They knew about it. In July 2004, they practiced for it. In 2002, an LSU predicted the flooding and the numbers of people who would be unable to evacuate.
Read this Reuters story that I picked up from Wired.com:
They Knew What to Expect Reuters
Story location: http://www.wired.com/news/planet/0,2782,68738,00.html
09:38 AM Sep. 02, 2005 PT
Virtually everything that has happened in New Orleans since Hurricane Katrina struck was predicted by experts and in computer models, so emergency management specialists wonder why authorities were so unprepared.
"The scenario of a major hurricane hitting New Orleans was well anticipated, predicted and drilled around," said Clare Rubin, an emergency management consultant who also teaches at the Institute for Crisis, Disaster and Risk Management at George Washington University.
Computer models developed at Louisiana State University and other institutions made detailed projections of what would happen if water flowed over the levees protecting the city or if they failed.
In July 2004, more than 40 federal, state, local and volunteer organizations practiced this very scenario in a five-day simulation code-named "Hurricane Pam," where they had to deal with an imaginary storm that destroyed over half a million buildings in New Orleans and forced the evacuation of a million residents.
At the end of the exercise Ron Castleman, regional director for the Federal Emergency Management Agency declared: "We made great progress this week in our preparedness efforts.
"Disaster response teams developed action plans in critical areas such as search and rescue, medical care, sheltering, temporary housing, school restoration and debris management. These plans are essential for quick response to a hurricane but will also help in other emergencies," he said.
In light of that, said disaster expert Bill Waugh of Georgia State University, "It's inexplicable how unprepared for the flooding they were." He said a slow decline over several years in funding for emergency management was partly to blame.
In comments on Thursday, President Bush said, "I don't think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees."
But LSU engineer Joseph Suhayda and others have warned for years that defenses could fail. In 2002, the New Orleans Times Picayune published a five-part series on "The Big One," examining what might happen if they did.
It predicted that 200,000 people or more would be unwilling or unable to heed evacuation orders and thousands would die, that people would be housed in the Superdome, that aid workers would find it difficult to gain access to the city as roads became impassable, as well as many other of the consequences that actually unfolded after Katrina hit this week.
Craig Marks who runs Blue Horizons Consulting, an emergency management training company in North Carolina, said the authorities had mishandled the evacuation, neglecting to help those without transportation to leave the city.
"They could have packed people on trains or buses and gotten them out before the hurricane struck," he said. "They had enough time and access to federal funds. And now, we find we do not have a proper emergency communications infrastructure so aid workers get out into the field and they can't talk to one another."
Most of those trapped by the floods in the city of some 500,000 people are the poor who had little chance to leave.
Ernest Sternberg, a professor of urban and regional planning at the University of Buffalo, said law enforcement agencies were often more eager to invest in high tech "toys" than basic communications.
"It's well known that communications go down in disasters but people on the frontlines still don't invest in them. A lot of the investments that have been made in homeland security have been misspent," he said.
Several experts also believe the decision to make FEMA a part of the Department of Homeland Security, created after the Sept. 11 attacks, was a major mistake. Rubin said FEMA functioned well in the 1990s as a small, independent agency.
"Under DHS, it was downgraded, buried in a couple of layers of bureaucracy, and terrorism prevention got all the attention and most of the funds," she said.
Former FEMA director James Lee Witt testified to Congress in March 2004: "I am extremely concerned that the ability of our nation to prepare for and respond to disasters has been sharply eroded.
"I hear from emergency managers, local and state leaders, and first responders nearly every day that the FEMA they knew and worked well with has now disappeared. In fact one state emergency manager told me, 'It is like a stake has been driven into the heart of emergency management,"' he said.
Underlying the situation has been the general reluctance of government at any level to invest in infrastructure or emergency management, said David McEntire, who teaches emergency management at the University of North Texas.
"No one cares about disasters until they happen. That is a political fact of life," he said.
"Emergency management is woefully underfunded in this nation. That covers not only first responders but also warning, evacuation, damage assessment, volunteer management, donation management and recovery and mitigation issues."
And more depressing news from CNN. Dr. Sanjay Gupta filed a report from Charity Hospital, the premier public hospital in the area, the patients of which have not yet been evacuated. Two patients have aleady died. The even more depressing part? At Tulane Hospital, the nearby PRIVATE hospital, the NONESSENTIAL DOCTORS AND NURSES were being evacuated yesterday.
The images from New Orleans continue to ENRAGE me.
It's just disgusting. I've been sickened by the federal government's response to this, since watching Bush's very first statement about New Orleans, when he promised that his father and Pres. Clinton would look for international aid for New Orleans: "INTERNATIONAL AID?!?!?! They don't need MONEY right now, for crying out loud!!! They need WATER and FOOD! Send your father and Clinton over there to give them WATER and FOOD! Because people are DYING!"
And then the decision yesterday to completely halt rescue operations for awhile because of a few violent incidents. FOR CRYING OUT LOUD!
And then the latest ... news that even poor, ill, elderly old women who approach police cars are responded to by GETTING GUNS POINTED AT THEM. Wha the f*ck!!!!!!
I'll say already what I hesitated to say earlier today, because other people are beginning to say it on the news. Is the reason why the aid is taking so long because most of the victims are poor? Or because most of the victims are black? I hope to God that that isn't the case.
But the test of a nation's character is how that nation treats its poorest and neediest. And based on what we're seeing on TV, right now, the US is faring very poorly on that measure. With all its money, with all its resources, with all its power. They can't send some bottles of water to the Astrodome in time to save a few lives.
The US rushed into Iraq more quickly than they rushed to New Orleans!!!
And speaking of Iraq. If this is the way they react to a disaster area IN THEIR OWN COUNTRY, I SHUDDER to imagine how they must react to disaster areas in the countries which they've invaded. I shudder to imagine how they handled Iraq.
Speaking of Iraq again. Bush's press statements in previous days (only today did his tone change) sounded like the press statements he makes when he's trying to defend the Iraq war in the face of critics. Absurdly, delusionally speaking as if everything is going fine. Well now we all know what his definition of "fine" is.
CNN just reported that SRI LANKA offered $25000 in aid to the American Red Cross. U.S.!!! MAHIYA NAMAN KAYO!
The U.S. is the richest, most powerful country on earth. Most of the time, they manage to do most things quite competently. But THIS, this is just a disaster. The natural disaster alone would've been bad enough. But the human error has multiplied the horror of this disaster so many times.
In a lighter moment, I was thinking to myself that the best aid the Philippines can give to the U.S. is to send ABS-CBN and GMA Network over. The U.S. government could learn a few things from the speed and orderliness with which these two MEDIA companies handle relief efforts.
Where is the RAGE?! People--BABIES--have died COMPLETELY UNNECESSARILY simply because it took the government TOO LONG to respond. ALL they needed was water, and they'd probably still be alive. WATER! And it took a few DAYS for the richest country in the world to bring it to them.
The following is the result of an interview I just conducted via cell phone with a New Orleans citizen stranded at the Convention Center. I don't know what you're hearing in the mainstream media or in the press conferences from the city and state officials, but here is the truth:
"Bigfoot" is a bar manager and DJ on Bourbon Street, and is a local personality and icon in the city. He is a lifelong resident of the city, born and raised. He rode out the storm itself in the Iberville Projects because he knew he would be above any flood waters. Here is his story as told to me moments ago. I took notes while he talked and then I asked some questions:
Three days ago, police and national guard troops told citizens to head toward the Crescent City Connection Bridge to await transportation out of the area. The citizens trekked over to the Convention Center and waited for the buses which they were told would take them to Houston or Alabama or somewhere else, out of this area.
It's been 3 days, and the buses have yet to appear.
Although obviously he has no exact count, he estimates more than 10,000 people are packed into and around and outside the convention center still waiting for the buses. They had no food, no water, and no medicine for the last three days, until today, when the National Guard drove over the bridge above them, and tossed out supplies over the side crashing down to the ground below. Much of the supplies were destroyed from the drop. Many people tried to catch the supplies to protect them before they hit the ground. Some offered to walk all the way around up the bridge and bring the supplies down, but any attempt to approach the police or national guard resulted in weapons being aimed at them.
There are many infants and elderly people among them, as well as many people who were injured jumping out of windows to escape flood water and the like -- all of them in dire straights.
Any attempt to flag down police results in being told to get away at gunpoint. Hour after hour they watch buses pass by filled with people from other areas. Tensions are very high, and there has been at least one murder and several fights. 8 or 9 dead people have been stored in a freezer in the area, and 2 of these dead people are kids.
The people are so desperate that they're doing anything they can think of to impress the authorities enough to bring some buses. These things include standing in single file lines with the eldery in front, women and children next; sweeping up the area and cleaning the windows and anything else that would show the people are not barbarians.
The buses never stop.
Before the supplies were pitched off the bridge today, people had to break into buildings in the area to try to find food and water for their families. There was not enough. This spurred many families to break into cars to try to escape the city. There was no police response to the auto thefts until the mob reached the rich area -- Saulet Condos -- once they tried to get cars from there... well then the whole swat teams began showing up with rifles pointed. Snipers got on the roof and told people to get back.
He reports that the conditions are horrendous. Heat, mosquitoes and utter misery. The smell, he says, is "horrific."
He says it's the slowest mandatory evacuation ever, and he wants to know why they were told to go to the Convention Center area in the first place; furthermore, he reports that many of them with cell phones have contacts willing to come rescue them, but people are not being allowed through to pick them up.
I have "Bigfoot"'s phone number and will gladly give it to any city or state official who would like to tell him how everything is under control.
I know a lot of people have said this, but I will say this too:
I am APPALLED at how long it's taking to bring aid, food and water to New Orleans. It's just crazy!!!! If reporters can get into there, why can't food and water!!!!! HELLO, WHAT'S TAKING SO LONG! People are dying!!!!!!!!!
And can US government officials please stop their insensitive insinuations that the refugees should be blamed because they didn't get out in time! To that, I have two reactions:
First: Not everyone who didn't evacuate did so because of carelessness. Some TRIED to evacuate and couldn't. Some simply were too sick or too poor. And the fact of the matter is, no matter how large your plans are to evacuate an entire city the fact of the matter is, some people will be left behind. The government should have FORESEEN that and PREPARED for it.
Secondly: Even if a lot of those people who were left behind were careless, stop crying over spilt milk, NOT WHEN PEOPLE ARE DYING!
And don't get me started on the DISGUSTING political grandstanding that's going on! SHUT UP AND GET MOVING! START SAVING LIVES!
(I wrote a much longer, angrier post about this awhile ago, but it disappeared from Blogger for some reason. But lemme just say it's HORRIFYING how long it's taking!)
The US is the richest, most powerful country and they normally do a lot of things right. But right now they look like they either can't or don't have the political will to respond to this crisis. (I have one tiny theory as to why the government seems to lack the sense of urgency to respond to this crisis, but I'll keep the theory to myself for now because if it were true, it would be horrible.)
To the people affected by Hurricane Katrina: Know that people around the world are praying for you.
Let's just say this whole political crisis has made me lose a lot faith in people I once thought better of. Nakakadiri pa yung mga iba, wala talagang mga konsensya. Note: Not that I have much regard for many of the opposition congressmen either. But right now many administration legislators I used to think more of are stinking just as much.