - Bosner will be inconsistent regarding exactly when this conversation about buses takes place. He reportedly tells the New York Times that it occurs on Friday. (Lipton et al. 9/11/2005) However, given that by his own reports, he and other staff members became focused on the threat to Louisiana on Friday night and Saturday morning (National Public Radio 9/16/2005) , it appears more likely that this conversation takes place on Sunday morning.

The Superdome opens this morning at 8:00 am for residents with special needs. (Nolan 8/28/2005)

FEMA Director Michael Brown appears on CNN this morning. Brown first assures viewers that FEMA has been preparing to respond to a catastrophic hurricane hitting New Orleans for two years, before turning to the issue of evacuation: “I’m more concerned right now, not about our readiness, but about the individual people in Louisiana. I understand that there are, you know, voluntary evacuations right now. I’ll tell you this personally. If I lived in New Orleans, I’d be getting out of there. I think it’s time to leave now.” Brown warns that the hurricane likely will bring massive flooding: “[T]he storm surge in a category five, can easily exceed 20 feet. You have areas that are already below sea level. We have photographs that show, graphically show what that means. If you go into the French quarter, we’re talking about a storm surge that is on the tops of those buildings. It’s very, very devastating. So people need to take the storm seriously. Let me put it this way. I’ve got rescue teams, urban search and rescue teams, swift water teams that are moving in there right now to be prepared. You don’t want them to have to come and rescue you. So you need to get out of the way of the storm now.” If the “devastation is widespread as we anticipate it to be,” people may be cut off from rescuers for up to 48 hours. Brown promises that FEMA is ready: “We’re going to respond and we’re going to do exactly what we did in Florida and Alabama and the other places. We’re going to do whatever it takes to help victims.” (CNN 8/28/2005)

Although Mayor Nagin will not officially announce the mandatory evacuation for another hour, the Louisiana Police issues a news release at 8:17 am this morning, announcing that that New Orleans is now under a mandatory evacuation order, along with several other nearby parishes. (Louisiana State Police 8/28/2005) CNN announces the mandatory evacuation around this time as well, reporting that Mayor Nagin will make the official announcement within the hour. (CNN 8/28/2005)

According to a later interview with the New York Times, FEMA Director Mike Brown states that by this time, he has grown so frustrated with Mayor Nagin’s apparent refusal to order a mandatory evacuation that he calls President Bush to ask for help. “‘Mike, you want me to call the mayor?’ the president responds in surprise,” according to Brown. (Kirkpatrick and Shane 9/15/2005)

President Bush telephones Governor Blanco (apparently in response to FEMA Director Michael Brown’s request to call New Orleans Mayor Nagin (see Before 9:30am August 28, 2005), to urge a mandatory evacuation of New Orleans, according to later reports. Blanco responds that Mayor Nagin has already decided to do so, and will make the announcement shortly. (Glasser and Grunwald 9/11/2005)

At 9:30 am this morning, Mayor Nagin announces the first-ever mandatory evacuation of New Orleans. After reading the official declaration, Nagin states: “Ladies and gentlemen, I wish I had better news for you. But we are facing a storm that most of us have feared. I do not want to create panic. But I do want the residents to understand that this is very serious, and it’s of the highest nature. And that’s why we are taking this unprecedented move. The storm is now a Cat 5… with sustained winds of 150 miles an hour, with wind gusts of 190 miles per hour. The storm surge most likely will topple our levy system. So we are preparing to deal with that also. So that’s why we’re ordering a mandatory evacuation.” Acknowledging that many people will be unable to obtain transportation, Nagin announces that the city has established ten pickup areas for residents without transportation. City buses will transport residents from the pickup areas to the city’s shelters. The Superdome will open as a shelter of last resort, although Nagin states that, “I want to emphasize, the first choice of every resident should be to leave the city.” The Superdome is likely to be without power for days—and possibly weeks—after the storm fits, and it will not be a comfortable place. Hotels and their patrons are exempted from the order. Police and firefighters will spread out throughout the city sounding sirens and using bullhorns to tell residents to get out. Police may commandeer any vehicle or building that could be used for evacuation or shelter. Nagin concludes his announcement as follows: “This is an opportunity in New Orleans for us to come together in the way that we’ve never come together before. This is a threat that we’ve never faced before. And if we galvanize and rally around each other, I am sure that we will get through this. God bless us.” (CNN 8/28/2005; Russell 8/28/2005; City of New Orleans 8/28/2005)
Note 1 - Various sources have reported that Nagin issued the mandatory evacuation later than 9:30. (Olsen 9/8/2005; Knight Ridder 9/11/2005; O'Brien and Bender 9/11/2005) However, according to the contemporaneous CNN transcript, Nagin makes this announcement only minutes after 9:23 am CDT.
Note 2 - The Washington Post will later report, incorrectly, that Nagin never mentioned the estimated 100,000 residents who had no personal means of transportation. (Glasser and Grunwald 9/11/2005) In fact, Nagin acknowledged this issue as early as Saturday (see (1:30 pm) August 27, 2005). State and federal officials also acknowledge this problem, and are seeking buses to evacuate these residents. (Federal Emergency Management Agency 8/28/2005; Dallas Morning News 8/29/2005)

Louisiana Governor Blanco takes the podium to reinforce the need for evacuation: “I want to reiterate what the mayor has said (see (9:30 am) August 28, 2005). This is a very dangerous time. Just before we walked into this room, President Bush called (see Shortly before 9:30 am August 28, 2005) and told me to share with all of you that he is very concerned about the residents. He is concerned about the impact that this hurricane would have on our people. And he asked me to please ensure that there would be a mandatory evacuation of New Orleans. The leaders at the highest ranks of our nation have recognized the destructive forces and the possible awesome danger that we are in. And I just want to say, we need to get as many people out as possible. The shelters will end up probably without electricity or with minimum electricity from generators in the end. There may be intense flooding that will be not in our control, which would be ultimately the most dangerous situation that many of our people could face. Waters could be as high as 15 to 20 feet.… That would probably be ultimately the worst situation. We’re hoping that it does not happen that way. We need to pray, of course, very strongly, that the hurricane force would diminish.” Blanco then describes the gridlock on roads leading out of New Orleans, and urges residents to take alternate routes. (CNN 8/28/2005; WWLTV 4 (New Orleans) 8/28/2005; KATC News (Lafayette, LA) 8/30/2005)

Louisiana’s Department of Health and Hospitals (DHH) opens the fourth Special Needs Shelter in LaFayette, about 135 miles west-nortwest of New Orleans. The DHH warns, however, “Due to the uncertainty of the damage that Baton Rouge and LaFayette will sustain from the storm, DHH officials stress that it is very important to move to a shelter further north in Alexandria or Monroe if at all possible.” (Louisiana Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness 8/28/2005)

The National Hurricane Center (NHC) warns that Katrina, already a potentially catastrophic hurricane headed for the Northern Gulf Coast, continues to gain strength. Katrina is getting stronger-and bigger. The NHC notes that Katrina is now as strong as Hurricane Camille was in 1969, only larger, and warns that storm surge flooding will be 18-22 feet above normal, with surges to 28 feet in some areas. Although hurricanes rarely sustain these extreme winds for long, the NHC reports no obvious large-scale effects that could cause Katrina to weaken substantially. Katrina’s path likely will move northwest, then north-northwest over the next 24 hours. Other aspects of the NHC Advisory include:
bullet Location: 225 miles south-southeast of the mouth of the Mississippi River
bullet Direction and Speed: West-northwest at 12 mph
bullet Maximum Sustained Winds: 175 mph with higher gusts
bullet Estimated Central Pressure: 907 mb
bullet Size: Hurricane winds now extend 105 miles from the center; tropical storm force winds extend to 205 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: 33 percent
bullet New Orleans, LA: 35 percent (National Hurricane Center 8/28/2005; National Hurricane Center 8/28/2005; National Hurricane Center 8/28/2005)

Max Mayfield, Director of the National Hurricane Center hosts a teleconference with FEMA officials, including FEMA Director Michael Brown and Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff. (Swerczek and bureau 9/4/2005; Gold, Serrano, and King 9/5/2005) President Bush receives a briefing via video conference from his ranch in Crawford Texas. (US President 9/5/2005) Brown assures Bush during this briefing that FEMA is ready for the storm, according to ABC News. (ABC News 9/8/2005) Bush tells Brown that he is very impressed with everything FEMA is doing, according to Brown (CBS News 8/29/2005)
Note - Whether President Bush participates in this particular briefing is not clear from current reports. However, it is undisputed that Bush receives a briefing from Mayfield via videoconference at some point this morning.

Minutes after the National Hurricane Center issues its Advisory, the National Weather Service for New Orleans issues an urgent weather message, “Devastating Damage Expected,” which could not be more stark: “Hurricane Katrina [is] a most powerful hurricane with unprecedented strength…rivaling the intensity of Hurricane Camille of 1969. Most of the area will be uninhabitable for weeks…perhaps longer. At least one half of well constructed homes will have roof and wall failure. All gabled roofs will fail…leaving those homes severely damaged or destroyed. The majority of industrial buildings will become non functional. Partial to complete wall and roof failure is expected. All wood framed low rising apartment buildings will be destroyed. Concrete block low rise apartments will sustain major damage…including some wall and roof failure. High rise office and apartment buildings will sway dangerously…a few to the point of total collapse. All windows will blow out. Airborne debris will be widespread…and may include heavy items such as household appliances and even light vehicles. Sport utility vehicles and light trucks will be moved. The blown debris will create additional destruction. Persons…pets…and livestock exposed to the winds will face certain death if struck. Power outages will last for weeks…as most power poles will be down and transformers destroyed. Water shortages will make human suffering incredible by modern standards. The vast majority of native trees will be snapped or uprooted. Only the heartiest will remain standing…but be totally defoliated. Few crops will remain. Livestock left exposed to the winds will be killed. An inland hurricane wind warning is issued when sustained winds near hurricane force…or frequent gusts at or above hurricane force…are certain within the next 12 to 24 hours. Once tropical storm and hurricane force winds onset…do not venture outside!” (Times-Picayune Blog 8/28/2005; National Weather Service 9/28/2005)

Responding to Governor Barbour’s request , President Bush declares an emergency for Mississippi, and orders federal aid to supplement state and local response efforts in the affected areas. This declaration authorizes FEMA to provide appropriate assistance for required emergency measures to save lives, protect property and public health and safety for counties in the storm’s path and to minimize or avert the threat of a catastrophe in the surrounding parishes of Louisiana. FEMA is thus authorized to provide appropriate assistance for required emergency measures, including specifically, “[m]easures undertaken to preserve public health and safety and to eliminate threats to public or private property” in southern Mississippi. FEMA Director Michael Brown appoints William L. Carwile, III as the Federal Coordinating Officer for Mississippi. (White House 8/28/2005; US President 9/5/2005; US Department of Homeland Security 9/7/2005)

Rev. Marshall Truehill, who heads Total Community Action, a faith-based organization heading a program to ensure that New Orleans poorest residents can safely evacuate the city, appears on the local ABC-TV affiliate station in a taped segment to inform viewers that a DVD (see (Summer 2005)) would soon be available providing hurricane evacuation tips. The DVDs are scheduled to be distributed some time in September. (Riccardi and Rainey 9/13/2005)

From his ranch in Crawford, President Bush speaks briefly with reporters. Bush first explains that he has spoken with FEMA Director Michael Brown (see Before 9:30am August 28, 2005) and with the governors of Alabama, Florida, Louisiana (see Shortly before 9:30 am August 28, 2005), and Mississippi. He announces that he has already signed disaster declarations for Louisiana and Mississippi. Bush then addresses the residents in the storm’s path: “Hurricane Katrina is now designated a Category 5 hurricane. We cannot stress enough the danger this hurricane poses to Gulf Coast communities. I urge all residents to put their own safety and the safety of their families first by moving to safe ground. Please listen carefully to instructions provided by state and local officials.” Bush then turns to Iraq, congratulating “the people of Iraq on completing the next step in their transition from dictatorship to democracy.” Bush’s brief statement contains 203 words about the pending Katrina disaster, and 819 words about the new Iraqi constitution. (US President 9/5/2005)

Throughout this afternoon and evening, Regional Transit Authority (RTA) and some school buses will run between the designated pick-up areas and the Superdome throughout the afternoon and evening. “They’re using school buses and about everything they can find to get people out of here,” reports French Quarter resident Rob Ramsey. (Price and Callahan 8/29/2005; Times-Picayune 8/29/2005 pdf file) Nagin will later explain that the plan is to get people to higher ground: “Get them out of their homes, which—most people are under sea level—Get them to a higher ground and then depending upon our state and federal officials to move them out of harm’s way after the storm has hit.” (MSNBC 9/11/2005) Neither the number of buses deployed by the city, nor the number of people successfully evacuated on city buses, is known at this time. In the days to come, after publication of a photo showing hundreds of flooded buses, many will question why the city failed to use these buses to evacuate more people. (Myers 9/6/2005) However, as Mayor Nagin will later note, “Sure, there was lots of buses out there. But guess what? You can’t find drivers that would stay behind with a Category 5 hurricane, you know, pending down on New Orleans. We barely got enough drivers to move people on Sunday, or Saturday and Sunday, to move them to the Superdome. We barely had enough drivers for that. So sure, we had the assets, but the drivers just weren’t available.” (MSNBC 9/11/2005) In fact, officials at all levels of government:
bullet (a) know that that many residents will need transportation (see (1:30 pm) August 27, 2005) (see Between 7:00-8:00 am August 28, 2005) (see Morning August 28, 2005)
bullet (b) know that local officials do not have sufficient resources to evacuate all residents who lack transportation (see (Spring 2004)) (see July 19-23, 2004) ; and
bullet (c) fail to dispatch the number of buses necessary for the evacuation. (Dallas Morning News 8/29/2005; Millhollon 9/9/2005; O'Brien and Bender 9/11/2005) In short, officials at all levels of government are seeking buses; and officials at all levels of government fail to use the fleet of buses in the city that will be flooded during the hurricane. (Myers 9/6/2005)
Note 1 - MSBNC will later report that it has obtained a draft emergency plan prepared by FEMA, which calls for “400 buses to… evacuate victims.” (Myers 9/6/2005) More details regarding this plan are not yet known.
Note 2 - It is unclear whether Passey’s post-hurricane statement refers to buses requested before the hurricane or after. However, his report that FEMA is scrambling for buses occurs sometime prior to August 29, when it is reported in the Dallas Morning News. Regardless of which bus request (i.e., pre- or post-hurricane) Passey is referencing, it is undisputed that, along with the city and state, FEMA was scrambling for buses pre-hurricane, and that, along with the city and state, FEMA failed to deploy the many city school buses that will be flooded due to the hurricane.
Note 3 - Although not yet clear, it may be that officials elect to stage people at the Superdome because of their inability to deploy sufficient buses, in order to maximize the number of people that can be evacuated from low-lying neighborhoods in the hours leading up to the storm. Had officials used the available buses to transport people out of the city via the clogged interstates, the total number of people evacuated necessarily would have been much smaller. Each bus likely could make only a single run. Instead, the buses can make multiple trips from pickup areas to the Superdome.

Several parishes transport emergency equipment and personnel west, away from the storm. “If the place is destroyed, we will have equipment to restore it,” the Zito fire chief says. (Times-Picayune Blog 8/28/2005)

The Times-Picayune Blog publishes the LSU Hurricane Center’s updated flood prediction graphic, which indicates that Katrina’s storm surge will cause massive flooding throughout the City of New Orleans. (Times-Picayune 8/28/2005)

New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin announces that a curfew will be imposed at 6:00 pm. (Times-Picayune Blog 8/28/2005) Other parishes impose similar curfews. (Times-Picayune Blog 8/28/2005; Times-Picayune Blog 8/28/2005)

Mary Landrieu (D-La) and David Vitter (R-La) send a joint letter to President Bush. After thanking Bush for the early declaration of emergency and for his public comments urging residents to flee Hurricane Katrina, the senators urge Bush “respectfully but in the strongest possible terms to tour the devastated area as soon as practical,” to reassure the affected residents that federal agencies will help the area recover. (Times-Picayune Blog 8/28/2005)

Dan Packer, CEO of Entergy New Orleans tells the Times-Picayune that Entergy, the area’s utility company, expects a level of destruction never seen in its four-state territory of Louisiana, Arkansas, Mississippi and Texas. According to Packer, parts of New Orleans may be without utility service for weeks—or even months. (Times-Picayune 8/29/2005 pdf file)

By this afternoon, several thousand residents have made their way to the Superdome, many dropped off by city buses that are looping between the dome and the pickup sites throughout the city. Residents with medical illnesses or disabilities are directed to one side of the dome, which is equipped with supplies and medical personnel. The remaining residents pour into the other side. “The people arriving on this side of the building are expected to fend for themselves,” says Terry Ebbert, the city’s Homeland Security Director, although he does notes that the city has water for the evacuees. National Guard soldiers, New Orleans police, and civil sheriff’s deputies patrol the dome. Officials expect that the Superdome’s field will flood, and that it will lose power early tomorrow morning. However, Ebbert says, “I’m not worried about what is tolerable or intolerable. I’m worried about, whether you are alive on Tuesday.” (Filosa 8/29/2005)

Employees at New Orlean’s Children’s Hospital are moving patients and departments off the first floor, because they anticipate major flooding when Katrina sweeps tomorrow, according to Alan Robson, Medical Director. Roberts reports that the hospital has discharged as many patients as can, but about 100 patients and many medical professionals remain in the hospital this evening. The hospital has enough fuel to last two or three weeks. (Times-Picayune Blog 8/28/2005)

The National Hurricane Center (NHC) Advisory leads by warning, “Potentially catastrophic Hurricane Katrina headed for the Northern Gulf Coast.” Conditions are already deteriorating along portions of the central and northeastern Gulf Coast, and they will continue to deteriorate throughout the evening. Katrina, still a Category 5 hurricane, is likely to make landfall with Category 4 or 5 intensity. The NHC reiterates that storm surge flooding will be 18-22 feet above normal, with increased surge to 28 feet in some areas, and warns that “some levees in the greater New Orleans area could be overtopped.” Katrina’s minimum central pressure is now the fourth lowest on record in the Atlantic. Other aspects of the NHC Advisory include:
bullet Location: 150 miles south-southeast of the mouth of the Mississippi River
bullet Direction and Speed: Northwest at near 13 mph
bullet Maximum Sustained Winds: 175 mph with higher gusts
bullet Estimated Central Pressure: 902 mb
bullet Size: Hurricane winds extend 105 miles from the center; tropical storm force winds extend outward for 230 miles
bullet Probability that in the next 69 hours, Katrina’s eye will pass within 75 miles of:
bullet Panama City, FL: 5 percent
bullet Gulfport, MS: 38 percent
bullet New Orleans, LA: 47 percent (National Hurricane Center 8/28/2005; National Hurricane Center 8/28/2005; National Hurricane Center 8/28/2005)

The Contraflow Plan, which was activated 24 hours ago to expedite evacuation of Southeastern Louisiana (see 4:00 pm August 27, 2005), ends at 4:00 pm today according to State Police, and the roads return to the two-way traffic. (The Times-Picayune reports that Contraflow ends at 5:00 pm. (Times-Picayune Blog 8/28/2005) ) Police warn that the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway will close when maximum sustained winds reach 35 mph. (Louisiana State Police 8/28/2005)

The last Continental Airlines plane leaves New Orleans with 54 empty seats. Continental has flown 10 of its 12 flights today. Twenty extra employees, flown in earlier to help process customers, are on the last plane out. (McCartney 9/2/2005)

Alabama Governor Bob Riley declares a state of emergency, and asks President Bush to issue an “expedited major disaster declaration” for six counties in the southwestern part of Alabama most likely to suffer significant damage due to Hurricane Katrina. (Alabama 8/28/2005)

Winds have knocked down several utility poles and gusts up to 60 mph have been recorded in Port Sulphur, Louisiana (about 49 miles southeast of New Orleans), according to Plaquemines Parish Sheriff’s Office Col. Charles Guey. (Times-Picayune Blog 8/28/2005)

William Crouch, Vice Commodore of the Coast Guard’s Auxiliary Eighth District Central Region, states that boats, radios, aviation units will be ready to respond “based on the District’s Contingency plan which has been in effect since Hurricane Ivan.” According to Crouch, “units from outlying areas are preparing to depart for the disaster area as soon as the situation becomes clear.” Units from as far away as Arkansas, Alabama, Florida, Missouri, and Mississippi and other areas of Louisiana are preparing to respond. (Times-Picayune Blog 8/28/2005)

Governor Blanco once again urges evacuation and shelter: “To those residents who have the ability to leave, I urge you to leave now. If you cannot leave the city, I urge you to go to one of the city-sponsored shelters in the New Orleans area. I am gravely concerned about reports coming in regarding those who are choosing not to evacuation. I strongly urge you to get to safety while there is still time to do so.” Blanco reports, “I am thankful to say that we’ve successfully evacuated hundreds of thousands of residents in the last 24 hours. State officials, working with local and parish officials and officials in Mississippi, have worked hard to maintain a safe evacuation process. While many people are still on the roads trying to get out of the city, traffic patterns indicate that everyone who has the ability to leave New Orleans will be able to evacuate by this evening.….With the exception of Highway 61 and I-10 eastbound at Slidell, all evacuation routes out of the city will remain open for residents desiring to leave this evening. Contraflow loading has ended, but evacuation has not.” (Louisiana 8/28/2005)

“The area from New Orleans to the Mississippi-Louisiana border is going to get a catastrophic blow. I put the odds of New Orleans getting its levees breached and the city submerged at about 70 percent This scenario, which has been discussed extensively in literature I have read, could result in a death toll in the thousands, since many people will be unable or unwilling to get out of the city. I recommend that if you are trapped in New Orleans tomorrow, that you wear a life jacket and a helmet if you have them,” states Jeff Matthews, meteorologist with the Weather Underground, a popular web-based weather service. Masters notes: “Katrina [is] the fourth strongest hurricane ever, and the strongest hurricane ever observed in the Gulf of Mexico, surpassing Camille.… Katrina has continued to expand in size, and now rivals Hurricane Gilbert and Hurricane Allen as the largest hurricanes in size. When hurricanes reach such enormous sizes, they tend to create their own upper-air environment, making them highly resistant to external wind shear.… Katrina is so huge and powerful that she will still do incredible damage even at this level.” Recognizing that he has focused primarily on New Orleans, Masters states, “Katrina will do tens of billions in damage all along the coast of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida. Mobile Bay could well see a 10-foot storm surge. And inland areas will take heavy damage as well; Katrina will still be a hurricane 180 miles inland, and cause widespread flooding throughout the Tennessee Valley.” Masters ends by urging readers to pray for those in Katrina’s path. (Masters 8/28/2005)

The last Southwest Airlines flight leaves New Orleans at 6:00 pm today, according to a company representative. (McCartney 9/2/2005) Note, however that at 4:30, the Airport issued a press release stating that all commercial passenger flights had departed from Louis Armstrong International Airport and all flight operations had ceased. (Louis Armstrong International Airport 8/28/2005 pdf file)

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

According to a later interview with the New York Times, FEMA Director Mike Brown states that upon return to Baton Rouge from New Orleans, he has become concerned about the lack of coordinated response from Louisiana officials. “What do you need? Help me help you,” Brown said he asked them. “The response was like, ‘Let us find out,’ and then I never received specific requests for specific things that needed doing.” Bob Mann, Blanco’s Communications Director will assert, however, that during this period, Blanco becomes frustrated with Brown and FEMA for expecting itemized requests before they will do anything. According to Mann, “It was like walking into an emergency room bleeding profusely and being expected to instruct the doctors how to treat you.” (Kirkpatrick and Shane 9/15/2005)

More than 4,000 National Guardsmen are mobilizing in Memphis, Tennessee to help police the streets of New Orleans after the storm has passed, according to Terry Ebbert, New Orleans Director of Homeland Security. In the meantime, as the storm approaches, officials are “hunkered down. There is not much we can do tonight,” he says. (Times-Picayune Blog 8/28/2005 Sources: Terry Ebbert)

The National Guard transfers approximately 400 people with special medical needs from the Superdome to hospitals in other cities, according to Gen. Ralph Lupin, commander of troops deployed at the Superdome. Additionally, personnel transport another 40 evacuees with serious medical conditions to Tulane Medical Center, after Wes McDermott, from the Office of Emergency Preparedness invokes a little-known rule of the Homeland Security Act to commandeer seven Acadian ambulances. (Foster 8/29/2005 Sources: Ralph Lupin)

Wind gusts, clocked at 80 mph, have knocked out the power in Grand Isle and Port Fourchon, and in south Plaquemines Parish, wind gusts have reached 74 mph, according to Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development representative Mark Lambert. (Times-Picayune Blog 8/28/2005 Sources: Mark Lambert)

The Coast Guard announces that it is closing ports and waterways along the Gulf Coast, and evacuating its own personnel and resources from out of harm’s way. “Extensive damage and closures to ports and waterways throughout the central Gulf coast should be expected,” the Coast Guard warns. More than 40 Coast Guard aircraft from units and more than 30 small boats, patrol boats, and cutters, are positioning themselves in staging areas around the projected impact area (from Jacksonville, Florida, to Houston, Texas), and they are preparing to conduct immediate post-hurricane search, rescue, and humanitarian aid operations, as well as waterway impact assessments and waterway reconstitution operations. (US Coast Guard 8/28/2005)

The National Hurricane Center (NHC) again leads its advisory by warning that “Potentially catastrophic Hurricane Katrina” continues to approach the northern gulf coast. Still a Category 5 hurricane, Katrina will likely turn north in the next 12-24 hours. Katrina remains quite large, and will likely cause storm surge flooding of 18-22 feet above normal, with increased surge to 28 feet in some areas. The surge may overtop New Orleans’ levees. Some changes to Katrina’s structure indicates that there could be some weakening, although Katrina likely will still be a very dangerous Category 4 hurricane at landfall. While “there is great significance for the City of New Orleans in the details of the path of Katrina, the path could vary 30-50 miles 12-18 hours from landfall.” Other aspects of the NHC Advisory include:
bullet Location: 105 miles south of the mouth of the Mississippi River; about 170 miles south-southeast of New Orleans
bullet Direction and Speed: North-northwest at near 10 mph
bullet Maximum Sustained Winds: 160 mph with higher gusts
bullet Estimated Central Pressure: 904 mb
bullet Size: hurricane winds extend 105 miles from the center; tropical storm force winds extend 230 miles
bullet Probability that in the next 69 hours, Katrina’s eye will pass within 75 miles of:
bullet Panama City, FL: 2 percent
bullet Gulfport, MS: 54 percent
bullet New Orleans, LA: 59 percent (National Hurricane Center 8/28/2005; National Hurricane Center 8/28/2005; National Hurricane Center 8/28/2005)

By this evening, 3,000 residents have sought refuge in 45 emergency shelters throughout Louisiana, according to Victor Howell of the Louisiana Capital Area Red Cross. The Red Cross is prepared to deploy 750 employees and volunteers from Louisiana, plus an additional 2,000 others from around the country. (Times-Picayune Blog 8/28/2005 Sources: Victor Howell) By early morning tomorrow, over 11,400 evacuees will be sheltered in more than 70 Red Cross facilities throughout the state. (Times-Picayune Blog 8/29/2005) A Louisiana Department of Social Services representative will report that an estimated 27,639 evacuees are in state and Red Cross shelters. (Times-Picayune Blog 8/29/2005)

Most of the main roads and bridges in the New Orleans area close, including the Crescent City Connection, Huey P. Long Bridge, Lake Pontchartrain Causeway, Belle Chasse tunnel, and Louisiana 632 (in St. Charles Parish). (Times-Picayune Blog 8/28/2005)

Because all Baton Rouge and nearby hotels are full, the state is housing about 20 state employees from New Orleans at the Louisiana State Museum. (Times-Picayune Blog 8/29/2005)

The 2004 Hurricane Pam exercise (see July 19-23, 2004) indicated that approximately 65 percent of the New Orleans-area population would evacuate before a major hurricane. (Glasser and Grunwald 9/11/2005) However, initial reports indicate that the Katrina evacuation has exceeded these expectations—significantly. Almost one million people (or about 80 percent of the population) have left the greater New Orleans area, according to Jeff Smith, Deputy Director of Louisiana’s Emergency Planning. Later, Smith will note that, “Everyone is kind of focusing on response at this point in time. I don’t hear anybody talking about how successful that evacuation was. It probably saved hundreds of thousands of lives, and nobody wants to talk about that.” Smith will acknowledge, however, that up to 100,000 residents may not have evacuated. (National Public Radio 9/9/2005 Sources: Jeff Smith) When asked about the evacuation of the reported 100,000 residents without transportation, FEMA Director Mike Brown will say “I think enough was done,” adding that his only question is whether the mandatory evacuation should have been announced sooner. (Wall Street Journal 9/12/2005) Jefferson Parish reports a 70 percent evacuation rate, in part due to a “church buddy program,” which provided rides for approximately 25,000 residents. St. Bernard Parish reports an astounding 90 percent evacuation rate. (Glasser and Grunwald 9/11/2005) The Chicago Tribune later reports that the area has achieved 75 percent evacuation. (Martin, Simpson, and James 9/11/2005)

Doug Thornton, General Manager of the Superdome has requested portable toilets, recognizing that the water pressure may fail, according to an Associated Press report. He also notes that they are not set up to manage the thousands of evacuees for very long: “We’re expecting to be here for the long haul,” he said. “We can make things very nice for 75,000 people for four hours. But we aren’t set up to really accommodate 8,000 for four days.” (Foster 8/29/2005)

Only 15 of the 82 nursing homes in southeast Louisiana will have conducted full evacuations before Katrina makes landfall, according to Joe Donchess, executive director of the Louisiana Nursing Home Association. About five to seven other facilities have moved their patients to area hospitals or hotels. However, at least 40 facilities will have elected to “shelter in place” rather than evacuate. (About 15 facilities have failed to report their evacuation plans, and thus, their status is unknown.) (Times-Picayune Blog 8/28/2005; Lipton et al. 9/11/2005 Sources: Joe Donchess)

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