05 September 2005

FEMA, DHS, and the Administration.... ALL KNEW.

The truth will slowly emerge yet I fear that it will be once again spun off the table, there will be zero responsibility, no one will be fired, and business will continue as usual for Bush. It is becoming increasingly clear that the Administration, DHS and FEMA were completely aware of the consequences and fallout of this storm.

FEMA knew storm's potential, Mayfield says

By Mark Schleifstein

Dr. Max Mayfield, director of the National Hurricane Center, said
Sunday that officials with the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Department of Homeland Security, including FEMA Director Mike Brown and Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, listened in on electronic briefings given by his staff in advance of Hurricane Katrina slamming Louisiana and Mississippi and were advised of the storm’s potential deadly effects.

Mayfield said the strength of the storm and the potential disaster it could bring were made clear during both the briefings and in formal advisories, which warned of a storm surge capable of overtopping levees in New Orleans and winds strong enough to blow out windows of high-rise buildings. He said the briefings included information on expected wind speed, storm surge, rainfall and the potential for tornados to accompany the storm as it came ashore.

“We were briefing them way before landfall,” Mayfield said. “It’s not like this was a surprise. We had in the advisories that the levee could be topped.

“I keep looking back to see if there was anything else we could have done, and I just don’t know what it would be,” he said.

Chertoff told reporters Saturday that government officials had not expected the damaging combination of a powerful hurricane levee breaches that flooded New Orleans.

Brown and Chertoff could not be reached for comment.

In the days before Katrina hit, Mayfield said, his staff also briefed FEMA, which under the Department of Homeland Security, at FEMA’s headquarters in Washington, D.C., its Region 6 office in Dallas and the Region 4 office in Atlanta about the potential effects of the storm.

He said all of those briefings were logged in the hurricane center’s records.

And Mayfield said his staff also participated in the five-day
“Hurricane Pam” exercise sponsored by FEMA and the Louisiana Office of
Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness in July 2004 that assumed a similar storm would hit the city.

FEMA’s own July 23, 2004, news release announcing the end of that exercise summed up the assumptions they used, which were eerily close to what Katrina delivered:
“Hurricane Pam brought sustained winds of 120 mph, up to 20 inches of rain in parts of southeast Louisiana and storm surge that topped levees in the New Orleans area. More than one million residents evacuated and Hurricane Pam destroyed 500,000-600,000 buildings. Emergency officials from 50 parish, state, federal and volunteer organizations faced this scenario during a five-day exercise held this week at the State Emergency Operations Center in Baton Rouge.

“The exercise used realistic weather and damage information developed
by the National Weather Service, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the
LSU Hurricane Center and other state and federal agencies to help
officials develop joint response plans for a catastrophic hurricane in
Louisiana.”

That plan assumed such a hurricane would result in the opening of 1,000 evacuee shelters that would have to be staffed for 100 days, and a search and rescue operation using 800 people. The storm would create 30 million tons of debris, including 237,000 cubic yards of household hazardous waste.

Mayfield said his concern now is that another named storm could hit
either New Orleans or the Mississippi Gulf coast, as September is the
most active month of the annual hurricane season.

“This is like the fourth inning in a nine-inning ballgame,” he said. “We know that another one would cause extreme stress on the people who have been hurt by Katrina.”

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