[Mb-civic] The Steady Buildup to a City's Chaos - Washington Post
swiggard at comcast.net
Sun Sep 11 18:31:46 PDT 2005
The Steady Buildup to a City's Chaos
Confusion Reigned At Every Level Of Government
By Susan B. Glasser and Michael Grunwald
Washington Post Staff Writers
Sunday, September 11, 2005; Page A01
Walter Maestri had dreaded this call for a decade, ever since he took
over emergency management for Jefferson Parish, a marshy collection of
suburbs around New Orleans. It was Friday night, Aug. 26, and his friend
Max Mayfield was on the line. Mayfield is the head of the National
Hurricane Center, and he wasn't calling to chat.
"Walter," Mayfield said, "get ready."
"What do you mean?" Maestri asked, though he already knew the answer.
Hurricane Katrina had barreled into the Gulf of Mexico, and Mayfield's
latest forecast had it smashing into New Orleans as a Category 4 or 5
storm Monday morning. Maestri already had 10,000 body bags in his
parish, in case he ever got a call like this.
"This could be the one," Mayfield told him.
Maestri heard himself gasp: "Oh, my God."
In July 2004, Maestri had participated in an exercise called Hurricane
Pam, a simulation of a Category 3 storm drowning New Orleans. Emergency
planners had concluded that a real Pam would create a flood of
unimaginable proportions, killing tens of thousands of people, wiping
out hundreds of thousands of homes, shutting down southeast Louisiana
The practice run for a New Orleans apocalypse had been commissioned by
the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the federal government's
designated disaster shop. But the funding ran out and the doomsday
scenario became just another prescient -- but buried -- government
report. Now, practice was over.
And Pam's lessons had not been learned.
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