Apples and oranges. The storm hit the MS coast harder, both in wind strength and storm surge -- but those were relatively sparsely-populated areas, where nearly everyone had cars and most had access to a truck, so it was easier to et out of Dodge.
The vast majority of the damage to NOLA was not from the storm, but from the collapse of the levees. It flooded an urban core with a well-established mass transit system, Lots of people without cars. The Lower ninth Ward was simply not the same kind of place as Bay St. Louis or Pass Christien.
That is not to excuse the local authorities from responsibility. The challenges in New Orleans were something that NOLA should have known about and prepared for. All those school buses, which were destroyed at a cost of millions and could have saved the lives of thousands, should have been pressed into service -- most of the usual school bus drivers would want to flee with their families, but you can't tell me that the Louisiana National Guard didn't have enough drivers who could operate them.
The Superdome and the Convention Center should have been embarkation points, not shelters. One of my more radical ideas: Car dealers in New Orleans should have just handed the keys to residents and asked the to drop off the cars in Baton Rouge or Biloxi or even Memphis. What's to lose? They took a total loss on the cars in their lots.
Get every river barge and every Amtrak car in town ready for the evacuation. It wasn't just the school buses -- every but of rolling and floating gear destroyed in NOLA was a lost opportunity. Save lives now, figure out the compensation later.
My other radical notion is based on the fact that Wal-Mart stores in the storm zone had ice and bottled water ready to sell before FEMA had ice and water ready to give away. The solution: Contract out emergency operations to Wal-Mart. The whole company has built its success on tight logistics and inventory control. Why try to reinvent the wheel?
Every car, bus, truck, boat, train, every vehicle lost n NOLA could have been used to save lives. NOLA needed a Dunkirk. But there was not enough advance planning, not enough authority to adjust on the fly, and not enough flexibility to keep an eye on the ball. The Red Cross and other charitable groups brought caravans of relief that were turned away by government authorities that hadn't gotten the right paperwork. That has to stop.
If I used my own money, or raised enough money, to bring truckloads of water and tents and medicine, I would have been stopped from doing so by men with automatic rifles. Instead, we have thousands of FEMA trailers that are lined up and sinking into the Arkansas mud because, two years latter, folks still haven't figure out how to distribute them. That has to stop.
If someone is bleeding to death from the femoral artery, you apply a tourniquet -- figure out how o save the leg later.
We need a way to speed response. If that means limited immunity, if it means changes to the insurance structure, these are all things we've got to look at. If we need an act of Congress t ensure that my effort to bring good food to the hungry means that I won't be sued out of existence if someone chokes, than damn it, let's get some legislation.
You make some excellent points. The first responders MUST be those initially on the ground in the disaster area because until it’s deemed to be safe to enter the disaster area, not the Red Cross, FEMA nor any other relief agency will be permitted to go in, putting the lives of their employees or volunteers at risk.
While no one could have foreseen the damage Katrina inflicted on NOLA with the levee breaches, it’s indisputable that had Nagin and Blanco ORDERED (not just recommended) total evacuation of the city well in advance of the storm hitting, many more lives would have been saved and the resources used to rescue able bodied people off rooftops could instead have been used to rescue people unable to help themselves, like hospital and nursing home residents.
A helicopter rescue is painstaking and dangerous compared to driving into a neighborhood and loading 50 people on a school bus once every half hour.
One positive in Katrina is that places in NO that should NEVER have been developed in the first place will hopefully, not be redeveloped.
You are right. Obviously the two areas are not really comparable. My point was that the media generally portrays Katrina as having scored a direct hit on NO. Had it done so, we might have had tens of thousands of dead, and perhaps less forceful criticism of the administration for its response. Who knows?
The old-fashioned earth levees all held, I believe. The levees that failed were the new, modern concrete ones. They failed well before reaching the stress they were supposed to be built to withstand.
This implies that somebody screwed up, either on design, construction or maintenance, and is therefore responsible for the disaster. Had the levees not failed, the damage would have been minimal.
Oddly, I’ve seen very little in the media on this subject, except in the weeks immediately after the storm. I suspect the reason is that the media doesn’t want to divert attention away from “Bush’s failure” during the response to the actual cause. The way it has been played, the implication is that the administration knew in advance exactly what would happen, and chose to let it continue in order to kill as many black people as possible.
Or possibly there’s just been an effective cover-up.
BTW, I like your ideas. Would require extensive changes in liability and insurance law. For instance, Katrina could have swerved at the last moment and missed NO, or the levees might have held. Then your car dealers would be up a creek.
Dramatic action such as you propose is generally only justified by hindsight. This is much like 9/11, where the very actions that could have prevented it would never have been considered justified or legal until after it had occurred.