A Fresh Look At Hurricane Katrina

With the inauguration of Barack Obama, there’s a lot that’s been said recently about George W. Bush’s legacy. Many have said that the federal government’s response to Hurricane Katrina was what tipped the scales against Bush. In particular an inordinate number of black celebrities and groups, such as Kanye West, Lil Wayne, Ludacris and the NAACP flayed President Bush for his lack of response, saying, “Bush doesn’t care about black people.”

Of course, when talking about the celebrities we’re talking about people who largely have very little education. In the case of the NAACP, they are mostly well-educated, and it seems they’re just screaming about it because it’s politically correct to do so. There’s more to it than anyone has thought to point out so far, though. I don’t like the fact that Bush is largely labelled as being responsible for the lack of help after the storm. It is patently untrue.

Anyone who has followed my work knows that I’ve worked as a corrections officer and I’m now an EMT. I work part-time for a local fire department. I’m very well-versed in the chain of command and the incident command structure. In a fire department, unless the fire is across the street you don’t respond to an incident unless you’re dispatched to it; responding without being dispatched is known as “jumping the call.” Police departments will give out a call and ask who is closest to respond. However, in the case of a major incident, regardless of the scale of damage or destruction, initial responsibility rests on the shoulders of local authorities.

Just like in the fire department, you don’t jump a call. If a building explodes in downtown Phoenix, the Department of Public Safety (a state-run organization) doesn’t walk in and say, “hey, I’m taking control of this situation, we’re gonna take care of this for you!” No. It doesn’t work that way. Phoenix authorities would assess the situation, decide what they need, and make a formal request for assistance.

That’s when the state comes in and the incident command structure includes state authorites. They assess the situation, and if they feel they’re properly equipped to handle it, they go on with dealing with the crisis on their own. If they decide it’s too much for the state to handle, the governor declares a state of emergency and requests federal help, including whatever resources needed (which may include the National Guard, disaster funds, FEMA help and additional fire departments from other states sending personnel). The federal government cannot act until their help is officially requested.

In the case of hurricanes, when a local or state authority realizes that something is about to happen, they can declare a state of emergency in advance and request federal help before the crisis even starts. This can set aside all kinds of resources and make concessions for evacuations, including transportation for people who don’t have any. Before Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin had that opportunity, as did then-governor Kathleen Blanco (who would have had the authority to act in advance as a hurricane would have affected the whole state).

When it became apparent that a direct hit from Katrina was probable in New Orleans, Blanco and Nagin did nothing. They issued a voluntary evacuation order, but by not making it mandatory there was no government provision for public transportation to be used. Nagin waited until a mere 19 hours before landfall to issue a mandatory evacuation order, and by that time most of those who could have aided those without transportation were long gone. They still failed to declare a state of emergency, however, and no help was requested.

The storm came and went, and in the aftermath the worst came true and then some. At this point, Blanco and Nagin could have declared a disaster area in Louisiana, but they waited for that, too. By the time they finally did, the federal government had already called up National Guardsmen to get ready; they couldn’t deploy the help, however, until they were asked. Once the local and state authorities asked for help, help came from the four corners of the Earth (literally–even Sweden and Germany sent help!).

But before the truth could even be brought to light, people were blaming Bush and FEMA for the disaster. It was all their fault, they argued, because they failed to act in a timely manner. The reality is that they were ready to act, but by law they couldn’t because the locals–who were originally responsible for getting ready–didn’t ask.

Accusations are still being regurgitated by emotional non-thinking people who just want to blame Bush for everything. He doesn’t care about black people, he didn’t want to help because the people left behind were mostly black, the government was slow to react because the victims were largely poor (and black), blah, blah, blabbity-blah. Let’s not be proactive and look at ALL of the possibilities. That might actually require critical thinking. We’re not used to that.

In fact, aerial photos taken of a city bus lot were published. The lot was FULL of school and public transit buses that could have been used for a mandatory evacuation, but they were left to be ruined in the floodwaters. When asked why the buses weren’t utilized before the storm, Nagin wheedled, “they weren’t insured for that purpose.” Okay…so instead of taking the chance at having a wreck with a bus and being sued by a handful of occupants, you’d rather be sued by hundreds of families who lost loved ones because you didn’t get off your duff and help? Oh, wait, I forgot–that’ll never happen because it’s all Bush’s fault!

Bush has done a lot of questionable things. Some of what he’s done has been inexcusable, like the crap sandwich bailouts. Katrina, however, is NOT his fault. He didn’t make the storm happen, he didn’t make it hit New Orleans, and if the incompetent mayor of New Orleans and governor of Louisiana had done what needed to be done to prepare for the impending doom, it wouldn’t have been as horrible as it was. And if I have to watch one more re-run of Geraldo Rivera shouting at the camera in front of the Superdome, I think I might puke.

Direct your anger at those who are really responsible for not being ready. They were both DEMOCRATS, and one of them was black. There was no racism involved in this cluster. Grow up.

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9 thoughts on “A Fresh Look At Hurricane Katrina

  1. Mel:

    I could not agree with you more. Why Ray Nagin isn’t sitting in a Louisiana prison next to Gov. Blanco amazes me. They both acted with depraved indifference towards human life.

    You all remember those wildfires we get every year in CA? We don’t suffer the same troubles as Katrina because our leaders take quick, decisive, thorough, and effective action. Many of those local leaders are Republicans too.

  2. Exactly. Those CA wildfires are managed by the Grand Canyon Rescue Team’s incident command model, which originated in Phoenix. The entire Southwest portion of the US uses that model. After 9/11, when GCRT was deployed to help FDNY with recovery, FDNY adopted that model and swears by it to this day.

    But all it takes is a little common sense here; when the weather experts are predicting destruction on a mass scale, an unprecedented move, you don’t sit on your laurels and deny what’s possible. You take swift, decisive action to avoid a tragedy. They didn’t do it. And you’re right, they should both be languishing in prison.

  3. “FDNY adopted that model and swears by it to this day.”

    It is an outstanding model. Last year when parts of San Diego county needed to be evacuated, the evacuees ended up at Qualcomm Stadium. The only “problem” is there was too much of everything. That’s a great problem to have.

  4. Yeah, and I remember hearing about that group of illegals being caught trying to steal thousands of dollars’ worth of supplies right out from under police noses at Jack Murphy Stadium (I’m sorry, that’s what it’ll always be to me). Apparently they drove up in a couple of pickup trucks and just started taking stuff until a cop stopped them and then turned them over to Border Patrol. And, as I recall, there was a small bitchfest from the open-borders moonbats that they shouldn’t have been arrested…because they were all having a crisis!

    Wow.

  5. Keep dreaming baby. Keep dreaming. There is a reason Bush’s approval rating was 22% leaving office. 22% of Americans like their dream world.

  6. Bush’s “approval rating” should have been in the negatives if the liberal media was right everytime they told us it was declining. In fact, we conservatives were happy every time they told us of such.

    There’s no dream to the facts that Mel just poured all over your head.

    The fact is that New Orleans sat 23 feet below sea level since the Lousiana Purchase in 1803.

    It’s a fact that every President’s administration in over 200 years had ignored the levy problem.

    It’s a fact that people like you miraculously thought that it was solely on George W. Bush to be the one to do something about the current condition of the levies even when they had remained that way for so long.

    And it is a fact that no other President had dealt with that kind of a massive and intense disaster.

    Your simple-minded views would be guided to accusing him of whipping up the hurricane altogether if you could get away with it.

    The Republicans in Mississippi did just fine after Katrina. Tell the Democrats in New Orleans to grow up and to take warnings seriously. It would do them better in the long term than for you to make up cases of alleged racism in order to cover up their short-comings.

  7. Bush’s approval rating has very little, if anything at all, to do with it. Clinton’s approval rating was higher when he left, but it doesn’t mean he did a good job. We were bombed by jihadis at least eight times, once on our own soil, and he did nothing. We also had Ruby Ridge, Waco and the Elian Gonzalez debacle to thank Clinton for.

    It’s important to point out that New Orleans bore some of the responsibility for the levees. They had a special fund managed by a council whose sole purpose was to update the levees, with some help from the feds. The funds meant for that purpose were spent on other things that were far less important. Even that can’t be blamed entirely on the feds, but you’re right, Steve, multiple Presidents before Bush had failed to do what needed to be done on that front, including Bill Clinton.

    I’d also like to ask doctorj the same question I asked of the guy who attacked me on azcentral for this stance on the issue: what was Bush’s purpose in not acting quickly enough? Alabama and Mississippi got their help in plenty of time, why not Louisiana? It’s not because of racism. The Deep South in general has a high concentration of black people, particularly in Mississippi and parts of Alabama. If Bush was doing this out of racial issues, then why did he not also withhold aid for the other states involved? Long Beach and Biloxi, both in Mississippi, were just as devastated as New Orleans; Long Beach was all but blown off the map. Mobile saw similar flooding, although it didn’t stay as long because it wasn’t under sea level. New Orleans was the only city that wasn’t prepared, and they were the most vulnerable.

    So if we’ve found no evidence to prove racism was a factor in Louisiana, then what other hypotheses can we come up with? What reason would he have had to hold back the aid that Louisiana needed? I fail to see any rhyme or reason to the arguments presented, so if you can elaborate, please do.

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