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Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Timeline of New Orleans debacle

I'm supplying here a comparison of two disasters. First the San Francisco earthquake of 1906, followed by the New Orleans Hurricane Katrina, 2005. The New Orleans timeline has been gathered by me from multiple sources on the internet.

San Francisco Earthquake

April 18 1906

The earthquake struck at 5:13 AM.

By 7 AM federal troops had reported to the mayor.

By 8 AM they were patrolling the entire downtown area and searching for survivors.

The second quake struck at 8:14 AM.

By 10:05 AM the USS Chicago was on its way from San Diego to San Francisco; by 10:30 the USS Preble had landed a medical team and set up an emergency hospital.

By 11 AM large parts of the city were on fire; troops continued to arrive throughout the day, evacuating people from the areas threatened by fire to emergency shelters and Golden Gate Park.

St. Mary's hospital was destroyed by the fire at 1 PM, with no loss of life, the staff and patients having already been evacuated across the bay to Oakland.

By 3 PM troops had shot several looters, and dynamited buildings to make a firebreak; by five they had buried dozens of corpses, the morgue and the police pistol range being unable to hold any more.

At 8:40 PM General Funston requested emergency housing - tents and shelters - from the War Department in Washington; all of the tents in the U.S. Army were on their way to San Francisco by 4:55 AM the next morning.

Prisoners were evacuated to Alcatraz, and by April 20 (two days after the earthquake) the USS Chicago had reached San Francisco, where it evacuated 20,000 refugees.

New Orleans Hurricane Katrina, 2005

August 26
  • White House declares impending disaster area and orders Department Homeland Security and FEMA to prepare "to coordinate all disaster relief efforts which have the purpose of alleviating the hardship and suffering caused by the emergency on the local population, and to provide appropriate assistance for required emergency measures" in the path of the storm. A significant National Guard presence is not seen until 8 days later.

August 28
  • New Orleans evacuated as Hurricane Katrina, a Category 5 hurricane, is expected to hit. It's predicted the entire city could be washed away. The poor, elderly and disabled are left behind.

August 29
  • 6:10 AM - Hurricane Katrina, now Category 4, hits New Orleans.

  • President Bush hits the road to promote prescription-drug plan. His first stop is Arizona, where he eats birthday cake with Senator John McCain and talks to senior citizens in Phoenix at a golf resort.

  • In late afternoon, there are early reports of broken levees. The National Weather Service reported that a levee broke on the Industrial Canal near the St. Bernard-Orleans parish line.

  • President Bush travels to Southern California to talk to more seniors about changes to Medicare. He also plays golf. He spends the evening in San Diego to prepare for a Tuesday speech commemorating the 60th Anniversary of the end of World War Two.

August 30
  • 1:30AM - CNN reports that a levee on the 17th Street Canal, which connects into Lake Pontchartrain, suffered a two city-block wide breach. It is later reported that a total of three levees are breached.

  • FEMA refuses to allow volunteer firefighters into New Orleans. After waiting in a parking lot for 4 days the expert team finally gives up and returns home to Houston.
  • President Bush travels to Naval Air Station North Island to celebrate the 60th anniversary of V-J Day. Later, at a country music show at Naval Base Coronado, he plays a guitar.

  • Michael Chertoff, Secretary of Homeland Security, apparently learns mid-day that the levees have broken, approximately 36 hours after they did.

  • Louisiana and Mississippi request military specialists and equipment from other states.

  • 10PM - New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin announces that the planned sandbagging of the 17th Street levee breach has failed. 80 percent of New Orleans is underwater.
August 31
  • The Astrodome in Houston opens to refugees of Hurricane Katrina. 18-year-old Jabbor Gibson either finds or steals a bus (depending on who's telling the story) and takes 100 refugees to the Astrodome. Authorities eventually let the 'renegades' into the Astrodome and advise Jabbor is likely to be arrested.

  • A Canadian urban rescue team is prevented from entering the US by the Department of Homeland Security.

  • The Forest Service offered fire fighting planes to help extinguish blazes in New Orleans, but the Department of Homeland Security refused to authorise their use.

  • President Bush cuts his 5 week vacation short by 2 days to fly back to Washington. He flies over the Gulf but doesn't stop.

  • Governor Kathleen Blanco organizes a "moment of prayer" -- during which all relief efforts stop. She then orders that all of New Orleans, including the Superdome, be evacuated.

  • New Orleans's 1,500 member police force is ordered to abandon search and rescue missions and turn their attention toward controlling the widespread looting and a curfew is placed in effect.

  • Mayor Ray Nagin calls for increased federal assistance.

September 1
  • Evacuation of Charity Hospital stops because of a sniper.

  • The shelter in Houston's Astrodome is ruled full and could not accept any more people.

  • New Orleans Mayor Nagin gives a radio interview blasting the relief effort.

  • Governor Blanco says that the death toll may be "in the thousands".

  • In an incredible display of compassion and timing, House Speaker Dennis Hastert wonders whether New Orleans should be rebuilt. He doesn't suggest where all the residents should go or whether they should be compensated in any way.

  • Homeland Security Secretary Chertoff says, "The critical thing was to get people out of there before the disaster. Some people chose not to obey that order. That was a mistake on their part."

  • FEMA Head Mike Brown tells Wolf Blitzer, "Well, I think the death toll may go into the thousands. And unfortunately, that's going to be attributable a lot to people who did not heed the evacuation warnings. And I don't make judgments about why people choose not to evacuate."

  • President Bush claims, "I don't think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees."

  • The President makes a statement in the afternoon that sets the tone of the government's priorities. Rather than direct the military to immediately assist the thousands of people without food or water in the city center, Bush assured the nation that expected gasoline shortages would be temporary and that his father and former President Clinton were ready to pass the tin can to ensure private-sector support for rebuilding New Orleans.

  • An entire business week has passed since hurricane Katrina demolished New Orleans, and still there has been no coordinated military action to provide relief to the victims. No water, no food, no airlifts, no medical assistance.

  • Hundreds of people in Orleans and Jefferson parishes are rescued by swift water rescue teams from California. However, at the end of the day, FEMA halts further rescues due to supposed security concerns, though no security incidents involving the teams are reported by CNN journalist Rick Sanchez who was embedded with the teams during the rescues.

September 2
  • Rapes and murders inside the Superdome are reported. The sanitation hasn't worked for days.

  • FEMA Head Mike Brown claims to Ted Koppel that, really and truly, they just found out about the people at the New Orleans convention center. Koppel not only doesn't believe him, but says so out loud.

  • Mike Brown gives President Bush a briefing. He uses a five day old map of Hurricane Katrina. President Bush tells him: "You're doing a heck of a job."

September 3
  • The National Guard arrives in New Orleans.

  • The Department of Homeland Security prevents the Red Cross going into the city because they want to spread the message that: 'You need to leave the city. This isn't going to be a sheltering spot.'

September 4
  • The Superdome is completely evacuated.

  • FEMA prevented the delivery of three trailer trucks of water donated by Wal-Mart to Jefferson Parish, forbade the Coast Guard from donating 1000 gallons of diesel fuel that happened to be on a Coast Guard vessel docked in Jefferson Parish, and cut all emergency communication lines out of the parish. The communication lines were repaired and put under armed guard.

September 5

  • The 17th Street Canal levee breach is plugged with massive 3,000 pound sandbags.

  • The estimate here is that there were about 30,000 people evacuated.


What I would like to know is - how in the name of all that is sensible was it possible to evacuate 20,000 people from San Francisco in 1906 in TWO DAYS, and yet in 2005, roughly ONE HUNDRED YEARS LATER, they have a problem doing the exact same thing in EIGHT DAYS. It seems obvious to me, based on the events that occurred, that the mishandling of resources by FEMA and the Department of Homeland Security was not just negligent, but criminal.

Heads will have to roll over this.


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Posted on 9/06/2005 03:34:00 PM Backlinks


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2 Comments:

Blogger Chancelucky said...

Allan,
thanks for this reminder about what should have been possible. I am deeply saddened that the aftermath of Katrina seems tobe more about "blame" than actual aid.


Rebuilding New Orleans Right

9/07/2005 09:51:00 AM  
Blogger Alan Howard said...

I think a lot of people are doing a lot of blaming, for sure. The amount of mismanagement is amazing. It's hard to say that there's a 'conspiracy' behind the actions of so many people, but it's also hard to understand how nearly everyone involved in both FEMA and DHS can be so incredibly negligent that they all turn away aid and ensure that no aid is provided or halted. I just can't understand it. Where aid should have been the primary concern, there primary concern seemed to be the PREVENTION of aid. How does that happen amongst so many government officials and those that work for those departments? A lot of questions need to be asked.

9/07/2005 10:28:00 AM  

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