Our Readers Weigh In

We’re getting lots of emails on all sides of the issues surrounding the governmental response to Hurricane Katrina. I’ll be putting them up from time to time over the course of the day; feel free to contribute, especially if you have experience and expertise in the area. For now, we’ll start with these:
From Jim Ouly:

I just read your article, Blaming President Bush, and couldn’t agree more. The initial responsibility for any disaster starts with the municipality, then county/parrish, state, and then finally federal government. It seems that since there was a collapse of all levels of government from municipal through state, the only thing left to do is blame the feds.
For a bit of perspective, I was a firefighter with a volunteer fire department in southeast Florida. The town is located on barrier island and our sop requires us, when there is a mandatory evacuation of flood zones during a hurricane, to relocate our fire engines and firefighters to a safe area until after the storm passes. At first blush it seems a little callous to leave when we know a certain percentage of the population will refuse to evacuate, but high winds and flooding could destroy the rescue equipment and turn first responders into victims.
Once the storm has passed we can move in and start rescue operations. We make sure we have the ability to operate for at least 72 hours on our own without having to rely on any of the surrounding communuties, county, or state.
I bring this up because I saw a lot of ambulances, police cars, and fire equipment flooded in the Katrina footage. It will be interesting to see what the NO preplanning was since their director of emergency response is all over the tv blaming Bush. We went through Frances (cat 4) and three weeks later Jeanne (cat 3) last year and I think Palm Beach County and Jeb Bush did a pretty good job. It’s up to local and state people to tell the feds what they need and to run the emergency command centers, not just throw their arms up in the air and start blaming everyone else.
By the way, I’ve seen a lot of criticism of Bush (from the left and right) that he hasn’t played the perception game very well. I find all the hand wringing by the talking heads and news readers almost obscene. I’m glad I wasn’t able to see it when Frances and Jeanne hit us last year (still blue tarps on roofs around here). Give me a laundry list of things that are being done instead of platitudes any day.

From Amy Kelly:

Doesn’t President Bush have to take some kind of responsibility for the utterly ineffective response from FEMA and the DHS? He’s the head of this administration, the head of this country…. and even he has admitted that relief hasn’t come fast or thoroughly enough. Knee-jerk charges of the “liberal media” do nothing to ensure that this kind of bungling doesn’t happen again. Instead, maybe a thoughtful and honest look at what went wrong (and right – the Coast Guard, for instance) would be more productive in the long run.
By the way, did you not hear Michael Chertoff insinuate yesterday (on an NPR interview) that reporters and Louisiana refugees in the Convention Center were *lying* about the conditions and the dead bodies?
I’m almost speechless, too, but for different reasons. Four years after 9/11, we should have an effective federal plan for disasters, whether of terrorist or natural origins.

OK, but what exactly did FEMA and DHS do wrong that they should have done better? So far, I haven’t heard any meaningful explanation of what the criticisms are.
From John Galvin:

The blame for the New Orleans disaster is 100% on New Orleans and Louisiana. This was NOT unforeseen. A cat 4-5 Hurricane has been expected for DECADES. There was NO planning for such an event.
1: The levees were only built for a Cat 3, at most most. No gat a Cat 4 storm and the levees failed, as would be expected. See US News of 7/18/05
Despite all the fancy words, a levee is just a big, thick reinforced concrete wall. Why couldn


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