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As one may imagine, Louisiana has a long and painful history with tropical storms. In 1995, the federal government intervened and mandated SELA, the South East Louisiana project. Working with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the SELA project pre-empted flood migrations and spent $450 billion dollars doing so up into the early 21st century, i.e. the Bush presidency.
During his time in office, Bush cut off Louisiana, and more specificly New Orleans, to FEMA grants. He reduced the SELA Urban Flood Control Project's federal funding by 80 percent, rendering the New Orleans U.S. Army Corps of Engineers impotent in the face of natural disaster.
The following is a timeline I have compiled detailing the noteworthy events and history leading up to hurricane Katrina and how George Bush is at fault for the unfunded levees that have distroyed a historic American city, possibly killed thousands, and has left more than a million Americans homeless.
1893, A hurricane in southern Louisiana and Mississippi kills more than two thousand people.
June 1957, Hurricane Audrey kills more than 600 people. Damages estimated at $150 million dollars. [read]
September 1965, Hurricane Betsy destroys southern Louisiana and kills 71 people. Damages total more than $1 billion dollars. Congress orders the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to design and install 16-foot levees around the city. [read]
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers:
"Betsy prompted Congress to authorize a ring of levees 16 feet high around the city — a project the Corps of Engineers is completing today. This level of protection was based on the science of storm prediction as it existed in the 1960s. The question remains, however, whether this level of protection would be sufficient to protect the city from a category 4 or 5 hurricane today — or even a category 3 storm that lingered over the city." [read]
August, 1992, With winds peaking at 177 mph, Hurricane Andrew kills 23 Americans and causes $26.5 billion dollars in damages. South-central Louisiana was hit the hardest. [read]
May 1995, Torrential rains, hail, and tornadoes devastate the southwest; Dallas and New Orleans being hit the hardest. 32 people die and damages exceeded $6 billion dollars. Congress identifies and addresses the problem of flood control in New Orleans, amending the Water Resources Act to provide additional funding. [read]
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers:
As a result of the extensive flooding in May 1995, Congress authorized the Southeast Louisiana (SELA) Project with enactment of Section 108 of the Energy and Water Development Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 1996 and Section 533 of the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) of 1996, as amended, to provide for flood control and improvements to rainfall drainage systems in Jefferson, Orleans, and St. Tammany Parishes, Louisiana in accordance with the following reconnaissance reports of the New Orleans District Engineer: Jefferson and Orleans Parishes, Louisiana, Urban Flood Control and Water Quality Management, July 1992; Tangipahoa, Techefuncte, and Tickfaw Rivers, Louisiana, June 1991; St. Tammany Parish, Louisiana, July 1996; and Schneider Canal, Slidell, Louisiana, Hurricane Protection, May 1990. [read]
April 1996, Technical reports are prepared to identify the initial work to be implemented under the SELA project authority.
From the PA Daily News:
Over the next 10 years, the Army Corps of Engineers, tasked with carrying out SELA, spent $430 million on shoring up levees and building pumping stations, with $50 million in local aid. But at least $250 million in crucial projects remained, even as hurricane activity in the Atlantic Basin increased dramatically and the levees surrounding New Orleans continued to subside. [read]
2001, The Federal Emergency Management Agency [FEMA] ranks a hurricane strike on New Orleans as “among the three likeliest, most catastrophic disasters facing this country,” right after a terrorist attack on New York City. [read]
February 2001, Bush appoints Joe Allbaugh, his campaign manager, to head of FEMA. Allbaugh has no prior disaster management experience and is mostly known for his role in Bush's funeralgate scandal back in the late 1990's. [read]
June 2001, Tropical Storm Allison produces rainfall amounts of 30-40 inches in regions of coastal Texas and Louisiana cause severe flooding, $5 billion dollars in damage and kill 53. [read]
2002, Bush begins a series of drastic budget cuts to the New Orleans U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
December 2002, Joe Allbaugh resigns from FEMA. Michael Brown takes his place, and like his predicessor, has no prior disaster management experience.
2003, FEMA awards $89,471,651 million in PDM [Pre-Disaster Mitigation] Grants; including $4,199,259.75 dollars to build Homeland Security Safe Rooms in nine Fort Smith, Arkansas public schools. Thirty-six states and nine Native American tribes benefited from the Presidential initiative mostly awarded for flood hazard mitigation or Homeland Security projects. Though Louisiana applied, they didn’t get a dime. [read]
Walter Maestri, Director of Emergency Management for Jefferson Parish, Louisiana:
"It is therefore difficult for me to understand how this parish, as well as any other parish in the State of Louisiana, was not approved for any PDM funding for (fiscal year) 03," he wrote, adding that FEMA's stated reasons for declining funds to Louisiana were vague.
"I can only simply state that FEMA has missed a golden opportunity to assist in furthering the process for resolving one of the most costly problems facing the National Flood Insurance Program, “Repetitive Loss,” Maestri concluded, "and would hope that you forward the contents of this letter to FEMA Region VI with a request that they be conveyed to FEMA Headquarters." He copied the letter to both of Louisiana's senators and three congressmen. A state DHS official wrote back, saying FEMA's headquarters would review Maestri's complaints. [read]
March 2003, FEMA loses it's cabinet level status and is taken over by the Department of Homeland Security and refocused on terrorism.
From the Long Island Press:
In 2003, Congress approved a White House proposal to cut FEMA's Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP) inhalf. Previously, the federal government was committed to invest 15 percent of the recovery costs of a given disaster in mitigating future problems. Under the Bush formula, the feds now cough up only 7.5 percent.
And indeed, some in-need areas have been inexplicably left out of the program. "In a sense, Louisiana is the floodplain of the nation," noted a 2002 FEMA report. "Louisiana waterways drain two thirds of the continental United States. Precipitation in New York, the Dakotas, even Idaho and the Province of Alberta, finds its way to Louisiana's coastline." As a result, flooding is a constant threat, and the state has an estimated 18,000 buildings that have been repeatedly been damaged by flood waters—the highest number of any state. And yet, this summer FEMA denied Louisiana communities' pre-disaster mitigation funding requests.
In Jefferson Parish, part of the New Orleans metropolitan area, flood zone manager Tom Rodrigue is baffled by the development.
"You would think we would get maximum consideration" for the funds, he says. "We were more than qualified for it." [read]
2004, The war approaches $204.6 billion dollars. To cut corners, Bush proposes spending less than 20% of what the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers need to repair the levees on Lake Pontchartrain. The Hurricane Protection project is left incomplete.
Feb. 16, 2004, New Orleans CityBusiness:
The $750 million Lake Pontchartrain and Vicinity Hurricane Protection project is another major Corps project, which remains about 20% incomplete due to lack of funds, said Al Naomi, project manager. That project consists of building up levees and protection for pumping stations on the east bank of the Mississippi River in Orleans, St. Bernard, St. Charles and Jefferson parishes.
The Lake Pontchartrain project is slated to receive $3.9 million in the president's 2005 budget. Naomi said about $20 million is needed.
"The longer we wait without funding, the more we sink," he said. "I've got at least six levee construction contracts that need to be done to raise the levee protection back to where it should be (because of settling). Right now I owe my contractors about $5 million. And we're going to have to pay them interest."
June 2004, Army Corps of Engineers Project Manager, Al Naomi, goes before the East Jefferson Levee Authority and enters an urgent plea for aide in the amount of $2 million dollars to continue work on the sinking floodwalls.
From the June 18, 2004 Times-Picayune:
"The system is in great shape, but the levees are sinking. Everything is sinking, and if we don’t get the money fast enough to raise them, then we can’t stay ahead of the settlement," he [Al Naomi] said. "The problem that we have isn’t that the levee is low, but that the federal funds have dried up so that we can’t raise them.”
Walter Maestri, Director of Emergency Management for Jefferson Parish, Louisiana:
"It appears that the money has been moved in the President's budget to handle Homeland Security and the war in Iraq, and I suppose that's the price we pay. Nobody locally is happy that the levees can't be finished, and we are doing everything we can to make the case that this is a security issue for us."
2005, FEMA awards $27,445,817 million in PDM [Pre-Disaster Mitigation] Grants, but again Louisiana gets nothing. The federal funds aren’t there either. Having just experienced the worst hurricane season in decades, Washington cut the New Orleans hurricane and flood-control funding by two-thirds, from $36.5 million to $10.4 million dollars.
January 2005, A U.S. Army Corp of Engineers Southeast Louisiana Urban Flood Control ‘Project Fact Sheet’, dated January 26, 2005, explains the urgency of New Orleans flood-control and the lack of federal funding:
PROJECT FUNDING FY04: Available funds of $24 million were not sufficient to support all on-going contracts; MVN, in conjunction with the local sponsors, established priorities for which contracts would be funded. Exhaustion of funds occurred in February 2004 on seven on-going projects. All contractors continued to work, although progress slowed significantly on some contracts. MVN finished FY04 owing SELA contractors approximately $5 million.
PROJECT FUNDING FY05: The FY05 net work allowance is $32.2 million. It is anticipated that this amount will be just sufficient to maintain current contracts. Additional funds would be required to permit awarding new contracts; there are fourteen contracts now awaiting award. Moving forward with this urgently needed flood control work is of great importance to the local sponsors.
June 2005, The New Orleans district of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers FY 2006 budget is cut by $71.2 million dollars; the largest reduction to date.
I've been here over 30 years and I've never seen this level of reduction, said Al Naomi, project manager for the New Orleans district. [read]
August 1, 2005, In preparation for hurricane season, the Louisiana National Guard requests emergency equipment to be sent back from Iraq.
When members of the Louisiana National Guard left for Iraq in October, they took a lot equipment with them. Dozens of high water vehicles, humvees, refuelers and generators are now abroad, and in the event of a major natural disaster that, could be a problem. [read]
August 2, 2005, President Bush leaves Washington, taking a 5-week vacation in Crawford, Texas.
From the Washington Post:
The president departed Tuesday for his longest stretch yet away from the White House, arriving at his Crawford ranch in the evening for a stretch of clearing brush, visiting with family and friends, and tending to some outside-the-Beltway politics. By historical standards, it is the longest presidential retreat in at least 36 years.
The August getaway is Bush's 49th trip to his cherished ranch since taking office and the 319th day that Bush has spent, entirely or partially, in Crawford -- nearly 20 percent of his presidency to date, according to Mark Knoller, a CBS Radio reporter known for keeping better records of the president's travel than the White House itself. Weekends and holidays at Camp David or at his parents' compound in Kennebunkport, Maine, bump up the proportion of Bush's time away from Washington even further. [read]
August 29,2005, Category 5 hurricane, Katrina, is expected to hit New Orleans. The city is evacuated and those with money and means to leave, do. The poor, elderly and infirmed are left to stay put and hope for the best or seek shelter at the New Orleans super-dome. It’s predicted that the entire city could be washed away. [read]
The last-minute scramble to evacuate the New Orleans area Sunday ahead of powerful Hurricane Katrina put strains on the state's contraflow traffic system, especially for those heading west toward Baton Rouge. [read]
August 30, 2005, Massive Hole in Levee is Major Challenge for Engineers
From the Palm Beach Post:
Army engineers worked feverishly late Tuesday to haul in rocks, sandbags and heavy equipment.
They need more.
"We're attempting to contract for materials, such as rock, super sandbags, cranes, etc., and also for modes of transportation — like barges and helicopters — to close the gaps," said Walter Baumy, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers project manager overseeing the work. [read]
August 30, 2005, Corps scrabling to plug levee breaches as New Orleans floods [read]
August 30, 2005, The President travels to the San Diego, North Island Naval Air Station to celebrate the 60th anniversary of V-J day. He begins his a 40-minute WWII/Iraq speech, with a one minute address to the devastation that has occurred in New Orleans. Then he goes golfing.
August 31, 2005, The unrepaired levees give way in New Orleans; city under water
From the Associated Press:
Two levees broke and sent water coursing into the streets of the Big Easy a full day after New Orleans appeared to have escaped widespread destruction from Hurricane Katrina. An estimated 80 percent of the below-sea-level city was under water, up to 20 feet deep in places, with miles and miles of homes swamped. [read]
August 31, 2005, Levee Pump Fails; a second flood in New Orleans.
From the Associated Press:
New Orleans Mayor C. Ray Nagin says a new wall of water is expected to flow into the east bank of the city beginning around 8:30 a.m. or 9 a.m., causing floods of nine feet or more in some areas.
Nagin had hoped to have Army Blackhawk helicopters drop 3,000-pound sandbags on the levee at Pumping Station No. 6 before it became too waterlogged to continue operating. That, he says, "didn't happen" because there were too many chiefs calling the shots in responding to the disaster, he told WWL-TV.
"My heart is heavy," said Nagin, as he ticked off New Orleans' current problems: no electricity, for at least four to six more weeks; contaminated drinking water; gas leaks sending flames shooting up from beneath the water; bodies floating in the water; a leaking oil tanker which ran aground; two bridges gone; both airports flooded; and no clear path in or out of the city. [read]
September 1, 2005, Bodies float through the streets of New Orleans, thousands are predicted dead, one million people are expected homeless, and we find this disaster was completely avoidable.
A business week has passed since hurricane Katrina demolished New Orleans, and STILL there has been no coordinated military action to provide relief to the victims. No water, no food, no airlifts, no medical assistance -- Bush has done nothing.
From Channel 4 News:
Where is the airlift? Where is the water? The food? Why has it taken nearly an entire week for our federal government to respond with help on the ground to the hundreds of thousands of Americans struggling to survive along the Gulf Coast? Tangible help. The kind you can drink and eat. Not words, fly-bys and news conferences. Food and water are needed. Today. Now. [read]
September 1, 2005, Condi Rice does some shopping and plays tennis with Monica Seles.
SECRETARY of State Condoleeza Rice, here on three days' vacation to shop and see the U.S. Open, hitting some balls with retired champ Monica Seles at the Indoor Tennis Club at... [read]
From the LA Times:
September 1, 2005 -- A 2-year-old girl slept in a pool of urine. Crack vials littered a restroom. Blood stained the walls next to vending machines smashed by teenagers.
The Louisiana Superdome, once a mighty testament to architecture and ingenuity, became the biggest storm shelter in New Orleans the day before Katrina's arrival Monday. About 16,000 people eventually settled in.
By Wednesday, it had degenerated into horror. A few hundred people were evacuated from the arena Wednesday, and buses will take away the vast majority of refugees today.
"We pee on the floor. We are like animals," said Taffany Smith, 25, as she cradled her 3-week-old son, Terry. In her right hand she carried a half-full bottle of formula provided by rescuers. Baby supplies are running low; one mother said she was given two diapers and told to scrape them off when they got dirty and use them again.
At least two people, including a child, have been raped. At least three people have died, including one man who jumped 50 feet to his death, saying he had nothing left to live for. [read]
September 2, 2005, New Orleans Descends into Anarchy [read]
[The timeline is an ongoing project that will continue to be updated as information becomes available. If you would like to make a submission, please use the email link on the upper right side of the page.]