Warning Signs

The Mistakes of New Orleans


Although many politicians have said there was no way to predict the devastation that Hurricane Katrina wrought in Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana,  the fact is, the federal government was warned time and time again about the inevitability of a major hurricane slamming the Gulf Region. Here is a small sample of events leading up to Katrina:


As early as 1965, the Lake Pontchartrain Hurricane Protection project was started in New Orleans, La., signaling an acknowledgment of the potential damage a major hurricane could wreak. The city’s location at sea level had been a concern since the city was originally planned and built.


In June 2002, The New Orleans Times-Picayune published a five-part, in-depth series “Washing Away,” which presents various scenarios that would occur should a category 5 hurricane hit the area. It predicted that thousands could be displaced and the local economy shattered.


In Sept. 2002, the American RadioWorks aired a documentary, “Hurricane Risk for New Orleans,” which highlighted the fact that the budget for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the JeffersonParishEmergencyManagementCenter was far below what was needed.


In 2003, FEMA became a part of the Department of Homeland Security. President Bush appoints Michael “Brownie” Brown as its new leader, giving him the official title of “Undersecretary of Emergency Preparedness and Response.” Brown’s previous job had been as a judge for the now-defunct International Arabian Horse Association (IAHA).


In Oct. 2004: National Geographic published “Gone With the Water,” which leads with a worst-case scenario for the Mississippi Delta area should a hurricane hit.


Earlier in 2005, the United States Army Corps of Engineers requested $27 million for protection projects in Louisiana. Bush offered $3.9 million. That’s about 14 percent of what the Corps asked for. Congress eventually contributed $5.7 million according to the office of Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.).


The Corps also requested $78 million for improving drainage and flood prevention projects in the state. Bush’s counter offer: $30 million (38 percent). Congress provided $36.5 million to the projects, according to figures released by Landrieu’s office.


On May 17, 2005, hurricane forecasters at the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predict an “above-normal hurricane season,” saying “three to five major hurricanes” could hit the Gulf Region.