Friday, August 27, 2010

It's His Story and He's Sticking To It

Former New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin was interviewed by Matt Lauer on NBC's "Today" show this morning. He again stated that he didn't order a mandatory evacuation because they didn't know Katrina was headed for New Orleans until Max Mayfield called him at home Saturday evening August 27th (Katrina struck on Monday morning). I tell the behind-the-scenes story of what went wrong during and after Katrina in Warnings.

Below are the National Hurricane Center's public forecast maps from 4am and 10am Saturday, August 27, 2005. Both show Katrina moving right over New Orleans. Mayfield called Nagin because Mayfield was shocked that Nagin had not ordered a mandatory evacuation.

Nagin should have ordered a mandatory evacuation by 11am Saturday -- he waited nearly 24 more hours to do so (10:30am Sunday)! The fact that more did not leave New Orleans is due to Nagin, not to the meteorologists!

UPDATE:  The interview can be viewed here.

I entirely agree with one point made by Nagin and former FEMA director Michael Brown: We are no better prepared now than we were for Katrina. This was demonstrated by the slow response to the oil spill in the Gulf and it will be demonstrated when the next catastrophic disaster occurs.


  1. Mike, I have an interesting article from the 8/18/2005 edition of U.S. News and World Report (yes, before Katrina took place).

    Some memorable quotes from Dan Gilgoff's story "Big Blow in the Big Easy":

    "If a hurricane comes next month, New Orleans could no longer exist" - Ivor van Heerden (director of LSU's Center for the Study of Public Health Impacts of Hurricanes)

    "There's a reason New Orleans has a drink called the 'hurricane'. The culture here is 'we don't evacuate.' " - Jeanne Hurlbert (LSU sociology professor)

    "If a Category 5 storm enters the Gulf, I don't think we'll have to encourage people to leave- it'll be an easy sell." (now former) New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin

    And yet he waited.

  2. Yes, Rodney. He not only waited, he declared the Superdome was available as a shelter at the same time he announced the mandatory evacuation. As I write in "Warnings" this was a terrible strategic mistake. If you want people to leave (and they needed to leave!) you don't enable them to stay. The mandatory evacuation should have been announced Saturday morning with the school busses, Amtrak, etc., all put into service as the Southeast Louisiana Emergency Plan (I have a copy) called for. Then, the Superdome could have been used if there were any remaining behind on Sunday evening.


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