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Hurricane Katrina

Project: Hurricane Katrina
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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)

The LSU Hurricane Center supercomputer generates new models based on the National Hurricane Center’s 10:00 pm advisory. LSU’s revised models indicate that the storm surge outside the levee system will be 16-18 feet in eastern Orleans Parish (reduced from the earlier estimated 20 feet). The revised model continues to predict extensive flooding in Plaquemines, St. Bernard, and eastern Orleans parishes. (Times-Picayune Blog 8/29/2005)

The USS Bataan, a multi-purpose amphibious assault ship, and other US Navy assets are preparing to provide assistance in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, if needed. The Bataan is currently underway in the Gulf of Mexico from Corpus Christi, Texas, and is now heading towards the northern Gulf Coast area. “If called upon, Bataan brings unique humanitarian capabilities to the scene.” (Navy Newsstand 8/29/2005) The Bataan has helicopters, doctors, hospital beds, food, and water. It also can make its own water, up to 100,000 gallons a day. (Hedges 9/4/2005)

Around midnight, local emergency officials from southeastern Louisiana hold a teleconference with FEMA to discuss plans for responding to Katrina’s aftermath. Local officials are so certain of catastrophe that they ask FEMA to include extra medical staff in its first wave of responders to help the expected casualties. At this point, officials are reportedly following a plan drafted only months ago, as a result of the Hurricane Pam exercise conducted in 2004 (see July 19-23, 2004). (Martin, Simpson, and James 9/11/2005)
Note - Following the 2004 Hurricane Pam exercise, Innovative Emergency Management (IEM issued a Draft Southeast Louisiana Catastrophic Hurricane Functional Plan (Draft Plan) on August 6, 2004. (Federal Emergency Management Agency 8/6/2004 pdf file) Whether local officials are following this draft plan, or a later plan, remains unclear at this time. The Chicago Tribune reports that the plan in place provides that local officials should be prepared to deal with the aftermath of the storm for 48 to 60 hours (or until August 31). However, the Draft Plan expressly contemplates that local search and rescue resources will be unavailable to rescue the estimated 500,000 people in flooded or damaged areas. (Federal Emergency Management Agency 8/6/2004, pp. 69-70, 72 pdf file) Thus, the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, and the US Coast Guard are expected to serve as the primary first-responders, while local officials are tasked with requesting assistance. (Federal Emergency Management Agency 8/6/2004, pp. 70-74 pdf file) Further, while local parishes are tasked with identifying required support, the Plan recognizes that they may be unable to do so: “State and Federal SAR operations personnel will respond to Parishes without a request if initial assessment indicates that the Parish is severely damaged and is not capable of requesting assistance.” (Federal Emergency Management Agency 8/6/2004, pp. 75 pdf file) The Plan also contemplates that 500,000 residents will need transport from the initial search and rescue staging area to shelters, and that because the Louisiana National Guard will be otherwise tasked, it will be unable to meet this transportation need. (Federal Emergency Management Agency 8/6/2004, pp. 27-28 pdf file)

The National Hurricane Center (NHC)‘s midnight advisory leads with: “Potentially catastrophic [Category 5] Hurricane Katrina continues to approach the Northern Gulf Coast…sustained hurricane-force winds nearing the Southeastern Louisiana coast.” Already, a wind gust to 98 mph has been reported from Southwest Pass Louisiana. 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, and may overtop New Orleans’ levees. Some changes to Katrina’s structure indicates that there could be some weakening, although the NHC reiterates that Katrina likely will still be a very dangerous Category 4 hurricane at landfall. Other aspects of the NHC Advisory include:
bullet Location: 90 miles south-southwest of the mouth of the Mississippi River; 150 miles south-southeast of New Orleans
bullet Direction and Speed: North-northwest at near 10 mph
bullet Maximum Sustained Winds: Near 160 mph with higher gusts
bullet Estimated Central Pressure: 908 mb
bullet Size: hurricane winds now extend 105 miles from the center; tropical storm force winds extend 230 miles (National Hurricane Center 8/29/2005)

New Orleans Fire’ Department reports a one-alarm fire on Panama Court near Colapissa Street around 12:15 am Later, Kenner’s Fire Department reports a fire at a daycare center. Fanned by Katrina’s advance winds, the fire destroyed the building. (Times-Picayune Blog 8/29/2005)

Fire Department Units in Jefferson Parish have been ordered to stand down. New Orleans follows suit. After thanking firefighters for all their work Charles Parent, New Orleans’ Fire Department Superintendent, orders firefighters to “lock down their gear and head for their refuge of last resort.” (Times-Picayune Blog 8/29/2005)

Only 82 of 120 New Orleans Police summoned for duty at 2:00 am actually report for duty, according to a later Newsweek report. The numbers will dwindle further throughout the day and even further in the days to come. (Thomas 9/19/2005)

The National Weather Service’s New Orleans local weather statement reiterates the stark warnings announced yesterday: “Direct strike of potentially catastrophic and life threatening hurricane expected late tonight and early Monday.” The Statement recommends the following actions: “Protect you and your family. Follow local emergency managers recommendations. With the approach of hurricane force winds and heavy squalls people are urged to seek refuge of last resort in strong…well constructed buildings. If life threatening storm surge flooding develops…move to higher floors or house attics. Bring tools to make an emergency exit should these higher floors or attics become inundated.” (National Weather Service (Birmingham) 8/29/2005; Wall Street Journal 9/12/2005)

New Orleans is now experiencing rain squalls, which are dumping up to two inches of rain per hour, and winds gusts of up to 70 mph. “That wind is strong,” says a New Orleans emergency worker from outside of City Hall. “It just blew the light of the top of an ambulance.” Around this same time, a monitoring buoy located 50 miles east of Plaquemines Parish records sustained winds of 57 mph, gusts up to 72 mph. Waves are cresting at 47 feet. (Times-Picayune Blog 8/29/2005)

The National Hurricane’s 4:00 am advisory warns that Katrina, now a very strong Category 4 hurricane, remains very large, is extremely dangerous, and is nearing landfall. Tropical storm-force winds are already lashing the Gulf Coast from Southeastern Louisiana to the Alabama-Florida border. A buoy located 50 miles east of the Mississippi River has reported waves as high as 46 feet already. Storm surge flooding will be 18-22 feet above normal, with increased surge to 28 feet in some areas, and levees in the greater New Orleans area may be overtopped. Although it appears that Katrina will make landfall as a Category 4 hurricane later this morning, the NHC warns that “just because Katrina is no longer a category 5 hurricane does not mean that extensive damage and storm surge flooding will not occur. This is still an extremely dangerous and potentially deadly hurricane!” Other aspects of the NHC Advisory include:
bullet Location: 90 miles south-southeast of New Orleans; about 120 miles south-southwest of Biloxi Mississippi
bullet Direction and Speed: North at near 15 mph
bullet Maximum Sustained Winds: 150 mph with higher gusts
bullet Estimated Central Pressure: 915 mb
bullet Size: hurricane winds extend 105 miles from the center; tropical storm force winds extend 230 miles (National Hurricane Center 8/29/2005)

Kenner police receive reports of street flooding in the 900 to 1200 blocks of Williams Boulevard, and reports that the Duncan Canal is close to overflowing. (Kenner is located just south of Lake Pontchartrain, in Jefferson Parish) Armstrong International Airport and St Charles Parish each record winds of at least 80 mph. St. Bernard records winds up to 70 mph and loses power by 5:00 am. More than 348,000 area residents lose power. Some East Jefferson drainage canals already are topping out as huge pumps struggle to drain the rain out of neighborhoods and into Lake Pontchartrain, according to Walter Maestri, Director of the Emergency Management Center in Jefferson Parish. Jefferson Parish streets near Transcontinental Drive and Kawanee Avenue, a frequent trouble spot about halfway between the Suburban and Elmwood canals, are also flooded. However, according to Maestri, “We have had no reports of serious wind damage, and we don’t see any indication of tidal surge problems. But of course it’s still really early. The next four to five hours will tell the tale.” (Times-Picayune Blog 8/29/2005; Schleifstein and Broach 8/29/2005 Sources: Walter Maestri)

Police in Kenner (Jefferson Parish) halt operations at this time, because gusts have become too intense, according to Steve Caraway, Captain of the Police Department. Throughout the night, police have tried to respond to calls from across the city, many of them from people experiencing cardiac distress, Caraway said. Several people have been taken to area hospitals. (Times-Picayune Blog 8/29/2005 Sources: Steve Caraway)

Hurricane Katrina will damage more than 40 crucial oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico beyond repair, and will inflice extensive damage to at least another 100 rigs. The damage is so extensive, some of the platforms are now lying on the Gulf floor, according to Capt. Frank Paskewich, commander of the US Coast Guard in New Orleans, and weeks from now, the full extent of the damage will remain unclear. (ABC News 9/19/2005)

Maj. Gen. Bennett C. Landreneau reports that the Guard is ready to respond to the storm: Aircraft positioned from Hammond to the Texas border are ready to fly behind the storm to check damage after it passes over New Orleans. Search and rescue operations are coordinating with the state Wildlife and Fisheries Department and the Coast Guard. More guardsmen stationed at the Jackson Barracks, stand ready to head into the city with high-water vehicles as soon as the storm passes. (Times-Picayune Blog 8/29/2005)

Before dawn this morning, as Katrina approaches the coast of Southeastern Louisiana, the hurricane’s easterly winds from its northern quadrant shove a rising surge into the marshy Lake Borgne area east of St. Bernard. There, two hurricane levees come together into a large V-shape. Storm surge researchers later say that this point “acts as a giant funnel: Water pouring into the confined area rises up—perhaps as much as 20 feet in this case—and is funneled between the levees all the way into New Orleans.” The water probably tops the levees along the north side adjacent to eastern New Orleans, which average only 14 or 15 feet. The surge reaches the Industrial Canal before dawn and quickly overflows on both sides, the canal lockmaster reports to the Corps. At some point not long afterward, Corps officials believe a barge breaks loose and crashes through the floodwall, opening a breach that accelerated flooding into the Lower Ninth Ward and St. Bernard Parish. (McQuaid 9/7/2005)
Note - Reports about when this breach occurs vary. For example, the Army Corps of Engineers will report this evening that this breach occurs later, “during the storm.” (US Army Corps of Engineers 8/29/2005 pdf file) The Boston Globe will report that this breach occurs around 9:00 am. (O'Brien and Bender 9/11/2005) However, it appears more likely that at least one breach of occurred on this canal early this morning. Army Corps engineers will later indicate that this Industrial Canal breach occurs overnight as the storm is barreling towards New Orleans (McQuaid 9/7/2005) ; while the 17th Street Canal levee-floodwall is not breached until sometime around 9:00 am during the height of the storm’s pass near New Orleans (see (9:00 am) August 29, 2005).

Early this morning, Colonel Tim Tarchick, wing commander for the Air Force’s Reserve 920th Rescue Wing at Florida’s Patrick Air Force Base, tells FEMA and Northcom that his men are “ready to go,” and requests permission to conduct search and rescue missions as soon as the storm subsides. FEMA tells Tarchick that it is not authorized to task military units, according to Tarchick. Tarchick will be unable to cut through the red tape and deploy for more than 24 hours, until Tuesday afternoon, a delay Tarchick describes as “unacceptable.” Within 72 hours of deployment, his men will rescue 400 people in the New Orleans area. “He wonders how many more they might have saved.” (Ripley 9/4/2005; Newsweek 9/12/2005)

Power fails in the Superdome. Although the emergency generators kick in quickly, this backup power runs only reduced lighting. Air conditioning is now unavailable. (Times-Picayune Blog 8/29/2005; Nossiter 8/29/2005; ABC 8/29/2005)

The National Hurricane Center’s (NHC) 6:00 am advisory is bleak: “Extremely dangerous Category 4 Hurricane Katrina preparing to move onshore near southern Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana.” Hurricane-force wind gusts are now hitting most of southeastern Louisiana, the New Orleans metropolitan area, and as far east as the Chandeleur Islands. Katrina’s eye is now midway between Grand Isle and the mouth of the Mississippi River. The NHC expects Katrina to move onshore near Empire and Buras, Louisiana within the next hour, and reach the Mississippi border by early afternoon. The NHC continues to warn that that storm surge flooding will be 18-22 feet above normal, with increased surge to 28 feet in some areas, and that levees in the greater New Orleans area could be overtopped. A buoy located about 50 miles east of the mouth of the Mississippi has reported wave heights of at least 47 feet. Other aspects of the NHC Advisory include:
bullet Location: 70 miles south-southeast of New Orleans, and about 95 miles south-southwest of Biloxi, Mississippi
bullet Direction and Speed: North at near 15 mph
bullet Maximum Sustained Winds: 145 mph with higher gusts
bullet Estimated Central Pressure: 918 mb
bullet Size: hurricane winds extend 120 miles from the center; tropical storm force winds extend 230 miles (National Hurricane Center 8/29/2005)

Hurricane Katrina will make landfall in Louisiana in only 48 hours . At Governor Blanco’s request (see Early Morning August 27, 2005), President Bush has declared a state of emergency in Louisiana (see (Midday) August 27, 2005). Low-lying parishes have issued mandatory or recommended evacuations, and New Orleans has issued something between a voluntary and a recommended evacuation (see Morning, August 27, 2005; Evening August 27, 2005). FEMA apparently has sent 10-20 staff members to Louisiana by this time (see 11:00 am August 27, 2005). FEMA publishes a graphic projecting the path of Hurricane Katrina this hour, based on the National Hurricane Center Advisory 21 (see 4:00 am August 28, 2005). FEMA’s graphic indicates that Katrina will pass through New Orleans approximately 32 hours from now, at 2:00 pm tomorrow. (Agency 8/28/2005 pdf file)

As Katrina’s storm surge pushes inland, it causes significant damage to a large portion of the levee system along the Mississippi River-Gulf Outlet (MGRO). The storm surge also damages a smaller levee built on the northern portions of neighborhoods in St. Bernard along Florida Avenue, from Arabi to Poydras, according to Col. Richard Wagenaar, the Army Corps’ head of engineers for the New Orleans district. The MRGO, shipping channel built in the early 1960s with very strong local support, had a 17-foot high earthen levee that extended for 10 miles and was the area’s easternmost line of defense against storm surges. Although St. Bernard officials initially strongly supported the construction of the MGRO, more recently, officials had charged that building the waterway destroyed wetlands that absorb the impact of storm surges, making the parish vulnerable. (Times-Picayune 9/13/2005)

Jeff Matthews, meteorologist with the Weather Underground, a popular web-based weather service, reports that it appears New Orleans will be spared a catastrophic hit. “As the eye passes east of the city later this morning, north winds of about 100 mph will push waters from Lake Pontchartrain up to the top of the levee protecting the city, and possibly breach the levee and flood the city. This flooding will not cause the kind of catastrophe that a direct hit by the right (east) eyewall would have, with its 140 mph winds and 15-20 foot storm surge. New Orleans will not suffer large loss of life from Katrina.… [A]lthough the damage will be incredible, it could have been much, much worse.” (Masters 8/29/2005)

Hurricane Katrina makes its second landfall in Southeastern Louisiana at approximately 6:10 am this morning. (National Public Radio 9/9/2005)

The New Orleans Local Weather Statement issued by the National Weather Service states that the eye of Hurricane Katrina is now less than 70 miles from New Orleans. “Severe tidal flooding will also develop along low lying areas surrounding Lake Pontchartrain…with severe inundation likely.… Severe storm surge flooding is expected develop through the remainder of the morning…with highest values along the Louisiana coast east of the Mississippi River…Mississippi coast…and along the shore line of Lake Pontchartrain and Maurepas.” (National Weather Service (Birmingham) 8/29/2005; Wall Street Journal 9/12/2005)

Kenner police receive a call that a building at the Redwood Apartments on West Esplanade has lost its roof. Due to the raging storm, however, Police are unable to respond. (Times-Picayune Blog 8/29/2005) Police throughout the area will receive similar calls of damage and fires throughout the morning.

National Public Radio’s (NPR) Greg Allen reports, right after the storm passes over, that that people who did not evacuate are now reporting flooding, up to the ceilings of some houses. According to Allen, “[t]there have been reports that the levee has breached in one area,” and the pumps have already failed. The flooding, however, is not yet widespread. (National Public Radio 8/29/2005) NPR will continue to report the breach and flooding throughout the day.

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

Water is spilling over the floodwall (part of the levee system) in New Orleans’ Lower 9th Ward, especially in the Florida Avenue area, New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin reports, in an early morning interview with a local radio station. According to Nagin, the Florida Avenue pumping station is not working, and there are unconfirmed reports of people standing on their roofs. “There is a significant amount of water in the 9th Ward.” Other residents have reported flooding in the 9th Ward. According to one resident, houses near the Claiborne Avenue Bridge are taking on water. (Times-Picayune Blog 8/26/2005)

New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin tells NBC’s Today Show that his city is “still not out of the woods as it relates to that worst-case scenario.” Already he has received reports that water is overtopping the levee systems, and in the Lower 9th Ward, a pumping station has filed. “So we will have some significant flooding, it’s just a question of how much.” (MSNBC 8/29/2005)

In an early morning interview with NBC’s Today Show, New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin tells Matt Lauer that the city has “everything planned for them to be in there four to five days. And then if it has to extend beyond that, we’re going to—we’re basically counting on the federal government to supply us with what we need.” (MSNBC 8/29/2005)

Katrina, still an “extremely dangerous” Category 4 hurricane, with sustained winds at 135 mph, is now moving north at nearly 15 mph and its eye is now approximately 40 miles southeast of New Orleans and 65 miles southwest of Biloxi. The National Hurricane Center expects Katrina to pass just to the east of New Orleans during the next few hours, and then move into Southern Mississippi. Katrina has grown yet again, with hurricane force winds extending 125 miles from the center, and tropical storm force winds extending 230 miles. NHC warns that storm surge flooding of “10 to 15 feet… near the tops of the levees… is possible in the Greater New Orleans area.” Minimum central pressure has increased to 923 MB. (National Hurricane Center 8/29/2005)

This morning, Bush verbally declares emergency disaster declarations for Louisiana and Mississippi. The declarations will be formalized later in the day. (Federal Emergency Management Agency 8/29/2005 pdf file; Federal Emergency Management Agency 8/29/2005 pdf file; US Department of Homeland Security 9/12/2005; US Department of Homeland Security 9/12/2005)

Most landline and cell phone service companies report that their key telecommunications hubs in the Gulf Coast have been damaged and are virtually nonoperable. Cell phone service is spotty and long-distance callers get only signals on Monday as Hurricane Katrina knocked out key telecommunications hubs along the Gulf Coast. Sprint Nextel’s long-distance switch in New Orleans fails soon after the storm hits, due to flooding and power loss. Some AT&T facilities initially run on backup generators, but many are out of service because of flooding. MCI reports that at least one fiber cable has been cut and other facilities have “some water issues.” Due to power outages, Cingular Wireless cellular can only provide service at “significantly reduced levels” in the Biloxi, and New Orleans areas. Verizon Wireless’s towers are disconnected due to flooding and wire disruptions. (Jesdanun 8/29/2005)

According to FEMA Director Mike Brown, a field officer calls him on a satellite phone this morning to report that, “It is getting out of control down here; the levee has broken.” (Kirkpatrick and Shane 9/15/2005)

When Hurricane Katrina strikes New Orleans, the Louisiana National Guard almost immediately loses all forms of communication, according to Lt. Col. Schneider. Louisiana State Police also lose communications as well, according to Sgt. Lawrence McLeary, a state police officer in the Baton Rouge emergency center: “We lost contact with our personnel there. We lost contact with our troupe on the north shore, located in Mandeville. So we had—I mean, it was a pretty tense time, because we had no idea what was taking place in those areas.” The landlines are no longer operable. Cell phone towers have toppled; some are under water. Power is out and so it is impossible to recharge battery-operated radios. Guard generators, which could have charged these devices, are in either Iraq or Baton Rouge, according to a National Public Radio report. (National Public Radio 9/9/2005 Sources: Pete Schneider, Lawrence McLeary) FEMA emergency officials will wait days to receive working satellite phones. (Los Angeles Times 9/11/2005)

New Orleans’ pumps have already failed, although the flooding is not yet widespread, according to Greg Allen, National Public Radio reporter. The Industrial Canal floodwall apparently has breached, flooding the Lower 9th Ward. People were trapped in their attics as the waters rose, and rescues are now taking place. Overall, however, the situation “is not nearly as bad as the catastrophe that people were predicting,” Allen reports. (National Public Radio 8/29/2005) Millions of TV viewers watching the disaster unfold in New Orleans will repeatedly see a huge barge floating amongst houses in the flooded area. Whether that barge caused or contributed to the breach of the Industrial Canal floodwall remains unclear as of mid-September 2005. The Army Corps of Engineers will later state that one possible cause was that this barge smashed through the floodwall during the high winds. (Machalaba 9/9/2005; McQuaid 9/13/2005) (Note: Reports incorrectly describe the Industrial Canal structure as a levee. It is, in fact, a floodwall.)

At around 8:00 am this morning, authorities report rising water on both sides of the Industrial Canal, in St. Bernard and eastern New Orleans. The Coast Guard reports that residents are on rooftops in the Upper 9th Ward. “Water is inundating everywhere,” in St. Bernard, Parish Council Chairman Joey DiFatta says. (McQuaid 9/7/2005 Sources: Joey DiFatta, US Coast Guard)

Katrina’s winds tear two sections from the roof of the Superdome, and rain begins to pour in through the holes, where thousands of New Orleans residents have sought refuge from the storm, was damaged and there are reports of water pouring into the building. (Times-Picayune Blog 8/29/2005; Foster 8/29/2005; Foster 8/29/2005)

The National Weather Service (NWS) issues a flash flood warning for Orleans Parish, reporting that a breach has occurred along the Industrial Canal at Tennessee Street. It expects three to eight feet of flooding due to the breach. The warning includes New Orleans, including the 9th Ward, St. Bernard Parish, Chalmette, and Arabi. The NWS urges residents to “[m]ove to higher ground. A flash flood warning means that flooding is imminent or occurring. If you are in the warning area move to higher ground immediately.” (Wall Street Journal 9/12/2005)

Jefferson Medical Center reports that windows in its office building have blown out, and employees have evacuated patients into the hallways. (Times-Picayune Blog 8/29/2005)

At a briefing just before 9:00 am this morning, state officials report that flooding is becoming a problem in Orleans Parish. About six to eight feet of water has already collected in the Lower 9th Ward. Maj. Gen. Bennett C. Landreneau reports that emergency personnel stationed at Jackson Barracks have confirmed that the waters are rising, although he does not know whether the flooding is due to a levee breach or overtopping. Extensive flooding already has been reported along St. Claude and Claiborne avenues. Charity Hospital reports flooding on the first floor. St. Bernard and Plaquemines officials also report flooding. Governor Blanco urges residents that they should not return, because their homes will likely be unreachable: “You will hamper search and rescue efforts… [and it] will be impossible for you to get where you need to go.” (Times-Picayune Blog 8/29/2005)

Emergency preparedness officials from across southeast Louisiana report damage during a morning teleconference. The officials report flooding, building collapses, power outages and fires. The Times-Picayune provides a rundown of the reports on its blog this morning:
bullet In New Orleans, water is topping a floodwall along the Industrial Canal. The city’s 911 system is out of service. Charity Hospital is on emergency power; windows have been blown out on five floors. The Police Department is operating on a backup power system. Three to four feet of water is reported on St. Claude Avenue at Jackson Barracks. A 20-foot tidal surge has knocked out four pumping stations; only one is back into service.
bullet Jefferson Parish reports a building collapse in the 200 block of Wright Avenue in Terrytown. Reportedly, people were inside the building when it collapsed.
bullet St. Charles Parish reports significant flooding on the East Bank.
bullet Arabi reports up to eight feet of water. People are climbing into their attics to escape the flooding. “We’re telling people to get into the attic and take something with them to cut through the roof if necessary,” reports Col. Richard Baumy of the St. Bernard Parish Sheriff’s Office. “It’s the same scenario as Betsy.” 100-plus mph winds are preventing rescue efforts.
bullet Bayou Bienvenue reports water levels of 9 1/2 feet, almost twice normal levels.
bullet St. John reports massive power outages.
bullet Gramercy reports extensive damage to the town’s 1 1/2-year-old fire station.
bullet Terrebonne Parish reports one death due to a heart attack. (Times-Picayune Blog 8/29/2005) Note: The exact time of this call is not clear. However, this entry appears on the Times-Picayune Blog before reports of the hole in the Superdome’s roof, indicating that the call takes place relatively early this morning.

The National Weather Service’s Local Weather Statement for New Orleans advises that the eye of Hurricane Katrina is in eastern St. Bernard and Orleans Parishes, packing sustained winds near 135 mph, with higher gusts. A storm surge of 10 to 12 feet will be occurring in the southwest part of Lake Pontchartrain affecting the east banks of Jefferson, St. Charles, St. John the Baptist, and Livingston parishes. “Severe storm surge flooding is expected develop through the remainder of the morning… with highest values along the Louisiana coast east of the Mississippi River…Mississippi coast…and along the shore line of Lake Pontchartrain and Maurepas.” (National Weather Service (Birmingham) 8/29/2005; Wall Street Journal 9/12/2005)

Around 9:00 am this morning, the 17th Street Canal levee-floodwall system is breached. However, according to Al Naomi, Army Corps of Engineers’ New Orleans project manager, the breach occurs in mid- or late-morning after Katrina’s eye has passed east of New Orleans. By that time, north winds have pushed storm surge water in Lake Pontchartrain south against the hurricane levees and into the canals, and then the wind shifts to the west. “As I remember it the worst of the storm had passed when we got word the floodwall had collapsed,” Naomi later says. “It could have been when we were experiencing westerly winds in the aftermath of the storm, which would have been pushing water against it.” Naomi and other Corps officials will later say that they believe that the water in the canal topped the levee on the Orleans Parish side, weakening its structure on the interior side and causing its collapse. Ivor Van Heerden, LSU Hurricane Center expert, however, will say that he does not believe the water was high enough in the lake to top the 14-foot wall and that the pressure caused a “catastrophic structural failure.” (McQuaid 9/7/2005 Sources: Al Naomi, Ivor Van Heerden)
Note - Reports about when this breach occurs vary. For example, Knight Ridder reports that the breach occurred at 3:00 am this morning, and that the breach was reported to the Army Corps of Engineers around 5:00 am. (Knight Ridder 9/11/2005) Later today, the Army Corps of Engineers will report that the breach occurred “overnight” and that the Industrial Canal breach occurs at this time. (US Army Corps of Engineers 8/29/2005 pdf file Sources: US Army Corps of Engineers) The Boston Globe will report that the breach occurs later this afternoon. (O'Brien and Bender 9/11/2005) The Chicago Tribune will report that the breach does not occur until August 30. (Martin, Simpson, and James 9/11/2005) However, it appears more likely that the 17th Street Canal floodwall-levee is breached around this time, and that the early morning breach reported is the breach of the floodwall(s) in the Industrial Canal.

Floodwaters in the Lakeview area of New Orleans are rising above house porches. (Times-Picayune Blog 8/29/2005)
Note - The 17th Street Canal, whose floodwall breaches at some point today, borders Lakeview on the west.

Floodwalls in the London Avenue canal are breached today, probably around this time, according to Al Naomi, Army Corps of Engineers’ New Orleans project manager. (McQuaid 9/7/2005 Sources: Al Naomi)
Note - Today’s Army Corps news release will not mention this breach. (US Army Corps of Engineers 8/29/2005 pdf file) The Army Corps initially will indicate that this breach occurs on August 30. (US Army Corps of Engineers 8/31/2005 pdf file)

St. Bernard Parish officials are receiving reports of widespread flooding and damage across the parish. More than eight feet of water is reported in Arabi. However, according to Parish Council Chairman Joey DiFatta, other parts of St. Bernard have also been also hit. “Water is inundating everywhere. We have buildings and roofs collapsing. We’re preparing rescue efforts and as soon as the wind subsides we’ll start trying to get people out of St. Bernard.” (Times-Picayune Blog 8/29/2005 Sources: Joey DiFatta)

Around this time, portions of the New Orleans’ telephone system fails. Remote phone switching stations and wireless phone antennas, or cell sites, are switching to backup battery or generator power, but most of these sources are temporary. (Times-Picayune Blog 8/29/2005)

“Although the damage will be incredible, it could have been much, much worse,” states Jeff Matthews, meteorologist with the Weather Underground. Masters notes, however, that the National Weather Service “is reporting that the levees in Orleans and St Bernard parishes have been overtopped by the storm surge, and there are reports of life-threatening flooding, roof damage, and building collapses in the city.” Masters warns that “Bay Saint Louis, Biloxi, and Gulfport Mississippi will take the full force of Katrina’s right eyewall, and a storm surge of 15-20 feet is likely along the west and central Mississippi coast.” Masters closes his post with a personal note: “A special thanks need to be given to the Air Force Hurricane Hunters based at Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi, Mississippi, who have flown Katrina around the clock while their families remained on the ground in Biloxi. Biloxi will suffer Katrina’s harshest blow, and many of the Hurricane Hunters will see their homes destroyed or heavily damaged.” (Masters 8/29/2005) Tomorrow morning, Masters will recall the initial relief after Hurricane Andrew: “As news reports begin to filter in from the hardest hit areas, the scope of Katrina’s destruction is slowly being realized. Remember in the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew, how there was a lot of relief about how much worse it could have been, and how well Miami fared? This cheerfulness faded once the search teams penetrated to Homestead and found the near-total devastation there [W]ith a two block long breach in the Lake Pontchartrain levee allowing the entire City of New Orleans to flood today, we are witnessing a natural disaster of the scope unseen in America since the great 1938 Hurricane devastated New England, killing 600. Damage from Katrina will probably top $50 billion, and the death toll will be in the hundreds.” (Masters 8/30/2005)

President Bush arrives in Luke Air Force Base near Phoenix, Arizona, for a previously scheduled public appearance in El Mirage. While at the base, Bush joins Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) in a small celebration of McCain’s 69th birthday. (White House 8/28/2005)

The National Hurricane Center (NHC) advises that storm surge flooding of 10 to 15 feet—near the tops of the levees—is still possible in the greater New Orleans area. Katrina’s center has now made landfall again near the Louisiana-Mississippi border, about 35 miles east-northeast of New Orleans, and about 45 miles west-southwest of Biloxi. Now a Category 3 hurricane with sustained winds near 125 mph, Katrina is moving north at nearly 16 mph. The hurricane remains huge, with hurricane force winds extending 105 miles from the center, and tropical storm force winds extending 230 miles. NHC reiterates that storm surge flooding will be 15-20 feet above normal. Minimum central pressure has increased to 927 mb. (National Hurricane Center 8/29/2005)

According to a FEMA statement, as of 10:00 am today, “FEMA’s emergency teams and resources are being deployed and configured for coordinated response to Hurricane Katrina.” This includes:
bullet FEMA has pre-staged critical commodities such as ice, water, meals, and tarps in various strategic locations to be made available to residents of affected areas: 500 trucks of ice, 500 trucks of water and 350 trucks of meals ready to eat (MREs) available for distribution over the next 10 days. Location: 26.2 N, 78.7 W.
bullet FEMA’s Hurricane Liaison Team is onsite and working closely with the National Hurricane Center in Miami, Fla.
bullet FEMA’s National Response Coordination Center and Regional Response Coordination Centers in Atlanta, Ga., and Denton, Texas, are operating around the clock, coordinating the pre-positioning of assets and responding to state requests for assistance.
bullet FEMA has deployed a National Emergency Response Team to Louisiana with a coordination cell positioned at the State Emergency Operations Center in Baton Rouge to facilitate state requests for assistance.
bullet FEMA has deployed four Advance Emergency Response Teams to locations in Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida. The teams include federal liaisons who work directly within county Emergency Operations Centers to respond to critical needs as they are identified by local officials and prioritized by the state.
bullet FEMA has pre-staged Rapid Needs Assessment teams in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama.
bullet FEMA has deployed nine Urban Search and Rescue task forces and incident support teams from Florida, Virginia, Maryland, Texas, Tennessee, Indiana, Ohio, and Missouri.
bullet FEMA has deployed 31 teams from the National Disaster Medical System (NDMS) to staging areas in Anniston, Ala., Memphis, Tenn., Houston, Dallas, and New Orleans, including 23 Disaster Medical Assistance Teams. The teams, trained to handle trauma, pediatrics, surgery, and mental health problems, will bring truckloads of medical equipment and supplies.
bullet FEMA has deployed two Veterinary Medical Assistance Teams as part of its NDMS, which will support and rescue pets, and provide any needed veterinary medical care for rescue dogs. (Federal Emergency Management Agency 8/29/2005)

President Bush attends a previously scheduled “Conversation on Medicare” with about 400 guests at the Pueblo El Mirage RV Resort and Country Club in nearby El Mirage, Arizona. Before engaging in the Medicare discussion, Bush addresses the unfolding Katrina disaster: “I know my fellow residents here in Arizona and across the country are saying our prayers for those affected by the—Hurricane Katrina. Our Gulf Coast is getting hit and hit hard. I want the folks there on the Gulf Coast to know that the federal government is prepared to help you when the storm passes. I want to thank the governors of the affected regions for mobilizing assets prior to the arrival of the storm to help residents avoid this devastating storm. I urge the residents there in the region to continue to listen to the local authorities. Don’t abandon your shelters until you’re given clearance by the local authorities. Take precautions because this is a dangerous storm. When the storm passes, the federal government has got assets and resources that we’ll be deploying to help you. In the meantime, America will pray—pray for the health and safety of all our residents.” He then turns to discuss immigration and other issues. (US President 9/5/2005)

White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan reports that President Bush speaks with FEMA Director Michael Brown twice this morning, and that Brown has provided Bush with an update on the status of the storm. McClellan also reports that, “In addition to dealing with the urgent issues related to the hurricane, the President will be participating in conversations today in Arizona and Southern California with some people with Medicare experts working with Medicare beneficiaries and health professionals about the upcoming changes in the Medicare program.” (White House 8/29/2005)

The Associated Press reports that, according to the National Weather Service, a floodwall has been breached on the Industrial Canal near the St. Bernard-Orleans parish line (see (9:00 am) August 29, 2005). Three to eight feed of flooding is possible. (Nossiter 8/29/2005 Sources: National Weather Service) The Associated Press will report on breaches in New Orleans’ levee system at least 15 times before the end of the day, identifying both the Industrial Canal floodwall breach and the 17th Street Canal floodwall-levee breach.

Water has risen beyond the second floor in some houses in Chalmette (St. Bernard’s Parish), according to local officials. People are being forced into their attics to escape the floodwaters. North of Judge Perez Drive, waters have already risen as high as 10 feet. Chalmette High School, a refuge of last resort, has sustained structural damage, and the Civic Auditorium has lost its roof. Floodwall-levee overtopping has caused the extensive flooding in the Lower 9th Board and St. Bernard Parish. (Times-Picayune Blog 8/29/2005)

The National Weather Service’s local weather statement for New Orleans announces that “A significant and life threatening storm surge estimated around 20 feet has occurred with Katrina…causing levees to be overtopped in Orleans and St Bernard parishes. In addition, dangerous battering waves are occurring on top of the storm surge near the coast severe tidal flooding will continue in these areas for several more hours. Significant flooding is also occurring along the Mississippi Gulf Coast over Hancock…Harrison and Jackson counties. Extensive damage due to the wind and storm surge is occurring along the Mississippi coast. A storm surge of 10 to 12 feet has occurred in the southwest part of Lake Pontchartrain affecting the east banks of Jefferson, St Charles, St John the Baptist, and Livingston parishes.” (Wall Street Journal 9/12/2005)

The National Weather Service’s local weather statement for Mobile Alabama repeats the 8:14 am Flash Flood Warning (see 8:14 am August 29, 2005), which reported that the Industrial Canal is breached at Tennessee Street. (Wall Street Journal 9/12/2005)

The St. Bernard Parish website reports on the breach to the Industrial Canal floodwall, near the St. Bernard-Orleans parish line (Tennessee St.), citing the National Weather Service advisory (see 8:14 am August 29, 2005). According to Larry Ingargiola, Director of St. Bernard’s OEP, both parish shelters, housing 300 residents, are suffering significant flooding damage. Chalmette High is losing its roof; many windows are broken at St. Bernard High. “We cannot see the tops of the levees!” (St. Bernard Parish 8/29/2005)

White House officials, including Joe Hagin, White House Deputy Chief of Staff, participate in a video conference call with federal and state officials from aboard Air Force One, according to Scott McClellan, White House Press Secretary. President Bush likely will not participate: “I think there is a little bit more of a staff participation in this call. This is something the White House has been doing both from D.C. as well as from Crawford over the last few days. We’ve been participating in these video conference calls with the federal authorities and with state emergency management operation centers.” McClellan will report at around 11:30 am that “One of the main things that [FEMA Director Michael Brown] emphasize[s during the call is] that it remains a serious situation, and there’s still a lot of concern about storm surge, flooding, the damage and destruction on the ground, power outages, and things of that nature.” FEMA also provides updates from other states as well. (White House 8/29/2005) McClellan will later state that that Hagin is the “point person in terms of overseeing efforts from the White House.” (White House 8/30/2005)
Note - The Los Angeles Times will later report that the White House declines to say who is in charge of preparing for the hurricane in Washington, asserting 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, “And the president is the one who’s in charge at the White House.” (Los Angeles Times 9/11/2005) Knight Ridder will report that no one at the White House has been assigned the task of tracking and coordinating the federal response on behalf of the White House. (Knight Ridder 9/11/2005)

FEMA Director Mike Brown arrives at the Louisiana Office of Emergency Preparedness, in Baton Rouge shortly before 11 am, and joins a conference call with Louisiana Governor Blanco and other federal and state officials. According to the Times-Picayune, “Researchers watching the storm from Baton Rouge have gotten reports of [six] feet of water at Jackson Barracks in the Lower 9th Ward, as well as flooding along the Industrial Canal.” Kevin Robbins, director of the Southern Regional Climate Center at LSU, states that water should begin receding around the Industrial Canal area, and they have received no reports of flooding in the Uptown area. Because Katrina destroyed or disabled many of the stations that record water surges in lakes and rivers, information about the worst surges is just not available. “We are working in a data poor environment,” Robbins says. (Times-Picayune Blog 8/29/2005)

Around this time, FEMA Director Michael Brown sends a letter to DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff, requesting 1,000 additional DHS employees within 48 hours, and 2,000 within seven days. Based on the letter, Brown seeks volunteers to serve as community relations liaisons. Describing Katrina as “this near catastrophic event,” Brown describes the role of the requested volunteers as follows:
bullet Establish and maintain positive working relationships with disaster affected communities and the residents of those communities.
bullet Collect and disseminate information and make referrals for appropriate assistance.
bullet [Identify] potential issues within the community and report[] to appropriate personnel.
bullet Convey a positive image of disaster operations to government officials, community organizations and the public.
bullet Perform outreach with community leaders on available Federal disaster assistance. (Federal Emergency Management Agency 8/29/2005 pdf file) Natalie Rule, FEMA representative, will later confirm that Brown is seeking volunteers to “answer phones, do community relations and help set up field hospitals,” and similar “non-emergency tasks.” (CNN 9/7/2005)
Note - When this memo becomes public, many will criticize Brown, charging, for example, that “Brown waited until about five hours after the storm’s landfall before he proposed sending 1,000 federal workers to deal with the aftermath” (Carney et al. 9/11/2005) , or, as the Boston Globe reports, that “[Brown] did not ask the authority to dispatch FEMA personnel to the region until five hours after the storm had passed.” (O'Brien and Bender 9/11/2005) However these reports fail to recognize that, at the time Brown requests these volunteers, FEMA has already deployed more than 1,000 staff members workers to the area (see August 28, 2005). (CNN 9/7/2005)

An ABC News Special Report indicates that as Katrina pounded New Orleans this morning, a levee was breached in the downtown area, and that pumps (intended to pump water out of the city) failed when the power went out. (ABC News does not identify the location of the breach.) (ABC 8/29/2005)

The National Hurricane Center (NHC) advises that Katrina is now a Category 2 hurricane with sustained winds of nearly 105 mph. Katrina remains huge, with hurricane force winds extending 125 miles from the center, and tropical storm force winds extending 230 miles. Katrina’s center is now 40 miles south-southwest of Hattiesburg, Mississippi. Minimum central pressure has increased to 940 MB. (National Hurricane Center 8/29/2005)

The St. Bernard Parish website reports: “Most of the parish has no power and widespread flooding is reported. Phone services are severely hampered into/out of the parish. Estimated 40,000 [h]omes are flooded.” (St. Bernard Parish 8/29/2005)

According to Dan Packer, President of Entergy, Hurricane Katrina is the worst disaster the company has ever experienced. Nearly 100 percent of the utility’s 700,000 customers have no power. (Times-Picayune Blog 8/29/2005)

From the Baton Rouge emergency center, Senator Mary Landrieu (D-La.) issues a statement regarding Hurricane Katrina, commending local officials and Governor Blanco for their work. “Unfortunately, the reverberations of this storm will be felt not only in Louisiana but across the nation.” Blanco also reiterates her appeal for protection of Louisiana’s wetlands: “Our port system provides the nation with the transportation needs for our country’s economy while our coastline provides the energy for our homes and industries. And Louisiana’s unique wetlands provide our state with a buffer zone from natural disasters such as hurricanes. But our wetlands have been eroding. As I have said before, in order for us to protect America’s energy supply and transportation needs, the federal government must join with the people of Louisiana to preserve America’s wetlands.” (Times-Picayune Blog 8/29/2005)

FEMA Director Michael Brown reports that voluntary organizations are seeking cash donations to assist victims of Hurricane Katrina in the Gulf Coast states. However, Brown urges volunteers to not report directly to the affected areas unless directed by a voluntary agency: “We’re grateful for the outpouring of support already,” Brown says. “But it’s important that volunteer response is coordinated by the professionals who can direct volunteers with the appropriate skills to the hardest-hit areas where they are needed most. Self-dispatched volunteers and especially sightseers can put themselves and others in harm’s way and hamper rescue efforts.” However, “cash donations are especially helpful to victims. They allow volunteer agencies to issue cash vouchers to victims so they can meet their needs. Cash donations also allow agencies to avoid the labor-intensive need to store, sort, and pack and distribute donated goods. Donated money prevents, too, the prohibitive cost of air or sea transportation that donated goods require.” (Federal Emergency Management Agency 8/29/2005)

The St. Bernard Parish website reports that Chalmette’s Gibb Drive and community is underwater to the roof, and residents have been driven to their rooftops. (St. Bernard Parish 8/29/2005)

FEMA issues a release urging “all fire and emergency services departments not to respond to counties and states affected by Hurricane Katrina without being requested and lawfully dispatched by state and local authorities under mutual aid agreements and the Emergency Management Assistance Compact.” According to FEMA Director Michael Brown, “The response to Hurricane Katrina must be well coordinated between federal, state and local officials to most effectively protect life and property. We appreciate the willingness and generosity of our Nation’s first responders to deploy during disasters. But such efforts must be coordinated so that fire-rescue efforts are the most effective possible.” The US Fire Administration, part of FEMA, asks that fire and emergency services organizations remain in contact with their local and state emergency management agency officials for updates on requirements in the affected areas. According to R. David Paulison, US Fire Administrator, “It is critical that fire and emergency departments across the country remain in their jurisdictions until such time as the affected states request assistance.… State and local mutual aid agreements are in place as is the Emergency Management Assistance Compact and those mechanisms will be used to request and task resources needed in the affected areas.” The National Incident Management System is being used during the response to Hurricane Katrina and that self-dispatching volunteer assistance could significantly complicate the response and recovery effort. (Federal Emergency Management Agency 8/29/2005)

Residents in the Lower 9th Ward and St. Bernard Parish report heavy flooding. Residents are being rescued from rooftops by passing boaters. Reportedly, floodwaters are as high as 12 feet well into Chalmette. Homes on Champagna Drive are nearly under water, and businesses are flooded. The first floor of Chalmette High School, a St. Bernard Parish shelter of last resort, is flooded and residents are reporting that they can see only the rooftops of nearby homes. St. Bernard Parish’s government building reportedly has at least eight to ten feet of water. (Times-Picayune Blog 8/29/2005)

President Bush declares Louisiana and Mississippi “major disaster areas,” which makes available federal financial assistance to individuals, businesses, and local governments. (White House 8/29/2005; White House 8/29/2005) “This will allow federal funds to start being used to deploy resources to help in those two states,” White House Spokesman Scott McClellan says. “This is something that was done verbally, and the governors of those states have been notified of that approval.” (Times-Picayune Blog 8/29/2005) (In fact, this declaration has little effect on the immediate disaster and response. Rather, it increases the types and beneficiaries of longer term federal assistance recovery that will be available in the areas affected by the hurricane .)

According to Kenner officials, Williams Boulevard is now flooded north of I-10 to just before the lake levee, although Lake Pontchartrain has not overtopped the levees. Officials report that throughout Williams and elsewhere, businesses, homes, and apartments flooded and have significant roof damage. (Times-Picayune Blog 8/29/2005) (Kenner is located in Jefferson Parish.)

The Times-Picayune reports that New Orleans city officials have confirmed a floodwall breach along the 17th Street Canal at Bellaire Drive, allowing water to spill into Lakeview. Additionally, emergency officials have received more than 100 calls from residents of the Lower 9th Ward and eastern New Orleans, who report, “they are waiting on roofs and clinging to trees.” (Times-Picayune Blog 8/29/2005) Residents in the surrounding area have reported that the water is rising rapidly. (Times-Picayune Blog 8/29/2005)

The St. Bernard Parish website reports: “Communications into the New Orleans/St. Bernard area are little to none due to power and downed telecommunications equipment and massive calls into state.” (St. Bernard Parish 8/29/2005)

The National Hurricane Center (NHC) advises that Katrina is now a still-dangerous Category 1 hurricane, with sustained winds of nearly 95 mph. The hurricane remains huge, with hurricane force winds extending 125 miles from the center, and tropical storm force winds extending 230 miles. Katrina’s center is now 20 miles south-southwest of Hattiesburg, Mississippi. (National Hurricane Center 8/29/2005)

The Times-Picayune reports that looters are “streaming from Coleman’s Retail Store, located at 4001 Earhart Blvd., about two blocks away from the newspaper’s offices. The looters, who were men and women who appeared to be in their early teens to mid-40s, braved a steady rain and infrequent tropical storm wind gusts to tote boxes of clothing and shoes from the store. Some had garbage bags stuffed with goods. Others lugged wardrobe-sized boxes or carried them on their heads. The line going to and from the store along Earhart Boulevard numbered into the dozens and appeared to be growing. Some looters were seen smiling and greeting each other with pleasantries as they passed. Another group was seen riding in the back of a pickup truck, honking the horn and cheering. The scene also attracted a handful of curious bystanders, who left the safety of their homes to watch the heist. No police were present in the area, which is flooded heavily with standing water two to four feet deep on all sides of Earhart Blvd.” (Times-Picayune Blog 8/29/2005) News reports this evening will report that massive looting begins even before the storm has passed over the city. (ABC 8/29/2005)

Ted Jackson, a Times-Picayune photographer, who has waded into the Lower 9th Ward, reports “a scene of utter destruction. The wind still howled, floodwaters covered vehicles in the street and people were clinging to porches and waiting in attics for rescuers who had yet to arrive.” (Times-Picayune Blog 8/29/2005)

The St. Bernard Parish website reports that about 150 people have been sighted on rooftops in area with “8-10 feet (perhaps more) of water.” “Search and Rescue teams are being dispensed to areas hard hit. Presently no deaths have been reported as was sighted in New Orleans.” (St. Bernard Parish 8/29/2005)

The St. Bernard Parish website states that the area around Violet Canal is reportedly under 8 to 12 feet of water. Officials plan on an aerial view to access information in the parish at its earliest opportunity. Officials will block re-entry to communities deemed affected by Katrina until authorities can access the damage. (St. Bernard Parish 8/29/2005)

Around this time, FEMA announces a plan to send 500 commercial buses into New Orleans to rescue the thousands of people still stranded there. Louisiana Governor Blanco will later recall that when FEMA Director Michael Brown personally notifies her of FEMA’s plan, she assumes that the buses are pre-staged near New Orleans. “I assumed that FEMA had staged their buses in near proximity,” she said. “I expected them to be out of the storm’s way but accessible in one day’s time,” Blanco will later recall. (Millhollon 9/18/2005)

The State of Louisiana sends 68 school buses into New Orleans today to rescue people stranded in the city. (Millhollon 9/18/2005) (The number of people successfully evacuated on these buses is not clear.)

Reporters and Guests on National Public Radio’s afternoon repeatedly report the extensive flooding. Greg Allen reports: “The good news is that the extreme flooding feared from a storm surge didn’t materialize here.… At least one part of the levee [system] did give way in St. Bernard Parish, but authorities say in a critical area along Lake Pontchartrain the levees largely did their job. Even so, Hurricane Katrina was still the worst storm to hit New Orleans in memory, worse, many residents say, than Hurricane Betsy which devastated the city in 1965.” (National Public Radio 8/29/2005) Mark Schleifstein of the Times-Picayune reports, “There is definitely some flooding in several areas that we’re still trying to get a handle on to see whether or not it’s as bad as Hurricane Betsy was in 1965. The worst areas are actually in a community called Chalmette that’s a little bit south of the city.… Now it has already overtopped some levees along the lake front rather early on in the process and it did—also the Chalmette flooding was also caused by a storm surge that went up what’s called the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet.” (National Public Radio 8/29/2005) However, John Burnett reports: “[T]he National Guard has just begun in those big deuce and a half trucks of theirs to go out and do some assessments, and what they’re finding is—one of the most distressing things that’s happened is the famous lower 9th Ward of New Orleans…really got hit hard. That’s where there was a big breach in the [floodwall of the Industrial Canal], that leads into the Mississippi River. And so we’ve heard reports of people on tops of houses, of a woman in an attic trying to, you know—concerned that the flood waters were gonna trap her in there. So that is an area of great concern. A lot of the city is not in near those dire circumstances. More like one, two feet of water on the ground. Nothing like, you know, up to the rooftops.” (MSNBC 8/29/2005) Senator Landrieu (D-La) appears on the show to say, “We have reports that some of the levees have either been breached or the water has come over the levees. [T]here’s still a tremendous amount of water from the first images that we’re able to receive, which is just in the last hour, of levels of water in and around the city. Now Plaquemine Parish, St. Bernard Parish have been very hard hit. Areas of Lakeview and New Orleans East have substantial water in them that we know of; downtown has been hit. The levels of water don’t seem that high in the central business district and the French Quarter, but of course, our assessment teams haven’t gotten there yet.” (National Public Radio 8/29/2005)

Governor Kathleen Blanco holds a press conference urging evacuated residents to stay put. Blanco reports that officials have received calls from 115 people in New Orleans who say they are stranded, as well as an Unknown number of people in St. Bernard and Plaquemines Parishes. When the winds subside, boats will be deployed from Jackson Barracks in the Lower 9th Ward to go look for people who are trapped. Blanco discusses the widespread flooding in St. Bernard and Plaquemines Parishes, reporting that the water as deep as 10-12 feet in some places. Local officials at the St. Bernard courthouse are trapped on the second floor, and water is rising to that level. State officials have received reports that as many as 20 buildings in New Orleans have collapsed or toppled from the winds. Water is leaking from the 17th Street Canal floodwall. (Times-Picayune Blog 8/29/2005) During the press conference, Blanco thanks FEMA Director Michael Brown and says, “I hope you will tell President Bush how much we appreciated—these are the times that really count—to know that our federal government will step in and give us the kind of assistance that we need.” Senator Mary Landrieu (D-La.) reiterates Blanco’s praise: “We are indeed fortunate to have an able and experienced director of FEMA who has been with us on the ground for some time.” Brown responds to their praise in kind: “What I’ve seen here today is a team that is very tight-knit, working closely together, being very professional doing it, and in my humble opinion, making the right calls.” (Lipton et al. 9/11/2005)

Senator David Vitter (R-La.) issues a statement on Hurricane Katrina: “While I am extremely grateful that the City of New Orleans didn’t take a direct hit from Hurricane Katrina, many, many families throughout southeast Louisiana have suffered major destruction. My heart and prayers go out to all of the families who have experienced catastrophic loss because of Hurricane Katrina. I would like to commend all of the local leaders who helped the people of Louisiana prepare for evacuation and who are working even now to prepare for recovery after the storm subsides. Working together, leaders at the federal, state and local levels, will help the families of Louisiana rebuild their homes and their lives.” (Times-Picayune Blog 8/29/2005)

Terry Ebbert, New Orleans Director of Homeland Security, states that he is positive there are casualties resulting from Hurricane Katrina, based on the number of calls to emergency workers from people trapped in trees and attics. According to Ebbert, authorities lost communications with those pleading for help in some cases. “Everybody who had a way or wanted to get out of the way of this storm was able to.” “For some that didn’t, it was their last night on this earth.” Police are fanning out across the city to assess the damage and rescue people where possible. The city also has 100 boats stationed at Jackson Barracks on the Orleans-St. Bernard parish line. According to Ebbert, the Lower 9th Ward, eastern New Orleans, Treme, and Lakeview near a levee breech seem to be the most devastated. Although damage is extensive, Ebbert says that if the storm had passed just 10 miles west of its track, the city would have been inundated with 25 feet of water. (Times-Picayune Blog 8/29/2005)

Jefferson Parish officials say that authorities are headed to the Lincolnshire subdivision in Marrerro, where residents trapped by floodwaters have called for rescue. Officials apparently do not yet know the extent of damage. “At this point, one official said, it’s not so much an assessment of damage that parish emergency crews are after. It’s a search and rescue mission.” (Times-Picayune Blog 8/29/2005)

Egecat Inc., a risk management firm, reports that Katrina may be the second most-expensive hurricane ever for the insurance industry. Egecat predicts that insurance claims will total between $9 and 16 billion, second only to the $20.8 billion in damages paid out for Hurricane Andrew in 1992. This estimate is lower than Egecat’s morning prediction of $15-$30 billion. (Times-Picayune Blog 8/29/2005)

The Times-Picayune files a report describing New Orleans’ devastated 9th Ward, where the flooding is so extensive that only rooftops poke out from beneath the waters for stretches of square miles. Residents fear for what has happened in the Lower 9th Ward, which edges St. Bernard Parish. “It’s got to be worse in the lower 9,” a city police officer working the scene says. “It always is.” (Times-Picayune Blog 8/29/2005) Treme and the city’s 8th and 9th Wards are severely flooded. Eastern New Orleans is inaccessible by car due to the high water on Interstate 10 East. The farther east on Interstates 10 and 610, one goes, “the deeper the water and the danger.” Hurricane Katrina has caused the highway to end at the first exit for Louisa Street. For miles, there are only rooftops, with floodwaters lapping at the eves, visible from I-10. Rows of homes have been swallowed by water. Standing outside on the concrete interstate, in the whipping winds, signs can be spotted that so many of the city’s residents did not evacuate. One man wades up to his chest below, holding an orange water cooler as a buoy. Another single man watches him from the rooftop of a trucking business. Bursts of orange lights can be seen from another house, from the highest window, where at least two people are stranded. Their house nearly swallowed by the flooding, they blink flashlights to attract attention, but are forced to wait. Rescue officials say that boats are coming, but they have not yet arrived. The visions of destruction are overwhelming. There is a yell here and there, a holler from somewhere, but no one in sight. Desperate images fill the neighborhoods: Small children and a woman standing on their front porch as water licks the raised house’s top steps. A black van completely entrenched in the flooding. A drenched dog alone on a rooftop. Household-type items strewn in the dirty floodwater. In one case, rescuers use a boat to get a group of stranded people from their roof to the highway. They leave the group on the overpass, presumably to make other rescues. The interstate has become a kind of eerie desert. The stranded include an elderly woman in a wheelchair and a small barefoot boy. Both are accompanied by their respective families. (Times-Picayune Blog 8/29/2005)

At Ft. Polk Army base in Leesville, a helicopter detachment begins waiting on the tarmac to deploy, according to a Los Angeles Times report. Unable to deploy until they receive orders from the Pentagon, they sit and watch National Guard helicopters conduct search-and-rescue missions until Wednesday. “We were packed and ready to go,” Chief Warrant Officer Clint Gessner, a helicopter pilot with the Ft. Polk unit will later recall. “We never got the call. It’s just a sad story, man.” “We could have been the first responders.” (Los Angeles Times 9/11/2005)

The Army Corp’s Al Naomi calls the state emergency headquarters in Baton Rouge to inform officials of a catastrophic situation in the city. Water from the increasingly large breach in the 17th Street Canal floodwall, which will grow to 200 feet wide, is pouring out, and flooding New Orleans. (McQuaid 9/7/2005) According to Al Naomi, Army Corps of Engineers’ New Orleans project manager, the Corps reports the other breaches in the levee system as well: “It was disseminated. It went to our OEP in Baton Rouge, to the state, FEMA, the Corps,” Naomi will later recall. “The people in the field knew it. The people here (in Corps offices) in Louisiana and Mississippi knew it. I don’t know how communication worked in those agencies.” (McQuaid 9/7/2005) Yet, Senator Mary Landrieu (D-La) will later recall that the mood in the state’s headquarters is not one of panic this afternoon: “We were saying, ‘Thank you, God,’ because the experts were telling the governor it could have been even worse.” (Thomas 9/19/2005 Sources: Mary L. Landrieu)

The National Hurricane Center (NHC) announces that Katrina continues to weaken over Mississippi. However, strong winds and heavy rains remain a threat. At 4:00 pm the hurricane warning for Lake Pontchartrain and from the mouth of the Pearl River eastward to the Alabama/Florida border is downgraded to a to a tropical storm warning. All other warnings are discontinued. The NHC notes, however, that tropical storm warning remains in effect for this area, although this warning likely will be discontinued this evening. Katrina’s center is now 30 miles northwest of Laurel, Mississippi. (National Hurricane Center 8/29/2005)

Neighborhoods near the Violet Canal, which runs through St. Bernard’s Parish, have 12 feet of water in their homes, forcing residents to their rooftops, awaiting rescue. (Times-Picayune Blog 8/29/2005)

New Orleans Firefighter Nick Felton reports that “downtown has major damage with windows and parts of buildings gone and, of course, major flooding with the water still rising. At this time feeder bands are still coming through the area and they are not responding yet. There are people on their rooftops waiting to be rescued. There have been three breaches of the levee system—in Kenner, at Lakefront along Lake Pontchartrain and west bank. Officials are very concerned about lower New Orleans and St. Bernard Parish. No one has been able to communicate with any [firefighters in St. Bernard Parish].” (International Association of Fire Fighters 8/29/2005)

Around this time, the basement at Lindy Boggs Medical Center begins taking on water, according to George Saucier, the Mid-City hospital’s CEO. According to Saucier, the mini-flood at North Jefferson Davis Parkway and Bienville Street, described as an annoyance, probably was a chain-reaction result of a break in the levee along the 17th Street Canal, which separates Orleans and Jefferson Parishes. Water flowed from the break down Robert E. Lee Boulevard and into the bayou, before surging toward Canal Street, overflowing its banks and heading down North Jefferson Davis Parkway—and into the Mid-City hospital’s basement. (Times-Picayune Blog 8/29/2005)

President Bush conducts his second medicare event today at the James L. Brulte Senior Center in Rancho Cucamonga, California. He again opens his remarks with a brief mention of the unfolding crisis in the Gulf States before turning to his Medicare discussion: “We’re praying for the folks that have been affected by this Hurricane Katrina. We’re in constant contact with the local officials down there. The storm is moving through, and we’re now able to assess damage, or beginning to assess damage. And I want the people to know in the affected areas that the federal government and the state government and the local governments will work side-by-side to do all we can to help get your lives back in order. This was a terrible storm. It’s a storm that hit with a lot of ferocity. It’s a storm now that is moving through, and now it’s the time for governments to help people get their feet on the ground. For those of you who prayed for the folks in that area, I want to thank you for your prayers. For those of you who are concerned about whether or not we’re prepared to help, don’t be. We are. We’re in place. We’ve got equipment in place, supplies in place. And once the—once we’re able to assess the damage, we’ll be able to move in and help those good folks in the affected areas.” (US President 9/5/2005)

State Representative Charlie Melancon (D-Napoleonville), issues the following statement on Katrina: “I am grateful for the strong leadership of Governor Blanco and for the tireless professionalism of the team here in Baton Rouge. I’d also like to thank President Bush for signing the Declaration of Disaster and starting the flow of aid. The entire range of federal and state resources is being coordinated here for the most immediate and effective response. With cooperation from our entire delegation, and the help of our colleagues and friends here in Congress, we hope to gather support for a federal response that will address the needs of our state following this disaster declaration. We must meet this challenge and move forward together. Peachy and I are praying for all of you affected by Katrina. This is not our first hurricane, and it will surely not be our last. But South Louisianans are good and strong people and we are committed to making it through this disaster together. Damage assessments have yet to begin but it is clear that we will have significant immediate and long term needs. Our wetlands and coastal area contribute greatly to America and this is a moment when we will need a lot back from our nation. Supporting a quick recovery of the oil and gas industry, while providing federal assistance for our commercial fishermen and agricultural industries will be critical to rebuilding the fabric of south Louisiana and our contributions to the national economy. We must also redouble our efforts to rebuild South Louisiana itself. The true costs of losing the buffers of our wetlands and barrier islands are now apparent. And after Katrina, what was earlier a $14 billion need for coastal restoration may have become billions of dollars more expensive. I urge residents of Parishes affected by Katrina to heed the orders of Emergency Preparedness officials and do not return to your homes until the all clear is given.” (Times-Picayune Blog 8/29/2005)

Both ABC Nightly News and CBS Evening News report that the floodwalls along the Industrial Canal in New Orleans have been breached or overtopped, and that massive flooding has occurred in New Orleans. (ABC 8/29/2005; CBS News 8/29/2005)

Around this time, Marty Bahamonde, a FEMA spokesman, who has spent the day at the Superdome before surveying the damage from a Coast Guard helicopter, briefs New Orleans Mayor Nagin on the extent of the damage. Bahamonde describes the surge of water flowing through the city as “surprising in its intensity.” Mayor Nagin is devastated, Bahamonde will later recall. Others attending the briefing begin to cry. (Knight Ridder 9/11/2005) According to a later Newsweek report, Bahamonde asks for a phone. “I need to call Washington,” he says. “Do you have a conference-call line?” He seems a little taken aback when the answer is no, according to a Mayor’s aide. Bahamonde manages to find a phone that works, but he has trouble reaching senior officials in Washington. When he finally gets someone on the line, the city officials hear him repeating, “You don’t understand, you don’t understand.” (Thomas 9/19/2005) According to Knight Ridder, Bahamonde also calls the FEMA team at Louisiana’s Emergency Command Center in Baton Rouge to brief them on the situation. (Knight Ridder 9/11/2005)

Around this time, Col. Richard P. Wagenaar, the Army Corp’s district commander, files a formal situation report, via e-mail, with the Corps’ national headquarters. What response, if any, the situation report triggers, remains unclear at this time. (Knight Ridder 9/11/2005)

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