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Were available assets left unused in New Orleans?

I have read a comment that said that New Orleans had large numbers of school buses, literally hundreds of them, which were not only not used by local government to move people out of New Orleans, they were abandoned to the floodwaters. Is this true?

Now presumably the local authorities in New Orleans were uniquely aware of the economic situation of their poorer subjects and thus aware of their lack of motor transport when they started telling people to evacuate New Orleans.

If that fleet of buses was indeed available right there within the city, can anyone explain why, rather than encourage people to assemble at the Superbowl without any logistic planning in place to actually cope with them or plans move them elsewhere promptly, why were these buses not used to move those displaced people to several sites not so close to New Orleans (i.e. somewhere the transportation and logistic infrastructure were not so badly disrupted) and then use those same buses to provide logistic support for a few days for the relocated people. Presumably Louisiana has contingency fuel stockpiles that are enough for a few hundred buses for, say, 4 to 5 days (i.e. the peak crisis period)?

I realise that logistical planning is not a game for amateurs but seeing as the transportation assets were just sitting there near the people who needed transportation, surely there must have been a way for the city government to have avoided what happened in New Orleans even if the situation in more rural areas may have been more problematic. Am I am missing something?

Update: Take a look at this. Yes, the buses were indeed there and some people did indeed get evacuated… but guess who?

67 comments to Were available assets left unused in New Orleans?

  • Andrea cites some breathtaking incompetence on the part of the mayor. Ignoring NOAA warnings is generally not a healthy thing to do one would think.

  • llamas

    I have seen a satellite photograph which shows 145 school buses parked in a yard 1.2 miles from the Superdome, all flooded about 4-5 feet deep.

    I don’t have a link but a good Google should find it.

    So yes, it appears to be perfectly true.



  • John


    Like you, I don’t have any special insight into the logisitics of this, so this is merely a speculation. I had the impression that the early disaster response was focussed very specifically on the hurricane itself. My understanding is that the tactic of sheltering in the SuperDome actually worked for that purpose, and was probably a superior solution to having large numbers of people on the roads in buses during high winds and torrential rain. Here in the midwest, we’re trained from birth to know that a car is a safe place to be in a serious thunderstorm, and the worst possible place in a tornado. Different disasters call for different responses, and New Orleans unfortunately got hit with at least two major natural disasters at once. It may well be that while having evacuated the day before was the best solution, not having done that, and faced with a choice of evacuating during a hurricane or sheltering in place, the latter may have been a very sensible choice.

  • Jake

    660 New Orleans school buses were parked 1.5 miles from the Dome. The Mayor’s own disaster plan called for using them to evacuate people and not put the people in the Dome. Because the same disastrous results happened in the last hurricane when people were put in the Dome.

    All the buses sat unused except for one bus. A kid stole one of the buses, picked up 13 strangers and drove them to safety.

    It was criminal negligence on part of the Mayor. But it is normal behavior for Democrat politicians in America.

  • One thing that has occured to me is that this is America – if you look at the pictures of the streets, even in the most impoverished sections of town, there are plenty of flooded out cars. Seems to me that once the floodwaters started to rise a victim could have found a screwdriver & some vise grips & “stolen” one of the cars. Certainly if it was my car stolen from the streets of New Orleans and driven to dry ground I would not press charges – for the price of a new ignition switch my car would be saved

  • Here are a pair of photos showing about 400 buses, school and transit, sitting idle in New Orleans.

  • susan

    Not only were the buses flooded out of use but, the local adminstrators encouraged those left behind by that very aforementioned local adminstration to find their own way to the Superdome for relief.

    So what happens, the Superdome was stocked with enough supplies for 15,000 people for three days yet 26,000 people showed up.

    The Federal government makes very clear to State and Local officals, that in the event of a disaster, the Local and State government must be prepared to wait any time between 48 to 72 hrs at a minimun before the Federal government can arrive to assist State and Local government. In the case of NO’s the Federal disaster relief was available however, when Tuesday arrived, the just repaired levee broke, flooding the city and preventing assistance by two days. Of course, the Governor is responsible for giving Executive authorization to the Federal government which Governor Blanco failed to immediately issue such authorization even after President Bush pleaded for her to do so.

    Fact: Life is Not a Hollywood Movie.

  • I am loath to just write this off as just another ‘gubmit cockup’. John raises some valid reasons why it was not a straightforward question of stuffing people into the buses right before the hurricane hit (and as the hurricane did not actually hit N.O. square on, moving people early might have taken them out of the frying pan and into the fire).

    Still, surely the possibility that the levee might break must have occured to people in City Hall and so I wonder why those buses were not at least preped and ready to go or at the very least moved to dry ground when there was time in case they were needed. After all, the fact there were lots of people who might need urgent moving at some point was surely known by the major’s office. It still does not really add up or am I giving the City Officals credit for more brains and a capacity for thinking on their feet than they are due?

  • Edward

    …logistical planning is not a game for amateurs…

    I beg to differ. Especially in a crisis, it is the people on the ground nearest the action that have the most information and can often make the best decisions.

    Central planning is foolish in the best of times. Under the rapidly changing conditions of a crisis, it is simply doomed.

    At least one school bus was stolen and used to ferry people to safety.

  • Verity

    Yes, not only were there over 500 buses available to ferry people out of NO, but the use of those buses was actually a critical factor in the city’s CONTINGENCY PLAN drawn up by the Nagin administration!

    And Nagin and Blank-o sat around watching the water rise and did not deploy them. Yes, John, you do not want to be in your car (or a bus) during a hurricane, but anyone who has ever lived through a hurricane knows they only last for about two hours or even less. After that, in the tail you get strong winds and rain, and they could have started loading the people sheltering in the Superdome onto the buses after three hours after the worst. (And don’t forget, NO didn’t really get the full hurricane. That veered off to Biloxi. They could have driven out safely after three hours, despite strong winds.

    So those people had no need to have sheltered in the Superdome longer than around three to four hours max, then get loaded onto buses. What a mess!!

    If you want to read about the young man who commandeered a bus on his own initiative and loaded it up with children and the elderly, Google Jabbar Gibson. Twenty years of age and with more sense and more initiative than the entire administrations of New Orleans and Louisiana. He drove that bus for 13 hours and delivered his passengers safely to the Houston Astrodome.

  • Verity

    I just saw on the French Microsoft News site that there was a huge typhoon in Japan with 100,000 evacuated. No mention of it on the BBC. Surely they could find a way of pinning it on Mr Bush and global warming?

  • Edward, I am all for amateur initiative in a crisis but I was refering to logistic planning. I also agree with your broader remark and I think sensible state planning should aim at accomodating and working with, rather than replacing, any local initiatives.

    Sometimes when hundreds of helicopters and massive movements of people and material is called for, well, that should be what the state is for. However local initiative are almost always better and more effective for most things.

  • Michael Farris

    I tend to think it was a combination of some bad judgement (in underestimating how many could/would not get out on their own and how long they’d have to fend for themselves) and reasonable calculated risks that turned out badly (why they call them risks). Hurricanes are spread out affairs and they tend toward unpredictable swerving when headed toward land, making it guesswork sometimes as to just where to flee to (in Florida, it’s easier, cause mostly there’s only one direction to flee to). I can understand not being eager to add several hundred busfuls of people on crowded stormy roads (bad stormy weather precedes the actual hurrican well in advance ime) with no clear idea which way to take them (especially with no guarantee you’re not carrying them to a worse location).

    And the question arises what do you do with the people once you’ve gotten them out of the worst of harm’s way? It’s easy to imagine (if you’ve spent anytime at all in the US South) for the NIMB attitude to kick in (busloads of poor mostly black people will not normally find a kind reception in much of the region) and a rolling refugee caravan of buses being turned away from location after location, another kind of disaster.

  • Hylas

    Here are some images on Google Maps. You can zoom out and see how close the buses were to the Superdome. The dome is SSE from the municipal busses. Looks like a short walk.

    Municipal Bus Lot

    School Bus Lot

  • MF, I am inclined to agree. Certainly I rather doubt the mayor et al were trying to cock things up, which is why I keep asking “am I missing something”. As you point out, and as John’s earlier comment does as well, it is not a simple matter to decide to pack everyone on the buses and move them off.

    That said, it seems amazing that when the levees started to go, they were not at least ready to secure their assets for an evacuation. They could have taken them to military bases or airfield (all of which that part of the world has in abundance) as I suspect the logistic supprt of those people would have been a whole lot easier. Moreover, in a time of crisis like that, NIMBY is rather less of a problem as you simple do what you have to and worry about the hurt feelings later.

  • Verity

    Michael Farris – Houston has been accommodating all who have arrived – around 125,000 – without a problem and without complaints. Those not housed in the Astrodome have been housed temporarily in schools until shelters opened, and the city was opening approximately one shelter a day.
    You underestimate the generosity of Americans, especially the south. Also, Houston is hurricane country itself and well understands.

    The fact is, use of those city and school buses to evacuate people was actually written in the NO contingency plan. Nagin was too panicked even to follow his own contingency plan. Meanwhile we have Bush pleading with Blank-o to declare a state of emergency so federal funds and help could be on the way, and she refused. The governor of Mississippi cooperated with the president and as a result, had immediate funds and manpower assistance on the way before Katrina touched down. So Biloxi, where the full fury of the hurricane touched down, is ahead in cleaning up and recovering and NO is wallowing in its own detritus and incompetence.

  • Perry and Walter: Thanks for the link to my bus post. I also posted about Jabbar Gibson’s heroism.

    Michael: You’re dead wrong on both of your points. Which way to flee? North! Get away from the coast and you’re safer — it’s as simple as that. If you’re in N.O., it’s even simpler: get above sea level — again, that’s north.

    As a former Southerner, I deeply resent your second point. That’s an outrageous insult and lie about Southerners, who are more likely than residents of any other part of the country to bend over backwards to be charitable and friendly to strangers in need. And that’s true regardless of the skin color of those helping or those needing the help.

    I’ve about had it with the arrogant, condescending, elitist northern liberals who lecture the rest of us about tolerance and multi-culturalism, but who revel in heaping contempt and scorn on the South.

  • Midwesterner


    I’ve watched any number of interviews with the mayor. I’ve been struck by one thing that was confirmed by his reception of General Honore. You’ve touched on the magnitude of the decisions to be made and the very great consequences, right or wrong. For example, prior to the hurricane it was thought it would it go to the west of the city. Can we imagine the recriminations on the mayor if he had sent buses into Mississippi? Granted they would have been farther inland, but they still would have faced hurricane force winds. In school buses!

    My point is, that I think the elected officials were unprepared and unemotionally unequipped for making decisions that had no “right” answer.

    General Honore was seasoned military. He had a career focused on learning to make decisions in which, right or wrong, many people would die. For him emotionally, the hurricane was just a different sort of enemy to be battled.

    I think that General Honore’s decisiveness made him a father figure and a role model. It would appear most of the elected officials in NO and LA had experienced comparatively recent ascendancy to their positions.

    I think when faced with the pure magnitude of the decisions, they froze.

  • Hylas

    One more thing:

    Behind the scenes, a power struggle emerged, as federal officials tried to wrest authority from Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco (D). Shortly before midnight Friday, the Bush administration sent her a proposed legal memorandum asking her to request a federal takeover of the evacuation of New Orleans, a source within the state’s emergency operations center said Saturday.

    The administration sought unified control over all local police and state National Guard units reporting to the governor. Louisiana officials rejected the request after talks throughout the night, concerned that such a move would be comparable to a federal declaration of martial law. Some officials in the state suspected a political motive behind the request. “Quite frankly, if they’d been able to pull off taking it away from the locals, they then could have blamed everything on the locals,” said the source, who does not have the authority to speak publicly.


    So with certain catastrophe approaching, the Governor of Louisiana had an emergency all night session on how to cover her ass…

  • Midwesterner

    Hylas, that reinforces my point. When you’re in over your head, ignore it and deal with something familiar.

    These guys were in so far over the heads, they didn’t know which way to the surface.

  • llamas

    Perry de Havilland wrote:

    ‘That said, it seems amazing that when the levees started to go, they were not at least ready to secure their assets for an evacuation. They could have taken them to military bases or airfields . . . . ‘

    Interstate 10 runs right by the Superdome and is elevated all the way through the area. It was, and remains, high and dry. Just take the buses and park them in serried ranks along the freeway . . . The Superdome also has extensive elevated ‘aprons’ and walkways all around it, all of which likewise remained high-and-dry.

    The assets were there, little more than a mile away. They could have been moved, easily. I’ll bet we’ll find, when the waters recede, that they are all carefully locked, and the keys are carefully secured in a cabinet, the keys to which are lost in the flood. The bureaucrats win again.

    The assertions that Southern folks would not welcome refugees for racist reasons are simply not borne out by the facts we now see – refugees beeng welcomed with open arms all through the South. Yet another pre-conceived notion, overtaken by reality.



  • sark

    Perry, you are trying too hard to be fair to these fuck ups. They are in politics because they are corrupt sons of bitches, not because they give a damn about other people.

  • Verity

    Richard G Combs – Agreed! I have not heard one peep of complaint from the people of Houston. One friend said the traffic was horrendous due to the influx of refugees in vehicles, but he said it as a fact, not a complaint. He also said that Houstonians are expecting that most people with nothing to go back to will simply stay on in Houston and find work. Americans are amazingly resilient and, especially in the south, they are very open-hearted to those in need.

    By the way, animal lovers – the Houston SPCA has taken in over 400 extra pets that NO refugees brought but aren’t allowed to take into the shelters with them. They’ve appealed for dog and cat food and donations of money. (Link)

  • JuliaM

    Just seen the Police Chief of NO interviewed on BBC, asked if he welcomed the statement by the President that there will be a public enquiry. He replied ‘Yes’ – then followed it up with a diatribe about the Federal response, how it was too slow, etc…

    What planet are these people on..?! With all the evidence (plans half-made, the inconvenient facts ignored, then parts of the plans abandoned) that’s come to light so far, how can they think that an enquiry can come to the conclusion that they are blameless in all of this and the Federal Government will shoulder all the blame ..?

  • Hylas


    Apparently “familiar” consists of :
    1) Panic like a deer frozen in headlights
    2) Let the situation go to shit
    3) Refuse offers of help from people with the resources to solve the problem
    4) Think frantically about how to deflect the blame

    These people were obviously in a panic state, their rationale for refusing help doesn’t even make sense. It seems like a hysterical refusal to give up control. Do psychologists have a name for that kind of reaction to stress?

  • Midwesterner

    Hylas, I was refering to what they do all the time anyway. A – CYA, B – play the political angles.

    your #4 is part of A. #3 is part of B.

    Truly, #1 would have been an improvement. They were so busy deluding themselves with A & B that they made things worse and #2 was the inevitable consequences. (Was your #2 a deliberate pun?)

  • Daveon

    Verity, the BBC have already covered at least 2 massive Typhoons hitting Japan in the last few months, the Pacific is also having a bad season.

    However, the Typhoons have been far less news worthy as the fatalities appear to have been low and Japanese safety plans appear to have been executed without any problems.

  • Perry de Havilland,

    You cannot image how bad the failure of the authorities at the state and local level was in NO/LA.

    (1) The exact same pattern of evacuation occurred last year during Hurricane Irvin. The poor and infirm were left to behind. The officials knew for a definite FACT that large numbers of the population and those least able to care for themselves would be left in city to face Katrina.

    (2) FEMA simulated just this event last year in an exercise called Hurricane Pam. They set the expectation that significant outside aid would not arrive in the area until 3-5 days after a major hurricane. Everybody knew of the risk to NO if the levees failed.

    (3) The city and state had extensive planning, at least on paper, to use buses, trains and even boats to evacuate those who wished to leave but could not. They had specific plans to evacuate “special needs” people. They activated none of that planning. As far as I can tell, the local authorities evacuated NOBODY at all. People got out under their own steam or they stayed put. Not even the residents of nursing homes were evacuated!

    What is even more shocking is the fact that the breach in the levees in NO was relatively minor and the flooding relatively slow. Had Katrinia stuck the city square on the storm surge could have topped the levees everywhere all at once creating a 40ft(10m) wall of water tearing through the city killing people nearly instantly.

    The Federal response might have proven slow and overly bureaucratic, but that doesn’t excuse the tens of thousands of people left in giant trap by their local officials.

    This is the worse case of mismanagement I have ever seen.

  • Hylas


    Unfortunately what you say is true. But this situation goes above and beyond that. Let me summarize:

    She KNEW that they didn’t have the resources to evacuate.

    The Feds offered to take over BEFORE the storm hit.

    She REFUSES, expends enormous effort trying to keep them out, the starts crying about how the Feds aren’t helping.

    I really think we’re looking at some kind of psychological breakdown (in the literal clinical sense) Are there any psychologists out there who could offer a more educated opinion?

    I mean you’ve seen how she’s acting.

    But this doesn’t fit the narrative chosen by our betters in the press – so we’ll have to ignore it while people die.

    I’ll stop ranting now.

    PS: I would never inflict a deliberate pun on anyone 🙂

  • Hylas

    I may have to revise what I said. I’m re-reading the article, and it’s not clear which Friday this offer was made. I think it’s probably the Friday after the storm. That will teach me to go of half-cocked.

    I still think she’s acting crazy though.

  • Ted Schuerzinger

    Midwesterner and Michael Farris:

    Here in the States on the weather forecasts when a hurricane is coming they usually show a cone shaped figure shaded in over the map to show where the hurricane is likeliest to go over the coming days.

    When Katrina first emerged in the Gulf of Mexico, it was expected to hit the Florida panhandle, but as the days went on, the cone kept moving west to the point where the center of the cone was over New Orleans. But in no case was the cone reaching Texas (it was always expected to move to the northeast once it hit land). So all along it would have been a fairly safe bet for those buses to move evacuees either to the west, and someplace like Houston, or to the northwest, such as Shreveport, a city of about 200,000 people. Presumably, somebody in the government could have ordered schools across the state closed for the week (I’m not certain when the school session down in LA starts; here in New York it’s the first week of September, so if classes simply began one week late it wouldn’t be a huge deal) and turned into emergency shelters.

  • alene

    NO had a paper plan; it did not have an actionable plan. An actionable plan to evacuate the ill and those without transport, using buses, trains, or whatever means, would include most of the following, off the top of my head (I’m sure pros could think of others, and I note that these steps are not expensive):
    1. Identify the target populations
    2. Establish staging and pickup points (and alternative dropoff points)
    3. Create, by contract, insurance waivers, and volunteer lists, dedicated drivers and vehicles, and procedures for calling them up
    4. Establish neighborhood watches for notice. (on the Outer Banks, such ‘watchers’ go house to house, and provide those who refuse to leave with a magic marker and instructions to write their social security numbers on their bodies, for purposes of subsequent identification)
    5..For the last resorters at the dome. portapotties, generators located at height, ditto water and MREs, and adequate police protection
    6. It’s all hindsight. If Katrina had hit head on as a cat5, all those people would have been dead. If the levees had held, NO would have been no worse off than it was after Ivan (bad enough). And if she had stayed on a northern track, she would have hit the panhandle, not the bowl of NO, and Florida would be more like Alabama and Mississippi, i.e., not a total breakdown. And had there been a truly mandatory evac in either of the latter two cases, we would hear loud complaints about overreaction as folks returned to NOLA. No win. That’s why the present carping is so unpleasant.

  • Verity

    I agree with Hylas and have said from the first time I saw them on TV that they were panicked. I think Nagin is a weak jerk, but I think Blank-o is a real operator. I have a feeling that graft and abject fear of displeasing some people had a lot to do with it. Just a guess.

  • Verity

    From the first time I saw the goveror on TV, I had a feeling there was something going on in the background. When she kept dithering in the face of all the evidence, I decided there was someone behind her directing her.

    I now think that when President Bush asked her to declare a state of emergency two days in advance of the hurricane so he could have emergency funds and aid ready to go, she referred that back to whoever is running her – probably some people in the tourist industry – and they said no. We don’t want to chase the tourists away from Nawlins and besides, it may never happen. I think she was forbidden by them to accept assistance in advance because of the bad publicity and that is why there was the conflict that Hylas spotted.

    No other theory makes any sense.

    Just a theory.

  • hb

    I noticed the added the comment about the Hyatt Hotel individuals being evacuated. I remember seeing this watching CNN or some other cablenews channel, and it was said that the mayor ordered them to be bused first because local officials were using the hotel as a command post and needed the space.

  • Hi I know that the buses are there, but – are they flooded? Would be hard to move them if they were.

  • Michael Farris

    Verity, Richard,

    I grew up in the US South (when I started school segregation was still in force). I could tell a few stories, but that would be off topic.
    Yes, things are much better now and as screwed up as race relations are in the South (extremely) they’re still better than in many parts of the country in lots of ways, mostly due to the fact that white and black people know each other better there.
    I stand by my statement that most white communities in the US South will not be welcoming to busloads of poor blacks, but upon further consideration that’s probably true of most of the whole US.
    Those who have made it to Houston are now sort of defacto collective international celebrities and that changes things considerably.

    Ted, I also grew up in hurricane country and I know something about tracking hurricanes and I’ve sat through a few scares though luckily enough nothing serious, which is why I know that final landfall is often different than predictions even fairly late in the game.

  • Verity

    english guy – They were not flooded at the time they were needed.

  • Sandy P

    It gets better, LA was going to distribute a DVD due around 9/1 or about ready to be finished around 9/1 about what to do for hurricane season.

    Essentially, you’re on your own, don’t expect help for 6 days. Make sure you have supplies.

    If Nagin was 1/4 a Rudy, things would have been different. He high-tailed it out of there.

    Don’t know if it’s true, but supposedly Blanco STILL hasn’t turned over control of LA’s national guard to the feds.

    Now, class, compare and contrast w/Mississippi, which is arguably in worse shape. Haley Barbour followed his plan, called out the NG and martial law on Tuesday, the day after.

    Why could MS handle it but not LA?

  • Perry: “The state is not your friend.”

    I can’t recall exactly where I read that, but I’ll see if I can dig up a cite for you.

  • Verity

    Michael Farris – Why are you so reluctant to grant that the people in Houston have a generosity of spirit, as do the people in many southern cities and towns? No, they wouldn’t want refugees camped on their doorsteps for months, but it’s a temporary situation and it’s all hands to the pumps. They’re even opening their homes to them – perfect strangers.

    Most of the refugees, other than the 20,000 in the Astrodome, made it to Houston by themselves in their own cars and on their own initiative. Many if not most of them would have been employed in the service industry, which doesn’t exist in NO any more, so they will stay in Houston, which has a thriving service industry. Most of them will have rented an apartment (maybe somewhere offering the first month’s rent free to refugees) within a week or two and landed a job. The free rent will take them through the first salary cycle, and they will be out of the shelters.

    I think you are mean spirited about Houstonians and clearly you don’t know them, but I agree with you about the south and the easier relations between the races than up north.

  • Hylas


    I think you’re right. Your theory is the only thing I’ve heard that makes any sense out of her actions. Of course that’s exactly how politicians operate. I don’t know why I didn’t think of that. She’s not crazy – just a really panicked operator trying to spread the blame around to cover her own ass.

    Should I be proud that I have so much trouble thinking like a politician?

  • Nancy

    I have no insight into Governor Blanco’s true motives for her (in)actions, I only know what I and millions of others observed. She did nothing for at least three days but wring her hands, look frightened, stop in mid sentence, break down in tears, look helplessly at her male assistants (who stepped in valiantly, every time) and in general reinforce in any mind so inclined that when the chips are down, a woman is not fit to do the job. Margaret Thatcher or Ann Richards, she ain’t.

    alene = Point #6: If, if, if. Once when we were shooting the breeze, I asked a military historian: from all of his studies, what was the worst mistake a general could make. Without hesitation, he said, “To do nothing.” Whatever he could have done, Mayor Nagin did nothing. Big mistake.

  • Midwesterner

    Ted Schuerzinger,

    You said

    “So all along it would have been a fairly safe bet for those buses to move evacuees either to the west,”

    In an earlier post on another thread, I noted the absence of Jefferson Parish and Western NO from the Presidents first emergency declaration


    and Alisa checked it out in more detail and posted this.

    “Midwesterner: I looked at the document to which you and one previous commenter linked, and at this map of LA parishes: http://www.rootsweb.com/~usgenweb/la/laparmap.html(Link)
    It seems to me that the Jefferson parish was by no means the only one excluded from that document, but rather that all counties to the east of that line were, i.e. it looks like it was assumed that hurricane would land sufficiently far west of NO and the parishes that surround it. Of course, it does not negate your point about a bureaucrat enforcing the letter of the law: stranger things have happened.”

    (Posted by Alisa at September 4, 2005 08:56 PM)

    I think it only fair to remember accurately.

  • Michael, please. Your myopic moral posturing reflects poorly on you, and serves no good purpose.

    Hylas: Yes, you should be. Lousiana and Nawlin’s corruption is famous for a reason. There’s even a perverse sort of pride in it next door…

    BA, obviously racist in Dallas.

  • Verity

    That’s what I liked about General Honoré. He came in and he did something. He was decisive. He was in charge. He gave orders. He may, or may not, have given a couple of iffy commands, but that doesn’t matter. He was barking out orders into his mobile phone from the minute the convoy hit the city limits.

    Smart of the military to send in a black man, too. And smart of the General to keep himself so visible.

  • Bill Dooley

    Nevada is gearing up to accept people from NO, initially a first wave of 800, possibly thousands as plans evolve. Similar efforts are taking place all over the country.

  • Isn’t it time to consider whether New Orlean’s Democrats let this get bad to discredit the Bush administration.After all what is sauce for the goose…

  • ATM

    Honore is from the area I believe.

    Anyway, the fundamental point regarding transportation assets is they should have been used before the hurricane hit because there was a significant chance that the storm surge from a direct hit by a cat 4 or 5 hurricane would drown/wipeout the city even without breaking the levees. NOLA officials knew this, and they knew that they had problems with getting people evacuated in the past. They knew what they should do, but they didn’t do it.

    I would suggest they should have evacuated the families of bus drivers 72 to 48hrs before the hurricane hit, and then brought the drivers back in 24h before landfall to move the remaining people out.

  • ATM

    Isn’t it time to consider whether New Orlean’s Democrats let this get bad to discredit the Bush administration.After all what is sauce for the goose…

    Don’t go all tinfoilly on us. To paraphrase, never attribute to malice what is most likely due to incompetance.

  • AIM,
    Paraphrasing doesn’t mean the original quotation was true.
    You might note that the Governor and the Mayor discussed at length the political ramifications of allowing the federaal authorities to take over.Now thats tinfoilly.

  • ATM

    I don’t think LA local and state Democrats would be willing to sacrifice themselves for the good of the national party. They have shown considerably more independence from the national party.

    Now, I won’t even begin to try and figure out what is going on in the heads of Blanco and Nagin, but I’m sure they are trying to save their own goose.

  • Sandy P

    Via Dailypundit:

    Just A Mystery, I Guess

    But the TIMES-PICAYUNE published a story on July 24, 2005 stating: City, state and federal emergency officials are preparing to give a historically blunt message: “In the event of a major hurricane, you’re on your own.”

    Staff writer Bruce Nolan reported some 7 weeks before Katrina: “In scripted appearances being recorded now, officials such as Mayor Ray Nagin, local Red Cross Executive Director Kay Wilkins and City Council President Oliver Thomas drive home the word that the city does not have the resources to move out of harm’s way an estimated 134,000 people without transportation.”

    “In the video, made by the anti-poverty agency Total Community Action, they urge those people to make arrangements now by finding their own ways to leave the city in the event of an evacuation.

    “You’re responsible for your safety, and you should be responsible for the person next to you,” Wilkins said in an interview. “If you have some room to get that person out of town, the Red Cross will have a space for that person outside the area. We can help you.”

  • Midwesterner

    I just watched an idiot from FEMA on the TV say he did not want to move in and place more load on the infrastructure. He specifically mentioned the shortage of fuel and not wanting to consume more of it.

    ! ! ! ! !

    Would someone please inform this neuron deficit that HE IS THE INFRASTRUCTURE! What part of “Federal Emergency Management Agency” is confusing him. He is supposed to be bringing fuel in not coming in and looking for it!!

    We have two problems here. One is the government of NO & LA, the other is FEMA

  • ATM

    He maybe supposed to be bringing in fuel, but you can’t seriously expect that he will be able to bring in enough fuel fast enough for all operations. I wish people would just understand that mobilizing for a relief operation of this magnitude is a logistical nightmare. And people who think that this reflects poorly on the ability to respond to a major terrorist attack, well they are right. I don’t expect a quick, satisfying response in that case either. That’s why it is important to prevent those things from happening in the first place.

  • Midwesterner

    ATM, it seemed pretty clear that he was saying he couldn’t even fuel his own operation. Say nothing of providing any to the rest relief effort.

  • John Steele


    I think there is another explanation. In 2004 they had a massive evacuation for hurricane Ivan and it was a complete nightmare. People were trapped on highways for 18+ hours and even at that the same folks that didn’t/couldn’t/wouldn’t leave for Katrina did the same in the Ivan evacuation. There was reportedly enormous criticism over the whole thing.

    The positive result was that they prepared, by all accounts, a new, very complete and potentially effective evacuation plan. Post Ivan was where they decided to use both sides of the expressways for outbound traffic for example. They also recognized that it would take at least 72 hours for a proper full evacuation. So when did they order the evacuation this time? 24 hours before landfall. As it turns out it looks like the active evacuation was actually quite successful this time even given the much reduced time frame.

    Frankly even after looking at it I thought it was highly “pollyannish” in that it doesn’t look like they created a registry of the people who would require transport to evacuate. So even had they used the buses it appears it would have been a fairly haphazard solution anyway. They were also sort of hoping people would look out for each other — and hoping is not a plan. But at the end of the day they had a plan and simply didn’t execute large parts of it.

    The downside is that I suspect the criticism of the Ivan evacuation made them gunshy about ordering another evacuation. If everyone abandoned the city again and the storm turned even a little to the northeast it would miss the city all together. And then they would reap a whirlwind of criticism for ordering an “unnecessary” evacuation. My guess is the press would have hammered them unmercifully.

    Just another theory.

  • Sandy P: Democrats advocating small government? The wonders never cease.

    Midwesterner: you got it about right, and in my view most of the blame still rests with the local authorities: that’s just common sense. Regarding FEMA: I am a Bush supporter, but this is not good: http://www.miami.com/mld/miamiherald/12557181.htm

  • Verity

    John Steele, well that is very interesting. Especially about not creating a registry of people who would need to be evacuated, which should have been elemental.

    Where I would demur would be getting people out of the city 72 hours in advance. Even the National Hurricane Center does not know 72 hours in advance where a hurricane is going to touch down. They don’t even know 12 hours in advance or, most of the time, six hours in advance, although certainly, the closer to the time, the more accurate the prediction. But it is never really accurate. They’re funny things; they stall, they wobble, they veer. Also, they suddenly lose some of their force.

    This is why so many people who live in the path of hurricanes are so relaxed and have hurricane parties instead of evacuating.

    But six hours before, they could have had buses lined up and started loading them. Two hours of driving north or west would have taken everyone out of danger.

    But to be absolutely brutal, how many of those people would have taken enough responsibility for themselves to have packed a couple of suitcases and gone to the collection point in time to board? Even the ones who finally lollygagged over to the Superdome were not in the majority. Most people just stayed in their homes.

  • Midwesterner

    Alisa, earlier we discussed foolish enforcement of rules being a possibility. Well…

    I talked to an employee of a company that sent four intercity coaches with 8 drivers down to help FEMA. These are the kind of buses that elderly people charter to casinos, music shows, etc.

    The bus company was promised guards and escorts. When they arrived there they found out that they were one of very few bus operators authorized to haul military personnel. There was a shortage of buses safe enough for soldiers to ride on! Safe enough for little old ladies but not for soldiers! It worked out good for this company, though, because they were not hauling refugees.

    I haven’t heard about it on the news but according to the bus drivers one of the other companys’ bus drivers had an altercation with a passenger that sent the bus into the ditch and flipped it over. Kinda makes you wonder what the promised guards and escorts were doing.

  • Alex

    Let me make sure I understand the mindset behind most of these posts. On a sunday when it became clear that NO was in the line of fire for a hurricane, Mayor Nagin, having issued an evacuation order for the city, was to use the city’s buses to not collect people from homes and take them to the most accessible safe place for a hurricane (flooding came later, although it was feared at that time), but instead to use those buses to transport these people to some other place (unknown) located at least a few hours’ drive away on traffic choked highways. while a storm was on its way. OR, he was to maybe put the people into the Superdome for the duration of the actual strorm, but then immediately after the storm–while also dealing with downed trees, damaged buildings, unknown damage assessments, no cell phone service, no electricity, and emergency personnel addressing other critical issues, he was to move 400+ buses to the area around the Superdome just in case a flood might come in (by the way, has anyone ever tried to find a parking space near the Superdome or Convention Center–I had trouble with a VW Jetta, I can’t imagine with 400+ buses). Once he became aware of the floodwaters, he was to move these 400+ buses before the floodwaters came pouring in on Monday afternoon (and they rose quickly—about 1 foot/hour or faster). Additionally, he should have just ignored the promises by George Bush of federal help being on its way (little did he know at that time that is was Brown’s order of only 1,000 FEMA officers). Next, he should have sent these buses to some unknown place (Houston’s offer came after the streets—and buses—were already flooded). This was all expected of the mayor of one of America’s poorest and most troubled cities, who up until the hurricane had been dealing with excessive crime rates, severe poverty, and failing schools. It was FEMA’s job to handle a situation like this where local resources were completely tapped out to handle this situation.

    Don’t get me started on Brown’s hiring and the federal neglect of the area’s levees. Additionally, if Blanco did such a horrible job, how do you assess the suffering still being experienced in Mississippi under Haley Barbour’s control?

  • rosignol

    Alex, I don’t know if you’re aware of this, but the local government is, and has always been, what is called the ‘first responder’ in a disaster situation. The locals are expected to be able to take care of themselves for at least 72 hours, sometimes longer, because that is the soonest the feds can mobilize and deploy the necessary resources and personnel (in case you’ve forgotten, the US is frickin’ huge, and it takes time to move stuff around).

    That the local government was incapable of doing this is not the fault of the Federal government. That the local and state governments did not fund the levee projects is not the fault of the federal government. And most of all, it is not the responsibility of the federal government to have a disaster plan for any US city (with the possible exception of Washington DC) or to ensure that local officials follow it.

    Yes, the feds have screwed up. This is the nature of the feds, it’s what they do best (when they do something, they usually do it wrong before they do it right)…. this is why it is usually better to depend on the local government. Unfortunately, the local government in Louisiana in general and New Orleans in particular tends to be corrupt and incompetent….. which is the fault of the people who elected that government- not the Feds.

  • Midwesterner

    Rosignol, one thing to remember is that the Army Corp of Engineers appropriated all control of waterway engineering long ago. They have virtually unlimited authority over local government. Entire communities have been oblitirated by their dam (no “n”) projects. They seldom seriously listened to local concerns anywhere else in the country, I doubt N.O. was any exception.

  • Alex


    To make a blanket statement that the “(to screw up) is the nature of the feds, it’s what they do best (when they do something, they usually do it wrong before they do it right)” is to indicate that you have minimal knowledge of public policy. Bear in mind that NO was declared a disaster area BEFORE the storm hit. Additionally, 1/3 to 1/2 of Louisianna’s and Mississippi’s National Guard troups were deployed to Iraq (along with much of the essential equipment). Additionally, it was the recently underfunded Army Corps of Engineers that was responsible to maintain the levees. It is only now that George Bush is head of the Federal Government that it is screwing up. The reason we need a better managed Federal Government is because poor cities like NO (listed as having the fifth lowest household income–meaning it has a similarly low tax base–according to the US Census Bureau) simply do not have the resources to deal with such calamities. Because NO is vital to America’s economy (not to mention the vitality of its richer suburbs), some responsibility for the city’s affairs rests with the feds. The conservative view that local communities should just “take care of themselves” is ignorant at best. If all localities had similar resources (i/e a similar household income to Los Angeles [the median city] or San Jose [the top city]) and needs (i/e average poverty rates, ground above sea level, average crime rates, average educational attainment for its citizenry, non-hurricane-prone location), that arguement would be valid, but they don’t. For that reason, a competant federal government is necessary. Unfortunately, this federal government does not have competant leadership. Essentially, New Orleans is the equivalent of Newark/East St. Louis/Detriot on the hurricane-prone Gulf of Mexico. Its time for many of you to learn something about this great nation instead of assuming that all of america is just like your cul-de-sac in your suburb.

  • rosignol

    Alex, I was going to reply to your comment, but Newton Emerson beat me to it. It’s currently the most recent entry on Samizdata, under “Pure Irish Genius”. I strongly suggest you read it.

    The essence of your argument appears to be that because New Orleans is too poor and incompetent to take care of itself, it is the responsibility of the rest of us to do it for them.

    This notion may be considered reasonable in other quarters, but I am astonished to find it on Samizdata.

  • Some facts: 1) There are only three highways out of New Orleans leading to high ground and safety. According to interviews on August 29, the day after the hurricane struck, evacuees faced a 7 hour traffic jam before they reached safety. Thus the buses could have been used only for one trip, because there was no time to get them back into the city and make a second trip before the hurricane hit. 2) To evacuate 100,000 people would require 1500 buses. The city transit fleet (Regional Transit Authority) had approximately 270 buses, and the Orleans Parish School Board had a similar number. Note that the Orleans Parish School Board only transported elementary school students and thus did not have as many buses as most school districts their size — middle school and high school students were given bus passes under a contract with the city and rode the normal RTA buses. 3) The school bus which was stolen and arrived at the Astrodome clearly states “Jefferson Parish Schools” on the side if you watch the news footage from the Astrodome. The flooded bus yard in those photos also appears to be a Jefferson Parish bus yard in Old Metairie. Jefferson Parish is not New Orleans. 4) Despite Nagin’s bluffing, Louisiana emergency law did *not* give him authority to take property belonging to other governmental bodies and use it for city purposes, only the state government had that authority. All that Mayor Nagin could do was ask nicely. On June 9, 2005, Nagin requested of the Orleans Parish School Board that they allow him to use their bus fleet to help evacuate the city in the event of a hurricane. At that meeting the request was tabled for further consideration. Due to the fact that the school board’s web server is now at the bottom of Lake George (the lake where New Orleans once was) I do not know if they ever reconsidered that request at a later meeting (all I have is the Google cache of the minutes of the June 9 meeting).

    Given that there were insufficient buses for a full evacuation, Mayor Nagin made the right choice to instead use the RTA buses to transport people to the Superdome (the buses ran until curfew that night). The Superdome was designed to withstand 200mph winds. However, it is certainly a legitimate complaint that he should have had the drivers park the RTA buses in a higher location than where they ended up, drowned in water — in the photos I see on the news of the ruined dome, the upper decks of its parking garages appear empty, that would have been a logical place to leave the buses. And Governor Blanco, who *did* have authority to order the school board buses be delivered into Mayor Nagin’s hands, bears plenty of blame here, Governor Blanco’s response to the crisis was as ineffectual and haphazard as that of FEMA. But in any event, given the many many sins that occurred last week, those of Mayor Nagin appear minor compared to those of Blanco and FEMA, who between the two of them were the gang that couldn’t shoot straight, feuding over bureaucratic BS while people died.