Monday, August 24, 2015

Katrina Became a Tropical Storm Ten Years Ago Today

As we approach the tenth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, here is a sampling of headlines from around the nation in the weeks after the storm:


From Wikipedia:
Due to the slow response to the hurricane, New Orleans's top emergency management official called the effort a "national disgrace" and questioned when reinforcements would actually reach the increasingly desperate city.

What went so horribly wrong? How did more than 1,800 people lose their lives when the storm was superbly forecast? Why was the rescue a "national disgrace"?

I spent time researching this for Warnings: The True Story of How Science Tamed the Weather. The answers will likely shock you. There were two things that went horribly wrong:
  • The first was New Orleans' Mayor Ray Nagin's complete failure to grasp the gravity of the situation or to order 1) a mandatory evacuation before Sunday midday and 2) his failure to order the implementation of the southeast Louisiana disaster plan which would have activated the school buses so those without other transportation could be evacuated.  
  • FEMA proactively recruited expert rescuers from around then nation. Then it sent them to Atlanta to take seminars in sexual harassment and the "history of FEMA" while people were drowning and dying in New Orleans!!
As increasingly alarmed television anchors were asking where were the rescuers, the answer is that they were in Atlanta, nowhere near New Orleans.

In Warnings, I spend a great deal of time criticizing FEMA because, time after time, they fail at their main job. Ask the victims of more recent Hurricane Sandy and they will catalog the many, many failures of FEMA at everything except press events to tout what they claimed to be doing for storm victims.

If you live in hurricane country, have at least three days of non-perishable food, water, flashlights, heavy shoes, etc., ready to go through hurricane season. As the victims of Sandy, Katrina, Andrew, Ike and others have learned you cannot count on the government to rush in and save the day.

The second is to please evacuate if an evacuation is ordered. Yes, it is expensive and terribly inconvenient but a house can be rebuilt.

AccuWeather has a retrospective on Katrina here

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