By MarEx 2015-08-25 15:34:06
On August 25, 2005, Hurricane Katrina made landfall as the largest and third most powerful hurricane to ever hit the U.S. The Category 5 storm killed more than 1,800 people and displaced another 400,000. The blame for the death and delayed response has been placed at the feet of everyone from Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco, New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin and President George W. Bush. But, culpability cannot be pointed to any person for a natural disaster of this magnitude.
On August 27, as Katrina’s strength increased, Nagin held a press conference announcing the voluntary evacuation of New Orleans. Katrina was just a category 3 hurricane at the time, but the city was in its path and its levees had only been built to withstand at category three storm.
Should Nagin’s evacuation decree have been mandatory? National news sources speculate that his delay in issuing the mandatory evacuation was due to tourism. In fact, tourism at the time generated about $5 billion in per year for the city. It is assumed that Nagin was concerned that business owners would sue the city for its mandatory evacuation.
Thousands of New Orleans citizens were without cars and transportation. It is assumed that if the mandatory evacuation had been issued many would not have died. But, when issuing the voluntary evacuation, the mayor suggested that the citizens carpool with friends and family to get to safe locations.
Nagin didn’t issue the mandatory evacuation order until the next day, August 28, after a National Weather Service advisory said Katrina’s winds had strengthened to 175 miles per hour. A category 5 storm is 157 miles per hour or greater.
As the Category 5 storm barreled down on the Louisiana coast with New Orleans in its path, the citizens of the city had just hours to get to safety. Moreover, Louisiana did not have the infrastructure endure such a huge storm or even rescue survivors caught in its devastation.
And the federal government cannot provide aid or respond to any disaster unless a state governor requests it to. Kathleen Blanco was Louisiana’s governor and she did encourage the state’s citizens to evacuate. She also placed a request with the federal government to issue a state of emergency. But, rather than placing a phone call to President Bush, she just submitted legal documents requesting federal state of emergency. While submitting documents followed protocol, it seemed to lack a sense of urgency to many.
Around 3 PM, on August 29, two major flood-control levees were breached. About 80% of New Orleans was now submerged in waters up to 20 feet as Katrina impacted more than 90,000 square miles and destroyed $151 billion in multi-state property damage. The National Weather Service reported a total structural failure in New Orleans as people fled to safety.
With New Orleans under water, search and rescue should have been the highest priority. But, on September 2, almost four days later, Blanco complained to the White House that Louisiana still had not received aid from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Bush and FEMA Director Michael Brown contended they had not been explicitly informed of Louisiana’s needs.
Instead of acting and responding to the obvious destruction, FEMA simply waited.
Blanco rejects the federal government’s claim and said her letter to Bush requested about 40,000 troops, food and water, buses, amphibious vehicles and mobile morgues.
Meanwhile, violence and looting broke out in New Orleans by the time FEMA arrived in Louisiana. FEMA decided that it would not put its employees at risk and rejected an offer by the Department of the Interior for trucks, vans, boats, aircraft and about 400 officers.
Louisianans continued to wait as one of the largest hurricanes to hit the U.S. laid waste to the city and state.