Friday, July 21, 2006

Katrina response "largest and fastest" in history 
I knew it.

I got a lot of flak for arguing that, too, including from my own chain of command. Jack Kelly quoted me in a column of his, then Rush Limbaugh picked it up, then all of a sudden I was getting emails and phone calls from people I hadn't talked to since high school. And David Brock leveled his rhetorical guns at me, among some other people, claiming I must not know what I'm talking about because a Miami Herald columnist who doesn't even live in Homestead got a bottle of water the day after Andrew.

Turns out, according to a congressional report, I had it exactly right:

The Committee report also criticizes the DHS and FEMA for not including the Department of Defense in their pre-storm and immediate post-storm planning. However, the same August 28 transcript shows that DoD was included from the beginning. In reality, despite organizational shortcomings, the rescue spearheaded by the National Guard and the Coast Guard turned out to be the largest and fastest in U.S. history, mobilizing nearly 100,000 responders within three days of the hurricane’s landfall.

I haven't received an apology or retraction from Brock yet. I'm not holding my breath. See also my rebuttal of his column at the time.

Splash, out


An excellent article on the LaNG and other military agencies response to Hurricane Katrina can be found here:
This is a great summary page!


MYTH: "The aftermath of Katrina will go down as one of the worst abandonments of Americans on American soil ever in U.S. history."--Aaron Broussard, president, Jefferson Parish, La., Meet the Press, NBC, Sept. 4, 2005

REALITY: Bumbling by top disaster-management officials fueled a perception of general inaction, one that was compounded by impassioned news anchors. In fact, the response to Hurricane Katrina was by far the largest--and fastest-rescue effort in U.S. history, with nearly 100,000 emergency personnel arriving on the scene within three days of the storm's landfall.

Dozens of National Guard and Coast Guard helicopters flew rescue operations that first day--some just 2 hours after Katrina hit the coast. Hoistless Army helicopters improvised rescues, carefully hovering on rooftops to pick up survivors. On the ground, "guardsmen had to chop their way through, moving trees and recreating roadways," says Jack Harrison of the National Guard. By the end of the week, 50,000 National Guard troops in the Gulf Coast region had saved 17,000 people; 4000 Coast Guard personnel saved more than 33,000.

These units had help from local, state and national responders, including five helicopters from the Navy ship Bataan and choppers from the Air Force and police. The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries dispatched 250 agents in boats. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), state police and sheriffs' departments launched rescue flotillas. By Wednesday morning, volunteers and national teams joined the effort, including eight units from California's Swift Water Rescue. By Sept. 8, the waterborne operation had rescued 20,000.

While the press focused on FEMA's shortcomings, this broad array of local, state and national responders pulled off an extraordinary success--especially given the huge area devastated by the storm. Computer simulations of a Katrina-strength hurricane had estimated a worst-case-scenario death toll of more than 60,000 people in Louisiana. The actual number was 1077 in that state.
We live in Washington Parish. Given the scope of the Katrina disaster, help arrived very quickly.

I listened to the New Orleans news and nat'l news on the radio with disbelief as pundits were telling us that we had been "abandoned by the Bush administration." Yet the Red Cross and other relief groups set up here within 2-3 days after Katrina passed through.

We watched the skies as helicopter after helicopter passed over us, heading south. Probably hundreds of choppers, hour after hour. At the same time, local govt. officials in New Orleans and Jefferson Parish were crying on the radio about FEMA and the Bush administration - even as people were being pulled off rooftops, all they saw was an opportunity to diss Pres. Bush.

I became very disgusted with officials who should have been helping to save lives, and instead all they saw was a political opportunity.
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