So far, I’ve been willing to give FEMA the benefit of the doubt. The rescue effort is a gigantic operation, and I’m not surprised that it took a while. However, I’m beginning to have my doubts. Via Brendan Loy’s excellant hurricane coverage, comes a link to a quote by FEMA Director Mike Brown:
“Saturday and Sunday, we thought it was a typical hurricane situation — not to say it wasn’t going to be bad, but that the water would drain away fairly quickly…Then the levees broke and (we had) this lawlessness. That almost stopped our efforts….Katrina was much larger than we expected.”
Well, Brendan Loy’s got a copy of a bulletin from the National Weather Service:
URGENT – WEATHER MESSAGE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE NEW ORLEANS LA 413 PM CDT SUN AUG 28 2005
…EXTREMELY DANGEROUS HURRICANE KATRINA CONTINUES TO APPROACH THE MISSISSIPPI RIVER DELTA… …DEVASTATING DAMAGE EXPECTED…
MOST OF THE AREA WILL BE UNINHABITABLE FOR WEEKS…PERHAPS LONGER. AT LEAST ONE HALF OF WELL CONSTRUCTED HOMES WILL HAVE ROOF AND WALL FAILURE. ALL GABLED ROOFS WILL FAIL…LEAVING THOSE HOMES SEVERELY DAMAGED OR DESTROYED.
THE MAJORITY OF INDUSTRIAL BUILDINGS WILL BECOME NON FUNCTIONAL. PARTIAL TO COMPLETE WALL AND ROOF FAILURE IS EXPECTED. ALL WOOD FRAMED LOW RISING APARTMENT BUILDINGS WILL BE DESTROYED. CONCRETE BLOCK LOW RISE APARTMENTS WILL SUSTAIN MAJOR DAMAGE…INCLUDING SOME WALL AND ROOF FAILURE.
HIGH RISE OFFICE AND APARTMENT BUILDINGS WILL SWAY DANGEROUSLY…A FEW TO THE POINT OF TOTAL COLLAPSE. ALL WINDOWS WILL BLOW OUT.
AIRBORNE DEBRIS WILL BE WIDESPREAD…AND MAY INCLUDE HEAVY ITEMS SUCH AS HOUSEHOLD APPLIANCES AND EVEN LIGHT VEHICLES. SPORT UTILITY VEHICLES AND LIGHT TRUCKS WILL BE MOVED. THE BLOWN DEBRIS WILL CREATE ADDITIONAL DESTRUCTION. PERSONS…PETS…AND LIVESTOCK EXPOSED TO THE WINDS WILL FACE CERTAIN DEATH IF STRUCK.
POWER OUTAGES WILL LAST FOR WEEKS…AS MOST POWER POLES WILL BE DOWN AND TRANSFORMERS DESTROYED. WATER SHORTAGES WILL MAKE HUMAN SUFFERING INCREDIBLE BY MODERN STANDARDS.
THE VAST MAJORITY OF NATIVE TREES WILL BE SNAPPED OR UPROOTED. ONLY THE HEARTIEST WILL REMAIN STANDING…BUT BE TOTALLY DEFOLIATED. FEW CROPS WILL REMAIN. LIVESTOCK LEFT EXPOSED TO THE WINDS WILL BE KILLED.
The National Weather Service is not known for their lurid writing, so you’ve got to wonder what parts of “devastating damage” or “uninhabitable for weeks” or “human suffering incredible by modern standards” did Director Brown have trouble understanding?
Also, a few hours after that bulletin, Katrina was re-assessed as a slightly smaller hurricane. It made landfall a little further east than expected, so the effect on New Orleans wasn’t as bad as it could have been. Believe it or not, what really happened is that Katrina wasn’t quite as bad as originally expected.