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The facts coming out in the aftermath of the Hurricane Katrina devastation point more to gross incompetence on the part of local and state officials in La. The response was apparently so poorly coordinated, that the feds on Friday attempted to wrest authority from La. Governor Blanco:
Behind the scenes, a power struggle emerged, as federal officials tried to wrest authority from Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco (D). Shortly before midnight Friday, the Bush administration sent her a proposed legal memorandum asking her to request a federal takeover of the evacuation of New Orleans, a source within the state’s emergency operations center said Saturday.
The administration sought unified control over all local police and state National Guard units reporting to the governor. Louisiana officials rejected the request after talks throughout the night, concerned that such a move would be comparable to a federal declaration of martial law. Some officials in the state suspected a political motive behind the request. "Quite frankly, if they’d been able to pull off taking it away from the locals, they then could have blamed everything on the locals," said the source, who does not have the authority to speak publicly.
The article goes on to say:
Louisiana did not reach out to a multi-state mutual aid compact for assistance until Wednesday, three state and federal officials said.
Couple this with the fact that La. failed to implement the following disaster evacuation plan (page marked number 9/Adobe page number 14, item D):
The primary means of hurricane evacuation will be personal vehicles. School and municipal buses, government-owned vehicles and vehicles provided by volunteer agencies may be used to provide transportation for individuals who lack transportation and require assistance in evacuating …
See photo of school buses submerged in water here.
Additionally, this is not the first time the city of New Orleans and state of La. have been criticized for their decisions regarding pre-and post hurricane responses (from a 9/19/2004 AP piece):
Those who had the money to flee Hurricane Ivan ran into hours-long traffic jams. Those too poor to leave the city had to find their own shelter – a policy that was eventually reversed, but only a few hours before the deadly storm struck land. New Orleans dodged the knockout punch many feared from the hurricane, but the storm exposed what some say are significant flaws in the Big Easy’s civil disaster plans.
"If the government asks people to evacuate, the government has some responsibility to provide an option for those people who can’t evacuate and are at the whim of Mother Nature," said Joe Cook of the New Orleans ACLU.
It’s always been a problem, but the situation is worse now that the Red Cross has stopped providing shelters in New Orleans for hurricanes rated above Category 2. Stronger hurricanes are too dangerous, and Ivan was a much more powerful Category 4.
In this case, city officials first said they would provide no shelter, then agreed that the state-owned Louisiana Superdome would open to those with special medical needs. Only Wednesday afternoon, with Ivan just hours away, did the city open the 20-story-high domed stadium to the public.
Mayor Ray Nagin’s spokeswoman, Tanzie Jones, insisted that there was no reluctance at City Hall to open the Superdome, but said the evacuation was the top priority.
"Our main focus is to get the people out of the city," she said.
Callers to talk radio complained about the late decision to open up the dome, but the mayor said he would do nothing different.
"We did the compassionate thing by opening the shelter," Nagin said. "We wanted to make sure we didn’t have a repeat performance of what happened before. We didn’t want to see people cooped up in the Superdome for days."
It is becoming more and more clear with each passing day where the bulk of the blame lies for the slow responses to Hurricane Katrina: N.O. Mayor Nagin and La. Gov. Blanco.
See John Cole’s post as well as Jeff Goldstein’s for more about the disastrous disaster responses on the part of local and state La. officials. The Little Green Footballs blog has some interesting reads in the comments section.
Related: Michelle Malkin blogs about some heartwrenching stories of parents separated from their children in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and says:
Look hard at these photos, send them around, e-mail the networks and cable news stations and press them to air the names and faces of Katrina’s lost children–every night until they are all found, if need be. Let’s get O’Reilly and Greta and Shep and Steve Harrigan and Nancy Grace and Rita Cosby on the search team.
More: Captain Ed on Mayor Nagin:
Not only did Nagin know that the Superdome would prove inadequate for shelter for any period longer than a few hours, he encouraged people to gather there without providing the resources he knew that shelter to lack. Instead, he ran off to Baton Rouge despite his responsibility to oversee the execution of the emergency-response plans and ranted at Bush for not reacting quickly enough to the disaster.
And the Exempt Media, by and large, have covered for Nagin’s incompetence. Does anyone seriously wonder why?
Nope. We know why.
Even more: Michael King discusses some fed ball dropping as well, noting DHS Secretary Chertoff’s comments about the DHS’ initial response as well as FEMA director Michael Brown’s admission that he was not more proactive as early as last Sunday. Brendan Loy blasts Brown’s comments here (hat tip: Malkin).
Still more: Jeff Goldstein attempts to piece together the post flood reactions and responses from local, state, and federal officials.
Don’t forget you can still contribute to the American Red Cross Hurricane 2005 Relief Fund or any one (or more!) of a number of other great organizations out there mobilizing to help the victims of Hurricane Katrina. If you do contribute, please log it here at the TTLB contribution page as he is tracking the amount of money raised from each blog. Logging it is totally anonymous – in other words, you don’t have to give a name. Just an amount, the charity you donated to, and the blog that encouraged you to do so.