American’s Want Answers to the Failures to Respond to Disaster in New Orleans

AP News reports that:

Bush had the legal authority to order the National Guard to the disaster area himself, as he did after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks . But the troops four years ago were deployed for national security protection, and presidents of both parties traditionally defer to governors to deploy their own National Guardsmen and request help from other states when it comes to natural disasters.

In addition to Guard help, the federal government could have activated, but did not, a major air support plan under a pre-existing contract with airlines. The program, called Civilian Reserve Air Fleet, lets the government quickly put private cargo and passenger planes into service.

The CRAF provision has been activated twice, once for the Persian Gulf War and again for the Iraq war.

It appears the American public isn’t the alone in wanting answers to the slow response from the National Guard and the Federal Government. AP News is reporting that more than a few Republicans and Democrats in Congress want answers too…

Several states ready and willing to send National Guard troops to the rescue in hurricane-ravaged New Orleans didn’t get the go-ahead until days after the storm struck — a delay nearly certain to be investigated by Congress.

Republicans and Democrats alike in Congress are just beginning to ask why one of the National Guard’s most trusted roles — disaster relief — was so uneven, delayed and chaotic this time around.

Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., said the situation has shown major breakdowns in the nation’s emergency response capabilities. “There must be some accountability in this process after the crisis is addressed,” he said.

Democrat Ben Nelson, Nebraska’s other senator, said he now questions National Guard leaders’ earlier assertions that they had enough resources to respond to natural disasters even with the Iraq war.

“I’m going to ask that question again,” Nelson said. “Do we have enough (troops), and if we do, why were they not deployed sooner?”

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John Warner, R-Va., plans to make oversight of the Defense Department, the National Guard and their assistance his top priority when he returns to Washington next week from an overseas trips, spokesman John Ullyot said Friday.

It’s also been reported tonight through Air America that the Red Cross has not been allowed into New Orleans.

Hurricane Katrina: Why is the Red Cross not in New Orleans?

Access to New Orleans is controlled by the National Guard and local authorities and while we are in constant contact with them, we simply cannot enter New Orleans against their orders.

The state Homeland Security Department had requested–and continues to request–that the American Red Cross not come back into New Orleans following the hurricane.

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58 Responses to American’s Want Answers to the Failures to Respond to Disaster in New Orleans

  1. Donnie From Houma, LA says:

    Pamela, I am talking about before the storm hit. There was time to get people out, before the man. evac. was given by the mayor of New Orleans. Thats why I say, that all levels of Gov. broke down. This is not a state thing, federal thing, or local thing. All dropped the ball, and we down here, are suffering for it!! But if I have to point a finger, I blame FEMA, and their lack of response to the situation. Keep in mind, no one knew what a CAT 5 hurricane would do, but Ray Nagin, did not give the man. evac. in a timely manner. So I only have to say that our country, dropped the ball, and a few people, made our lives a living hell. Know this though, In a few long and hot days that we went without power and simple things, there will arise a better Louisiana, and I don’t think people will expect the things to come from us, that will arise. I looked at the other post, and saw people giving their predictions. Well let give my own, if you would be so kind. I as a registered Republican, can tell you what my people here say, as the days go on here in Louisiana. Red states and Blue states might very well change as you know it. As relief gets turned around at check points, people are getting angry, and are getting more vocal about the situation. WE as a community have had to shelter and take in our people, and not the federal gov. Pamela, I ask one thing of you and your blog community, let the people of America know that not all of Louisiana is in chaos. and let them know, that we as people of our state, and our union with the U.S. have taken care of our own, and we are intact, and we will survive. Our union with the US might come into question at later time, but we are from people that know how to live and survive. The very Earth I walk on. is know as Terrebonne, Translated to “Good Earth”. Our Cajun ancestors dealt with problems, and we will rise up, and take command of our soil once again, that we have always been on. Make no mistakes about it, we will come back, and someone has to answer for what has happened (NOTE: i’m not talking about the storm). Oil producing states and yet we have not the means of getting people out of harms way, Indeed!!! Get ready for the real storm people, Retribution and chaos has only begun. Oil producing states are looking at something we never looked at before, we are faciing down the most evil enemy of all time. The Satan spawn we only can describe, as the Bastard Child of Satan, known as Uncle Sam. Look out world, we are gonna come back, and we are gonna rock this country down to the foundations. We are full of guns, piss, vinegar, and attitude. For every dead person in my land, I will send an email or post to let everyone know about the truth of my people’s plight.

  2. Donnie

    Okay. Well, you’re right, there’s a lot of people who need to answer for this. It’s our understanding that Gov Blanco ordered the mandatory evac on the 27th. Wouldn’t N.O. have fallen under that order, and not need a separate order from Nagin?

    FEMA, well cut backs on the Federal level (not to mention friendship appointments of high ranking officials who have no experience in disaster planning) have caused FEMA to be completely ineffective.

    The Satan spawn is the current administration who along with Grover Norquist, key advisor to the administration has been working to “starve the beast.” I’m not even there, Donnie and I’m mad as hell. We all are.

    Thank you for the translation, Terrabonne, is a beautiful word. Your people’s plight is the plight of all of America now. We’ve allowed this all to go on too long. It’s no secret the majority of us are Democrats here, and had hoped for a different outcome last November. We feel your pain, Donnie. What the Democrats in the Senate and House are trying to do by speaking out, is make it clear that so much of this did not have to be this way. Budget cuts for shoring up the levees, the poverty level across the country, especially in your area, it’s all gone to hell under the current administration. It needs to change.

    Know that there are people here who care and want to help.

  3. Donnie From Houma, LA says:

    Democrats will glad to know this, look back in the recent pass, and you find that Louisiana has backed up all the recent Presidents to be elected, and that includes Clinton. I don’t remember all the facts, but I think it might be as many as the last 10 elections. Kinda makes you think huh?

  4. Donnie From Houma, LA says:

    This is the kind of stories coming out of our local papers.

    September 08. 2005 12:28PM

    Sheriff leads effort to help storm-ravaged parishes

    By LIZ HACKENBURG
    NYT Regional Newspapers

    ST. BERNARD — The pictures and news coming out of a flooded New Orleans are horrible.

    But the evidence of what Hurricane Katrina did to St. Bernard Parish, its communities and people defies description.

    Homes are little more than shattered glass and splintered wood. Often a concrete foundation is all that is left of a home and the family who lived there.

    On Belle Chasse Highway in Plaquemines Parish the devastation is equally sobering.

    Port Sulphur resident Eve LeFrance hasn’t seen her house since the storm made landfall a little more than a week ago. She can’t because of the dangerous floodwater that still remains.

    LeFrance said she is worried about how her children will handle the news if it turns out their home has been ruined.

    In neighboring St. Bernard Parish, death and its accompanying smell permeates the air. Thick black water stands in yards, nearly covering the cars and trucks that were left parked outside the still-flooded homes. Sludge a foot or more deep has accumulated in the spots where the water has drained away.

    Lafourche Parish Sheriff Craig Webre traveled through both parishes Wednesday, firm in his decision to lend the resources and manpower needed to help the storm-ravaged communities rebuild.

    The Crisis Management Unit from Lafourche Parish has spent several days in St. Bernard Parish assisting with search-and-rescue missions.

    The hot, filthy work has its rewards. Wednesday, the group saved a wheelchair-bound woman who was still in her home.

    In addition to offering help from his own agency, Webre has directed a number of other sheriffs’ offices whose deputies were eager to lend a hand.

    But the sheriff first had to jump through hoops to offer help.

    “Help was there, help was ready, but bureaucratic nonsense stood in the way of human life,” Webre said.

    The problem is that law-enforcement agencies from across the state and country can’t be reimbursed for their efforts unless they have legal authority in areas outside their jurisdictions. To do that, they need tracking numbers from FEMA.

    And those were a long time coming.

    Armed with more than 1,000 offers of help, Webre waited five frustrating days for FEMA to acknowledge them. By the end of the wait, the sheriff had assigned each staff member one agency or politician to get in touch with, and went to Baton Rouge to meet with state officials.

    The way things are set up, the state must request resources. The request is entered into a national databank and reviewed by agencies across the country. Those who want to help must be officially accepted before getting the go-ahead from FEMA.

    “The state’s end was a huge choke point,” Webre said. “It’s no surprise to me that this process resulted in gridlock. Katrina has illustrated very graphically the shortfalls.”

    Officers from a sheriff’s office in Minnesota were among some welcome arrivals in Plaquemines. Roger Laurence, chief engineer of the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office, made the long drive to Louisiana inside a radio truck.

    A spray-painted wooden sign proclaiming “Camp Hennepin” marks the spot behind the Plaquemines Parish Sheriff’s Office where the truck has been since Sunday.

    Systems on the truck have helped restore communication for law enforcement and 911 operations.

    Nearly all such communication in Plaquemines had been lost.

    “We’re here to help put in temporary facilities so they can coordinate response,” said Laurence, who has not ventured far from the RV-size truck. “If they used to have a good system and now they don’t have any, then someone’s got to come in with tin cans and string.”

    Capt. Curtis Bowers of the Plaquemines Sheriff’s Office said help was sorely needed.

    “This is the first bit of communication help we’ve received from anybody. Thankfully there are people out there who will help us because the federal government isn’t.”

    Plaquemines Parish Sheriff Jiff Hingle agreed.

    “It’s been hectic,” he said. “It’s nice to know you have somebody in your corner, especially when you feel like you’ve been abandoned by everybody else.”

    Hingle credited Webre for coordinating the Hennepin County help and bringing in supplies after Hurricane Katrina roared through his parish.

    Hingle added that communication between parishes was nearly nonexistent during the hours and days directly after the storm.

    When 50 busloads of Superdome evacuees arrived in Plaquemines last week heading for the Belle Chasse Naval Station — which had no food, beds or water — he positioned 60 armed deputies to turn the buses around.

    “They weren’t being fairly treated by being brought here,” Hingle said, indicating that FEMA had ordered survivors to take shelter at the Naval station to draw media attention away from the failure to transport people to safety after the hurricane.

    But Hingle said the situation continues to improve in Plaquemines.

    Floodwater is being pumped out and sewer service has returned along with electricity in some parts of the parish.

    “We’re almost civilized,” he said.

  5. Donnie

    Is that from the Times Picayune?

    You know, I had hoped the Louisiana would have turned out for Kerry. I have friend I made through volunteering for the Kerry campaign who lived in Metarie. Her house is in pretty good shape, mostly water damage. Can’t go home though.

  6. Donnie

    You probably have this thread bookmarked, so just incase, this is for you:
    Stories from NOLA
    http://blog.thedemocraticdaily.com/?p=478

    If you have more local stories you want to share, post the link to them too. Keep us posted on what’s going on down there.

  7. Donnie From Houma, LA says:

    Here are some links to local stations, and newspapers down here.

    http://www.houmatoday.com This is My hometown newspaper, that the story I posted yesterday came out of.

    http://www.wdsu.com This is a New Orleans Station

    http://abc26.trb.com/ This is WGNO, a station out of New Orleans.

    http://wafb.com/ This is a station out of Baton Rouge.

    http://www.nola.com/t-p/ The Times-Picayune is giving continued updates on this one.

    These following sights are resource sights for finding missing people.
    http://katrinaevac.com/ http://www.photofreeway.com/gulfcoast/index.php

    I don’t think this one needs explaining.
    http://www.redcross.org/

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