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Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Troubling, To Say the Least

This is worrisome:
In dramatic and sometimes agonizing terms, federal disaster officials warned President Bush and his homeland security chief before Hurricane Katrina struck that the storm could breach levees, put lives at risk in New Orleans' Superdome and overwhelm rescuers, according to confidential video footage. Bush didn't ask a single question during the final briefing before Katrina struck on Aug. 29, but he assured soon-to-be-battered state officials: "We are fully prepared."
I'd love to see the tapes and/or transcripts, but the video clips online aren't really working very well. This definitely doesn't reflect well on Bush, who 4 days later commented that "nobody anticipated the breach of the levees."

It seems that officials - particularly Mike Brown (the infamous "Brownie") did a very good job of warning the government of what difficulties may come up in the Superdome, with the levees, and with other areas of disaster. The governments (federal, state, and local) felt they were prepared enough. Brown had termed the problem a "catastrophe within a catastrophe", which very much implies that he felt that even if they were prepared to handle a large number of people, they weren't prepared to handle what that meant (such as the chaos that ensued at the Superdome afterwards, for example).

Would it have changed the outcome? Unclear. Would more lives have been saved? Possibly - it's really hard to gauge. I'm not sure that had the government recognized just how unprepared they were it would have helped - as it is, Chertoff is on tape asking if they could use more DoD people, and Brown answers that they have and that they are "fully engaged" (as in, they're okay). Would response time have been quicker? Possibly - but then again, they weren't able to truly assess the damage right away either. Would knowing that the levees would breach on August 28th have changed anything? Again, to hard to gauge.

Based on the limited information available, it seems that everyone, top on down, suffered from the same thing: Overconfidence. Bush was overconfident, state officials were overconfident, local officials were overconfident. Brown and others raised issues, and people thought that it was something they were prepared for.

Sadly, they were wrong.

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