Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Call Me a Fool

I cut the President some slack when he said this after Katrina:

"I don't think anyone anticipated the breach of the levees."
I had never heard the word “breach” used. I had always heard “topping” of the levees in the New Orleans area when major hurricanes were discussed.

The difference between “breach” and “topping” is huge. If a levee is topped, some water gets in the bowl and stays at a level lower than the water outside the bowl. If a levee is breached, the water inside the bowl levels off with the water outside the bowl. I’ll take topping over breaching, although I’d rather avoid both.

I like to think of myself as a realist who errs on the side of optimism. I knew the President’s M.O. is to hear about a possible problem and not do anything about it (the “Bin Laden determined to strike in US” briefing, "you break it, you own it," the unsubstantiated Niger yellow cake claims). But I honestly thought that no President could be warned of a catastrophic levee breach and then not take the proper precautions to respond quickly.

Just call me a fool:
As Hurricane Katrina approached the Gulf Coast, President Bush’s top disaster agency warned of the likelihood of levee breaches that could leave New Orleans submerged “for weeks or months,” a communications blackout that would hamper rescue efforts and “at least 100,000 poverty stricken people” stranded in the city.

Those remarkably accurate predictions were in a 40-page “Fast Analysis Report” compiled by the Department of Homeland Security on Aug. 28. Documents show that the report was sent by e-mail to the White House Situation Room at 1:47 a.m., Aug. 29, hours before the deadly storm made landfall.

***

“The potential for severe storm surge to overwhelm Lake Pontchartrain levees is the greatest concern for New Orleans,” it said. “Any storm rated Category 4 on the Saffir-Simpson (hurricane) scale will likely lead to severe flooding and/or levee breaching. This could leave the New Orleans metro area submerged for weeks or months.”
Fool.

No comments: