Sunday, September 11, 2005

Levee breaks hours BEFORE Katrina makes landfall!

The facts are stunning, as outlined in this Knight Ridder story. (registration required)

An alternative link to a rewrite of the original story that doesn't require registration.

Update: 2:15pm 9/13 Wall Street Journal looks at delays in reporting levee breaks.

The collapse in New Orleans’ 17th Street canal levee occurred as early as 3 a.m., hours before Hurricane Katrina battered its way onto the Gulf Coast Aug. 29.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, in charge of the 350 miles of earthen and concrete walls protecting the city, got its first inkling about two hours later on that Monday morning. There’s a break, a civilian called in. A state policeman had told him.
By early afternoon, the corps had confirmed it. Federal Emergency Management Agency officials waiting in Baton Rouge, La., also were notified. The mayor, too, was informed of the ugly truth creeping toward his downtown emergency command post.
Yet no alarm about the incoming water was sounded until Tuesday morning.

There’s an awful lot of big news in those opening paragraphs.

Five hours before Katrina makes landfall, the 17th street Levee breaks?
So much for withstanding a category 3 hurricane, let alone a category four or five.. This was before the storm surge and before the strongest winds.

Three hours before landfall, a civilian calls the corps of engineers to report a levee break. The civilian learned of the break from the STATE POLICE?

The state police didn’t tell anyone else, but a civilian?

24 hours
after the state police were advising civilians of the breech, and 12 hours after Mayor Ray Nagin was notified of the confirmed breech, the alarm is finally sounded to the general public?

The Hurricane had cleared and helicopters were flying in mid-afternoon. That’s how they confirmed the breeches. Why wait 12 hours after confirmation to tell the public?
And who at the state police knew about the breech, and was confirming that information to the public and others, but didn’t notify other city and state officials?

This sequence raises so many questions.

I’ve been saying for days that the levees are a big story. But this is worse than I feared. There have been hints that the levee breech was known early on Monday morning, but with no direct reporting about it we were left with Tulane University Hospital VP Karen Troyer Caraway’s call to CNN shortly after midnight on August 30th, where she reported the rising waters and the levee breaks which had been confirmed to her by the state police. (Bad enough that was still more than 4 hours before any official announcement)