…but the funding was cut.
From the St. Petersburg Times:
Just last year, FEMA hired a private company, IEM Inc. of Baton Rouge, to help conduct an eight-day drill for a fictional Category 5 hurricane in New Orleans named Pam. It included staging a helicopter evacuation of the Superdome, a prediction of 15 feet of water in parts of the city and the evacuation of 1-million people.
But the second part of the company’s work – to design a plan to fix unresolved problems, such as evacuating sick and injured people and housing thousands of stranded residents – never occurred because the funding was cut.
Does that excuse what happened? No way, but it does help to explain why New Orleans wasn’t better prepared.
However, it still doesn’t explain FEMA actions. Here’s a partial timeline of FEMA’s initial reponse to the hurricane.
Friday, Aug. 26: At 11 p.m., Katrina is forecast to make landfall near New Orleans.
Saturday, Aug. 27: President Bush declares a state of emergency in Louisiana. White House says FEMA officials are coordinating with authorities in Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama, and have supplies ready. Authorities advise Gulf Coast evacuation.
Sunday: Bush declares emergencies for Mississippi, Florida and Alabama. Evacuations ordered for New Orleans. Evacuation orders are also posted along the Mississippi and Alabama coasts, and in barrier islands of the Florida Panhandle. FEMA moves supplies from centers in Atlanta and Denton, Texas, to areas closer to where authorities think the storm will create a need.
Monday: Katrina comes ashore between New Orleans and Biloxi, Miss., inundating large areas of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.
Tuesday: Medical disaster teams from across the country deployed. The Red Cross sends 185 emergency vehicles. President Bush cuts short his vacation.
Wednesday: An additional 10,000 National Guard troops begin pouring into the Gulf Coast, bringing the number of troops to more than 28,000. This may be the largest military response to a natural disaster. The Navy sends four ships with supplies, while medical disaster teams and Red Cross workers converge on the Gulf Coast region.
Thursday: New Orleans descends into anarchy. FEMA director Michael Brown says the agency was unaware of 15,000 people seeking shelter in the convention center. By evening, 11 hours after the military began evacuating the Superdome, the arena’s population is 10,000 more than at dawn. FEMA says some operations suspended because of gunfire, but it’s working to feed people and restore order.
(HT: Daily Dish)