We haven 't yet learned to change the course or severity of a hurricane. But if New Orleans had been appropriately prepared, the extraordinary loss of lives and property would have been minimized.
And New Orleans knew what she needed in order to be prepared. But her requests for assistance from the federal government were denied. The quotes below, foreshadowing disaster, are chilling in its aftermath.
"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.
-- Walter Maestri, emergency management chief for Jefferson Parish, Louisiana; New Orleans Times-Picayune, June 8, 2004- Advertisement -
"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."
- Feb. 16, 2004, article, in New Orleans CityBusiness- Advertisement -
"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 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. "
- June 18, 2004 Times-Picayune
" ...that (research needed to see what New Orleans must do to protect itself from a Category 4 or 5 hurricane) would take about four years to complete and would cost about $4 million, said Army Corps of Engineers project manager Al Naomi. About $300,000 in federal money was proposed for the 2005 fiscal-year budget, and the state had agreed to match that amount.
"But the cost of the Iraq war forced the Bush administration to order the New Orleans district office not to begin any new studies, and the 2005 budget no longer includes the needed money, he said.
-Times-Picayune, Sept 22, 2004.
At least nine articles in the Times-Picayune from 2004 and 2005 specifically cite the cost of Iraq as a reason for the lack of hurricane- and flood-control dollars(1).
For those of us who wonder how bad the situation in New Orleans can really be, there 's at least one person who says it 's worse than Iraq:
"This is mass chaos," said Sgt. Jason Defess, 27, a National Guard military policeman who had been stationed on a ramp outside the Superdome since Monday. "To tell you the truth, I'd rather be in Iraq," where he was deployed for 14 months, until January. "You got your constant danger, but I had something to protect myself. (And) three meals a day. "
- The Washington Post, Thursday 01 September 2005
The War on Terror was touted as a measure to make America safer. But it didn 't make New Orleans safer.
Washington 's failure to do its job has left a gaping hole that private and non-profits are filling. For instance, Craig 's List has been running an internet clearing house housing offers, ride shares volunteers, and lost people and pets, since August 30th. They beat the pants off the Feds, hands down.