top border

Please note, not all links may be active. This site is a snapshot of an earlier time.

Editorial-- Katrina's toll: Can/should fingers be pointed?

Jason Samenow @ 11:00 AM

(For the 10 day outlook for DC, scroll down or click here)

Some will say it's easy to be a Monday morning quarterback, and it's not the time to be second guessing officials on all that has transpired. I don't dispute that. However, I do think that once the flood waters have receded and the devastation assessed, a thorough investigation should be initiated by Congress to evaluate the adequacy of the preparation and response to Katrina.

The potential catastrophic impact of a major hurricane on New Orleans has been well-understood for years. Academics, public officials, meteorologists and emergency managers have all known certain scenarios represented a clear and present danger to the area. Popular Mechanics published an article on 9/11/01 (ironically) about the threat, National Geographic ran a story on this in the last year and New Orleans Times-Picayune recently published an extensive feature entitled "Washing Away". Louisiana State University established an entire institute on the public health impacts of hurricanes and focused much of their research on the New Orleans area. In January of this year, PBS's NOVA airred a feature on hurricanes and New Orleans. And, as I mentioned in Saturday's post, I attended a Congressional seminar just this past June in which Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu spoke of the vulnerability of the region and professors documented the dire threat hurricanes posed.

It had been well-established that a worst case scenario could kill tens of thousands of people. Of course, what has occurred in the last week has been horrific beyond words, but it was not the worst case scenario. Statistically, the realization of a worst case scenario (which would've involved New Orleans being on the east side of the eyewall instead of the west in a Category 5 storm as opposed to a Category 4) was (is) a very low probability event. But something slightly less than a worst case scenario was NOT a low probability event. For example, a Category 2 or 3 hurricane that was slower moving and/or moved just west of the city may have caused similar damage and loss of life. In fact, there are any number of scenarios that probably would've resulted in calamity. And I think a lot of people recognized this.

As so many influential people were armed with this information, it begs the question why more wasn't done to mitigate the potential impact and respond more expeditously. It's fair to ask this question just as it was fair to ask the President and intelligence community why more resources weren't expended to eliminate Usama Bin Laden pre 9/11. I would argue a major hurricane striking in the vicinity New Orleans was a more transparent threat to life and property than airplanes flying into skyscrapers. Accordingly, just as the 9/11 Commission was established, a Hurricane Katrina Commission will, undoubtedly, be in order.

Comments welcome

Comments are closed for this archived entry | Link | email post Email this post