[saymaListserv] FWD: Times-Picayune, 9/4./05, "FEMA knew storm's potential...."

Mike Shell bright_crow at mindspring.com
Wed Sep 7 08:02:36 JEST 2005


This adds to the distress.


Sunday, 9/0/05

19th article on webpage:

FEMA knew storm's potential, Mayfield says

Sunday, 4:44 p.m.

By Mark Schleifstein
Staff writer

Dr. Max Mayfield, director of the National Hurricane Center, said 
Sunday that officials with the Federal Emergency Management Agency and
the Department of Homeland Security, including FEMA Director Mike Brown
and Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, listened in on
electronic briefings given by his staff in advance of Hurricane Katrina
slamming Louisiana and Mississippi and were advised of the storm's
potential deadly effects.

Mayfield said the strength of the storm and the potential disaster it
could bring were made clear during both the briefings and in formal
advisories, which warned of a storm surge capable of overtopping levees
in New Orleans and winds strong enough to blow out windows of high-rise
buildings. He said the briefings included information on expected wind
speed, storm surge, rainfall and the potential for tornados to accompany
the storm as it came ashore.

"We were briefing them way before landfall," Mayfield said.
"It's not like this was a surprise. We had in the advisories
that the levee could be topped.

"I keep looking back to see if there was anything else we could have
done, and I just don't know what it would be," he said. 

Chertoff told reporters Saturday that government officials had not
expected the damaging combination of a powerful hurricane levee breaches
that flooded New Orleans.

Brown, Mayfield said, is a dedicated public servant. 

"The question is why he couldn't shake loose the resources that
were needed,'' he said.

Brown and Chertoff could not be reached for comment on Sunday 

In the days before Katrina hit, Mayfield said, his staff also briefed
FEMA, which under the Department of Homeland Security, at FEMA's
headquarters in Washington, D.C., its Region 6 office in Dallas and the
Region 4 office in Atlanta about the potential effects of the storm.

He said all of those briefings were logged in the hurricane center's

And Mayfield said his staff also participated in the five-day 
"Hurricane Pam" exercise sponsored by FEMA and the Louisiana Office
Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness in July 2004 that assumed
a similar storm would hit the city.

FEMA's own July 23, 2004, news release announcing the end of that
exercise summed up the assumptions they used, which were eerily close to
what Katrina delivered:
"Hurricane Pam brought sustained winds of 120 mph, up to 20 inches of
rain in parts of southeast Louisiana and storm surge that topped levees
in the New Orleans area. More than one million residents evacuated and
Hurricane Pam destroyed 500,000-600,000 buildings. Emergency officials
from 50 parish, state, federal and volunteer organizations faced this
scenario during a five-day exercise held this week at the State
Emergency Operations Center in Baton Rouge.

"The exercise used realistic weather and damage information developed

by the National Weather Service, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the

LSU Hurricane Center and other state and federal agencies to help 
officials develop joint response plans for a catastrophic hurricane in


That plan assumed such a hurricane would result in the opening of 1,000
evacuee shelters that would have to be staffed for 100 days, and a
search and rescue operation using 800 people. The storm would create 30
million tons of debris, including 237,000 cubic yards of household
hazardous waste. 

Mayfield said his concern now is that another named storm could hit 
either New Orleans or the Mississippi Gulf coast, as September is the 
most active month of the annual hurricane season.

"This is like the fourth inning in a nine-inning ballgame," he
said. "We know that another one would cause extreme stress on the
people who have been hurt by Katrina."

Mark Schleifstein can be reached at mersmia at cox.net.

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