Hurricane Katrina issue

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Please list all Hurricane Katrina issues here in issue/position/argument form. This complements Hurricane Katrina commentary, timeline, refugee and other debates.



climate change?

The position:climate change caused Hurricane Katrina (also a climate issue) is popular among critics of the Bush Administration that have ignored climate change and denied it is human-caused, on alternate days, and who famously refused to ratify the Kyoto Protocol to help prevent it. The arguments for this position include:

  • Never before had a category 4 or 5 hurricane actually hit the US Gulf Coast, and this event was considered before 2000 to have only a 0.5% probability
  • The actual severity of Hurricane Katrina was unprecedented and widespread, so much so that there was no scenario, even the Hurricane Pam exercise, that had anticipated it - the lack of emergency preparedness speaks to the surprise of it
  • The pattern of hurricanes has changed drastically in recent years, with many having struck Florida repeatedly, and great damage to some islands in the Caribbean
  • This pattern is also changing further north, such as in Nova Scotia where Hurricane Juan did unprecedented damage in 2002, quite late in traditional hurricane season

While arguments against include:

  • Gulf of Mexico waters were unusually warm, over 30 degrees Celsius at least, and this local effect is part of a normal Atlantic cycle, not global climate change

What is undisputed remains:

  • Whether caused by global climate change or not, the local climate had changed in recent years as part of a pattern that was known, and very widely anticipated

Gulf flood control

The US Army Corps of Engineers was responsible to deal with flood control throughout the 20th century and to the present day. There has been an uninterrupted responsibility.

NOLA unready?

The position:New Orleans was unprepared for Hurricane Katrina is among the most often advanced positions, and is acknowledged by both supporters and the detractors of George W. Bush. Supporters often claim "we didn't know it would be so bad" and excuse lack of preparedness. Detractors claim that the situation was well known.


The US FEMA was responsible to deal with general emergency preparedness in 2000. In 2001 it was reorganized into the Homeland Security department, demoted from a full cabinet post, and its funding made dependent on tradeoffs to fight terrorism.

FEMA unready?

The position:FEMA was unprepared for Hurricane Katrina is often advanced by critics. See the Katrina Mistake list for articles which detail FEMA's Lack of preparation and disorganized response.

response and refugees

refugees neglected?

The position:New Orleans Superdome refugees were neglected was advanced by many actual refugees and all domestic and foreign press who visited them - in particular the fact that bodies were not evacuated.

What is undisputed is that people in the Superdome not were provided security, provisions, evacuation after hurricane, and were essentially left on their own. Nobody came. The question is why, and whether their not coming was due to neglect or a totally unanticipated problem that somehow made them inaccessible.

Some arguments for the position that the refugees were in fact neglected:

  • The American Red Cross was not in there from the start, before the hurricane? Regarding that position are some questions:
  • Who made that decision? Were they asked to be there? According to CNN, the decision to not allow the Red Cross into the Superdome before or after the Hurricane was made by the Deputy Director of Homeland Security for Louisiana.
  • The Mayor announced use of Superdome as facility at noon on Sunday. What was the expectation of the Mayor for how long people would have to be there? What was the expectation for who was responsible for providing resources for provisions and evacuation? Brian Williams noted on the 9/8 Daily Show that the Department of Homeland Security and FEMA were on site with him at the Superdome during the hurricane, as well as the Army Corps of Engineers.

Some arguments against "neglect" explain it as a simple problem of scale and higher priority problems: people in much worse need elsewhere in the city

  • Clearly it was never possible for local resources to handle the scope of the needs even just at the Superdome without outside assistance (or at least clear to me. Is that self-evident or not?) Local police were considerably overwhelmed: 1,000 police officers on the force, with approximately 100,000 people left in city, NOT counting the Superdome and Convention Center.
  • EACH AND EVERY ONE of those people needed either rescue, medical help, evacuation, or to be handcuffed and put in jail, WAY beyond the scope of local officials. Some of those officials were initially stranded as well, and then later some deserted. How many STATE Natl Guard went to NOLA, as opposed to other areas of Louisiana, other counties? Sheriffs Dept also needed to secure jails and make sure there weren't jail breaks. (Where are THEY now, by the way? They were camping on that overpass in handcuffs for days. Now what? Presumably the jail is in the same condition is was before.)

Some arguments that the local officials had already received substantial help, and therefore could and did rely on state, federal and military officials:

  • Coast Guard was Johnny on the Spot. Who called them? Who coordinated that?
  • The CONVENTION CENTER filled up after flooding began, I presume. Local officials had knowledge, presumably, that it was being used. Were they expected to communicate this need to Fed officials? Press was reporting on existence of need there starting when? Tuesday?
  • Where was central search and rescue command post and who was in charge of that? Honore? When did Honore arrive? What exactly is the scope of his responsibility? Just NOLA? Does he command Coast Guard too? Does he command STATE National Guard as well? Who was he reporting to? Was HE responsible for reporting on existence of and needs at the Convention Center as well, since presumably he was Fed Man in Charge in NOLA? Did he? Did it go unheeded?
  • FEMA is not in charge of security, but is in charge of provisions, along with Red Cross, but can't go where it's not secure. Who tells Red Cross where to go and when? FEMA

NOLA insecure?

The position:NOLA not secured quickly enough after Hurricane Katrina is of concern to those who fear that the city may be undergoing an extended period of lawlessness and looting, and that its economy may not recover. Whether this is likely to lead to additional business failures or loss of economic opportunity a decade hence is an open question, that is, what is quickly "enough".

The arguments for this position include:

  • Of course it wasn't, there were not enough security personnel to handle it. No leadership available to do this, while it was busy with humanitarian issues
  • Louisiana Gov called in STATE Natl Guard. How many were there? Clearly not enough.
  • The FED NATL GUARD weren't in position beforehand - many offers came in, apparently paper didn't go through. When did it finally come? Friday with the President's press junket, or where there more before that?
  • How many STATE National Guard w/ equip, if any, are in Iraq? Did that have an effect? At the very least it reduced the troops available for domestic issues
  • Lack of visible leadership in NOPD, leaving Harry Connick Jr., Sean Penn, and other civilians to do their jobs. Some desertions of police officers. Would that have happened under William Bratton?
    • Personal issues with family members missing and security as well as communications breakdowns were factors. One emergency management official kept reassuring his mother each day that "they were coming" for her, but they never did and she drowned three days into this situation. He cried on national TV.
    • Police untrained for this situation: Stories of abuse and negligence and disregard for the emotional state of evacuees on the part of police officers around the Superdome and Convention Center were also evident.

The arguments against this position

  • What are examples of timelines for other national guard deployments? How fast? Many are much faster, and given that the situation was known days in advance, it could have been much faster in NOLA
  • Were there different people responsible for rescue and evacuation? Coast Guard and others left people who had been evacuated from rooftops and homes on overpasses and piers, and then nobody came to get them causing possibly hundreds of fatalities as they waited. Was the Coast Guard responsible for communicating need for evacuation and specific info about urgency based on medical conditions of specific groups of people? To whom? Who then was responsible for further evacuation?
    • Perception however of neglect can arise easily from such handoff failures
  • Hospitals not evacuated in timely manner either - general security had to wait.
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