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No bullshit

Credit where credit is due

Still hesitant to engage much in the way of Hurricane Katrina commentary, but noting a couple of items:
  • First, a great use of Google maps and "Wiki"-style community contribution. Wicked smaht; I hope it helps many people.
  • Second, those wanting to make a hero out of New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin (especially while criticizing the response of other authorities) have some serious questions to answer first (via Nagin's Wikipedia entry):
    Nagin's performance in the Hurricane Katrina crisis has been criticized as well and Nagin has been accused of deflection. As mayor he was responsible for establishing evacuation centers and keeping local order. Yet apparantly there were no meals ready to eat (MRE's) stored at his designated evacuation center—the Superdome. There was no water purification equipment on site, no chemical toilets, anti-biotics or anti-diarrheals stored for a crisis. The mayor had not designated any medical staff to work the evacuation center. The city had not established a secure sick bay within the Superdome. The city had not sent police or other vehicles through the poorest neighborhoods with evacuation announcements prior to the storm. There were no functioning backup emergency communications police or fire-rescue radios available. Additionally, the city stored the school buses on low ground where they were flooded and then not available for evacuation.
    Dude. Duh. There's just no way to throw stones at FEMA, et al. without completely wrecking Nagin's glass house (something not well understood by self-absorbed grandstanders like Kanye West). While others take heat while also managing multiple priorities on state, regional, national, and global levels, Nagin had a single area of responsibility—New Orleans, the city that elected him—and biffed it in ways that contributed immediately and directly to the suffering residents continue to face. When the time comes to debrief and assign blame (not yet, Kanye—simma da na!), he would do well to prepare for a steaming helping.

Comments

I've been wondering what responsibilities New Orleans had in their own ability to respond to this situation.

Interesting question.
I have a friend who used to work at Tulane. I watched her watching the footage on television and recognizing the now-destroyed places where she used to live and work. She lived through two hurricanes when she worked there. She says that folks have known for a long time that the levees wouldn't hold under circumstances like these. People were counting on there not being these circumstances. It's always a gamble - do you spend the money and then the storm never comes or do you prepare for the storms and then cut the rest of your city budget and things like education, police, etc.? American cities are in a world of hurt right now. They have little extra money (even in cities that at least get some revenue from tourist-oriented casinos). Federal funds for the Army Corps of Engineers projects to shore up the levee were cut not too long ago.
Interesting.
And yet the main levee that broke was one that was in good condition: "In a telephone interview with reporters, corps officials said that although portions of the flood-protection levees remain incomplete, the levees near Lake Pontchartrain that gave way--inundating much of the city--were completed and in good condition before the hurricane.

However, they noted that the levees were designed for a Category 3 hurricane and couldn't handle the ferocious winds and raging waters from Hurricane Katrina, which was a Category 4 storm when it hit the coastline. The decision to build levees for a Category 3 hurricane was made decades ago based on a cost-benefit analysis."
One of the things my friend mentioned about her time at Tulane was that all of the preparations were for category three storms and everyone knew that a larger storm would eventually hit. Without funding, even the levees in "good condition" wouldn't be able to be shored up for the increasingly more powerful storms the gulf coast keeps getting hit with, and people knew this. They also couldn't do anything about it with the resources they had, resources that were continually decreasing.

Thanks for the added information, though.
Not only was it a cat 4, but the storm surge heading into LA was a cat 5 from when it was a cat 5 the day before!