storm_team: (Default)
[personal profile] storm_team
We here at the KWTF Action News Storm Team could not bring ourselves to ridicule the coverage of Hurricane Katrina. We knew early on that it was going to be bad.

Anyways, following is a long post (reposted from my friends-only personal LJ) about the lead-up to Katrina's landfall in Louisiana and Mississippi, and how a little foresight, attentiveness, and guts could have prevented some of the suffering.

We thought we had the standard hurricane and that we'd immediately respond and have things in order in a couple of days and then the levee broke and that hampered us and then some idiots decided they'd get guns and start shooting and that almost put our rescue efforts at a halt.

- Mike Brown, FEMA Director, in an interview on Saturday 9//3/05 (See timestamp 10:03a Saturday)

Standard hurricane? What a fucking stupid thing to say. Unbelievable. Standard hurricane?!?! Katrina, even as a little ole Category 1 storm, did a couple of billion dollars of damage in south Florida. That's 'standard'. Happens almost every day.

Well, apparently he and his braintrust were not paying attention to what the National Hurricane Center (NHC) was saying. As of 4:00p (all times in this post CDT) on Friday afternoon, TWO AND A HALF DAYS BEFORE LANDFALL early Monday morning, the NHC was predicting a Category 4 hurricane making landfall in southern Mississippi:

By the next advisory six hours later, at 10:00p Friday, the forecast had shifted slightly west to cross the tip of southeastern Louisiana, and the intensity forecast remained Category 4, with acknowledgment that the forecast models were predicting an even stronger storm:

And the next advisory, six hours later at 4:00a on Saturday, a full 48 hours before landfall, further confirmed the confidence in a landfall near New Orleans. This statement said, in part, "DUE TO THE DECREASING SPREAD IN THE MODELS... THE CONFIDENCE IN THE FORECAST TRACK IS INCREASING" and "KATRINA IS LOCATED WITHIN AN ATMOSPHERIC ENVIRONMENT THAT SEEMINGLY CANNOT GET MUCH MORE CONDUCIVE FOR STRENGTHENING". Just a 'standard hurricane':

This is when I think mandatory evacuations should have been ordered and initiated, but that did not happen for another 24 hours. It may seem crazy to suggest evacuating New Orleans when a hurricane is barely 100 miles west of Key West, but you know, this is what science and forecasting and the NHC exist for. It was no secret how vulnerable New Orleans would be to such a storm. Sure, forecasts not perfect, and mistakes are still made in forecasts, but in my opinion by early Saturday morning the evidence was organizing to the point that someone needed to get things rolling. Clearly, those in charge decided it was cheaper, and therefore preferable, to gamble lives rather than money. And since the lives to be gambled were predominantly those of poor black people, whose evacuation would have been costlier and more difficult due to communications and transportation issues, it made the decision to roll the dice (by waiting) easier for the power structure.

Dr. Jeff Masters, who runs the Weather Underground site, started calling for evacuation of New Orleans in his blog at about 6:00a Saturday.

[ profile] evilegg and I were discussing this situation first thing Saturday morning, and later in the afternoon I did an LJ post about it, after yet another advisory at 10:00a Saturday morning continued to reinforce the path into SE Louisiana with ever-increasing forecast confidence. Furthermore, in this advisory the NHC continued to note that every ingredient was in place for rapid intensification. (Guess what would later happen overnight Saturday night? Katrina became the 4th-strongest hurricane ever in the Atlantic basin.) Here's the Saturday 10:00a map:

Dr. Masters also expressed increasing concern on Saturday morning, saying:
I'd hate to be an Emergency Management official in New Orleans right now. Katrina is pretty much following the NHC forecast, and appears likely to pass VERY close to New Orleans. I'm surprised they haven't ordered an evacuation of the city yet. While the odds of a catastropic hit that would completely flood the city of New Orleans are probably 10%, that is way too high in my opinion to justify leaving the people in the city. If I lived in the city, I would evactuate NOW! There is a very good reason that the Coroner's office in New Orleans keeps 10,000 body bags on hand. The risks are too great from this storm, and a weekend away from the city would be nice anyway, right? GO! New Orleans needs a full 72 hours to evacuate, and landfall is already less than 72 hours away. Get out now and beat the rush. You're not going to have to go to work or school on Monday anyway. If an evacuation is ordered, not everyone who wants to get out may be able to do so--particularly the 60,000 poor people with no cars.

Six hours later, at 4:00p Saturday afternoon, the leadership of New Orleans and Louisiana remained unconvinced of the danger, apparently. At this point there was little question that the storm would be close enough, and strong enough, to lay a serious blow to New Orleans. Mayor Nagin's ass must have been crowded the Saturday before Katrina hit, because he had somehow managed to get his head and both of his thumbs up there. He should have been going ballistic by this time, not almost a week later. For 24 hours the best hurricane forecasters in the world had been drawing a bullseye on his city, as shown in the Saturday 4:00p map:

Imagine how many people could have been evacuated from New Orleans on that Saturday, with lovely weather and weekend traffic and every school bus in the city available, if the plans and sensibility had been in place. Sure, there would still be storm devastation and floods and some people trapped in the city who had refused to leave, but imagine if they had started running buses first thing Saturday morning to the Astrodome and the Cajundome and civic centers in Alexandria, Shreveport, Monroe and other cities within 5 hours of New Orleans. Imagine how many people could have been evacuated who subsequently suffered or died.

But, oh yeah, there was no guarantee in the forecast, and it would have cost money and created logistical problems. Oh noes!

Take a look at the imagery on this NHC page and run the loop. Very interesting stuff. Then think about all of the published studies on New Orleans' vulnerability to hurricanes and storm surge, and if the right thing to do first thing Saturday morning was think, "Oh, fuck it, it's just a 'standard hurricane' and everything will probably be OK for those hundreds of thousands of vulnerable and poor people. Let's not play it safe and get them out, since that would just be too big of a pain in the ass and too much of a drain on resources."

I'm curious to see what the internal debate was, and who was the strong voice that guided the ineptness. Mayor Nagin? Governor Blanco? FEMA? Everyone is finger-pointing now, but someone was calling the shots, and eventually we'll come to understand the breakdowns that have taken place both before and after the storm 'standard' hurricane.

Date: 2005-09-03 08:01 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
The idiocy of those in charge, both leading up to the hurricane and after it, is amazing me more the more I learn about it.

At the very least, as my mom pointed out yesterday, WHY THE FUCK did they not have a tanker truck of drinking water parked in the Superdome when they knew that's where they were going to evacuate thousands of people to?

Date: 2005-09-03 08:16 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
[ profile] evilegg said on the phone many times, "It's like they thought everyone was just going to hang out in the Superdome until it stopped raining, and then they'd go home." How that mentality was in place, and persisted as the storm approached, is astounding.

Date: 2005-09-03 08:32 pm (UTC)
ext_113261: (Default)
From: [identity profile]
At minimum they knew they'd have thousands of people, no water, no power, no sewage, and streets too filled with debris to let them leave for days.

They should have had truckloads of water, MREs, porta-potties, bedding and common medicines by the thousands of dosages.

But really- they should have never even have been there at all, and those people have my sympathy because they thought by going to the Superdome that they were doing the RIGHT thing, not just the ONLY thing.

Date: 2005-09-03 09:18 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I share your sentiment.
Do you think the folks who dropped the ball will be held accountable or will they be exalted as "heroes"?

Date: 2005-09-04 06:34 am (UTC)
ext_113261: (Default)
From: [identity profile]
I think a lot of folks will have lateral career moves and it will be business as usual.
There is level of personal accountibility here as well (that no one wants to touch).
Do people really have to be told in the face of a CAT 4 that they need to LEAVE THE AREA?!
But once again- it was the flooding, more than the hurricane, and to expect the folks to have a clear picture of the impact of a storm surge on a levee system protecting a city below sea level.... That might have been stretching it a bit.
(deleted comment)

Date: 2005-09-03 08:24 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
We here at KWTF hope that the unraveling of the errors and shortcomings can be done in a reasonable and thorough manner, free of cloudiness and deception and not used as a means for partisan political attacks.

That said, history will probably view the FEMA appointment of Mike Brown as a horrible choice by Bush.

Date: 2005-09-04 04:08 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
As well as our brilliant director of Homeland "Security", Michael Chertoff:

"It wasn't until comparatively late, shortly before -- a day, maybe a day and a half, before landfall -- that it became clear that this was going to be a Category 4 or 5 hurricane headed for the New Orleans area."

Democrat OR Republican (or some other party), for someone responsible for the security of our nation to be that completely out of touch is frightening as all hell.

Date: 2005-09-03 08:27 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
The comment that was posted and then deleted, by a shy Storm Team watcher, stated:

"Of course, it's the fault of "some idiots" shooting, right Mike? Go back to your horse fuckup (, you asshole."

Date: 2005-09-04 12:30 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
That crazy Bush! He's sooooooo silly. With his wishy washy claims of firing anyone who outed Wilson's wife and his secretary of state going on a $3,000 shoe shopping spree just day's after Katrina hit. Gosh he has himself a crack team doesnt he. And when I say crack I mean they get together in the am and do eight balls together.

Date: 2005-09-04 12:24 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Oh noes!

That cracked me the hell up.

Date: 2005-09-04 12:39 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Besides bringing you On The Spot 110% Accuracy Weather Reporting, we like to explore the lighter side of meteorological presentation. We here KWTF like a laugh, weather or not the news is good!

Date: 2005-09-04 12:57 am (UTC)

Date: 2005-09-04 02:06 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]

It shows that they were all compromissed up and down the whole chain of authority, even the press failed. They should have had the outrage they have now, then! Because they knew too! in fact that is why they are so pissed!

Date: 2005-09-04 03:02 am (UTC)
ext_113261: (Default)
From: [identity profile]
We need to turn all this righteous indignation back on the press because they too had the information and should have been screaming for a response from officials.

Date: 2005-09-04 04:57 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Yep. We saw the 10p Friday hurricane track and decided to leave- we started making preparations the next morning, and left at 9am. There was absolutely *no* increased traffic. If the dumbass local authorities had been on top of things, they wouldn't have sat on their asses until mere hours before the storm hit to order an evacuation.

People can bitch and moan about how the federal response was too slow, but the fact of this tragedy is that citizens that stayed brought it on themselves, and the local authorities like Nagin and Blanco are primarily to blame here.

Date: 2005-09-04 07:04 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
A good number of the citizens that stayed probably had little to no choice: the children, the hospital patients, those with no car and not enough money to drive far enough away or anywhere to drive to and stay.

Some people I'm sure just went, "ffft, hurricane, happens all the time, no big deal," but it's rather unfair to say someone who was struggling just to catch up on rent and bills and couldn't afford hotels or a bus ticket, or an eight year old whose parents didn't leave for whatever reasons, "brought it on themselves".

There's a reason so many of the people left behind are poor, and it's not that poverty and stupidity go together. Sorry, but I feel like it needs saying.


storm_team: (Default)

September 2005

    12 3
1819202122 2324
25 26272829 30 

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags
Page generated Sep. 21st, 2017 05:46 pm
Powered by Dreamwidth Studios