Sunday, March 05, 2006

Minimal Flooding

I noticed an editorial in the Washington Times entitled “No Katrina coverup” that blamed the media for using the AP tapes to bash President Bush, concluding that he had not been warned of the possibility of levee breaches. The editorial made the tired overtop vs. breach claim, but added something new:

The previous day, Mr. Mayfield had actually dismissed the possibility of major flooding in New Orleans. "[T]he forecast we have now suggests that there will be minimal flooding in the city of New Orleans itself," he said. Storm surges were the overwhelming preoccupation. "The big question is going to be: will that top some of the levees?"

In other words, if the president heard any predictions that the levees would be breached, or even reports of breaches as they occurred, the evidence is nowhere on these leaked tapes.
First: If the levees had *not* breached, there would have been *only* minimal flooding in the bowl part of the city of New Orleans. So, in that sense, Mayfield’s statements were correct. He was giving a forecast for the hurricane. He was not giving a forecast for the levee breaches.

Therefore, when Mayfield asks the “big question” about whether the levees will be overtopped, that is what he *can not* forecast. He knows, as the President and the DHS should have known, that if the levees are overtopped, they can breach. What would follow a breach would be anything but minimal flooding, which is why Mayfield went on to say:
...the possibility that anticlockwise winds and storm surges could cause the levees at Lake Pontchartrain to be overrun afterwards is "obviously a very, very grave concern".
In fact, levees in Plaquemines and St. Bernard Parishes and the Industrial Canal breached *because* they were overtopped.

It was “obviously” a concern to Mayfield. If Bush had any uncertainty about Mayfield’s concern for the levees, he should have asked a question. Because he didn’t, we can only assume that he understood the severity of the possibility of overtopping and had planned accordingly.

Second: The levees in New Orleans East were overtopped overwhelmingly by storm surge. While breaches occurred, it was the overtopping that flooded the east and then caused the breaches. Here, we see an example of how overtopping can be *no different* from breaching.

The fact that Mayfield told Bush New Orleans would see “minimal flooding” does not mean the President can claim that no one anticipated breaches. What the President was really saying is that no one anticipated that Katrina would be a big deal. That’s why he continued his vacation while the city drowned.

If the AP is backtracking on its claim that Bush was warned about the breaches before the hurricane, that’s too bad. He was warned. He received all the information he needed to prepare for the disaster. He just didn’t.

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