There is just no excuse for this.
The top U.S. disaster official waited hours after Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast before he proposed to his boss sending at least 1,000 Homeland Security workers into the region to support rescuers, internal documents show.
Part of the mission, according to the documents obtained by The Associated Press, was to "convey a positive image" about the government's response for victims.
Acknowledging that such a move would take two days, Michael Brown, director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, sought the approval from Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff roughly five hours after Katrina made landfall on Aug. 29.
Before then, FEMA had positioned smaller rescue and communications teams across the Gulf Coast. But officials acknowledged the first department-wide appeal for help came only as the storm raged.
Think Progress helpfully puts together the complete timeline of events.
Here is a sample:
Friday, August 26
GOV. KATHLEEN BLANCO DECLARES STATE OF EMERGENCY IN LOUISIANA: [Office of the Governor]
GULF COAST STATES REQUEST TROOP ASSISTANCE FROM PENTAGON: At a 9/1 press conference, Lt. Gen. Russel Honoré, commander, Joint Task Force Katrina, said that the Gulf States began the process of requesting additional forces on Friday, 8/26. [DOD]
Saturday, August 27
5AM — KATRINA UPGRADED TO CATEGORY 3 HURRICANE [CNN]
GOV. BLANCO ASKS BUSH TO DECLARE FEDERAL STATE OF EMERGENCY IN LOUISIANA: “I have determined that this incident is of such severity and magnitude that effective response is beyond the capabilities of the State and affected local governments, and that supplementary Federal assistance is necessary to save lives, protect property, public health, and safety, or to lessen or avert the threat of a disaster.” [Office of the Governor]
FEDERAL EMERGENCY DECLARED, DHS AND FEMA GIVEN FULL AUTHORITY TO RESPOND TO KATRINA: “Specifically, FEMA is authorized to identify, mobilize, and provide at its discretion, equipment and resources necessary to alleviate the impacts of the emergency.” [White House]
Sunday, August 28
2AM – KATRINA UPGRADED TO CATEGORY 4 HURRICANE [CNN]
7AM – KATRINA UPGRADED TO CATEGORY 5 HURRICANE [CNN]
MORNING — LOUISIANA NEWSPAPER SIGNALS LEVEES MAY GIVE: “Forecasters Fear Levees Won’t Hold Katrina”: “Forecasters feared Sunday afternoon that storm driven waters will lap over the New Orleans levees when monster Hurricane Katrina pushes past the Crescent City tomorrow.” [Lafayette Daily Advertiser]
9:30 AM — MAYOR NAGIN ISSUES FIRST EVER MANDATORY EVACUATION OF NEW ORLEANS: “We’re facing the storm most of us have feared,” said Nagin. “This is going to be an unprecedented event.” [Times-Picayune]
4PM – NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE ISSUES SPECIAL HURRICANE WARNING: In the event of a category 4 or 5 hit, “Most of the area will be uninhabitable for weeks, perhaps longer. … At least one-half of well-constructed homes will have roof and wall failure. All gabled roofs will fail, leaving those homes severely damaged or destroyed. … Power outages will last for weeks. … Water shortages will make human suffering incredible by modern standards.” [National Weather Service]
AFTERNOON — BUSH, BROWN, CHERTOFF WARNED OF LEVEE FAILURE BY NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER DIRECTOR: Dr. Max Mayfield, director of the National Hurricane Center: “‘We were briefing them way before landfall. … It’s not like this was a surprise. We had in the advisories that the levee could be topped.’” [Times-Picayune; St. Petersburg Times]
LATE PM – REPORTS OF WATER TOPPLING OVER LEVEE: “Waves crashed atop the exercise path on the Lake Pontchartrain levee in Kenner early Monday as Katrina churned closer.” [Times-Picayune]
APPROXIMATELY 30,000 EVACUEES GATHER AT SUPERDOME WITH ROUGHLY 36 HOURS WORTH OF FOOD [Times-Picayune]
Monday, August 29
7AM – KATRINA MAKES LANDFALL AS A CATEGORY 4 HURRICANE [CNN]
8AM – MAYOR NAGIN REPORTS THAT WATER IS FLOWING OVER LEVEE: “I’ve gotten reports this morning that there is already water coming over some of the levee systems. In the lower ninth ward, we’ve had one of our pumping stations to stop operating, so we will have significant flooding, it is just a matter of how much.” [NBC’s “Today Show”]
MORNING — BUSH CALLS SECRETARY CHERTOFF TO DISCUSS IMMIGRATION: “I spoke to Mike Chertoff today — he’s the head of the Department of Homeland Security. I knew people would want me to discuss this issue [immigration], so we got us an airplane on — a telephone on Air Force One, so I called him. I said, are you working with the governor? He said, you bet we are.” [White House]
MORNING – BUSH SHARES BIRTHDAY CAKE PHOTO-OP WITH SEN. JOHN MCCAIN [White House]
11AM — BUSH VISITS ARIZONA RESORT TO PROMOTE MEDICARE DRUG BENEFIT: “This new bill I signed says, if you’re a senior and you like the way things are today, you’re in good shape, don’t change. But, by the way, there’s a lot of different options for you. And we’re here to talk about what that means to our seniors.” [White House]
LATE MORNING – LEVEE BREACHED: “A large section of the vital 17th Street Canal levee, where it connects to the brand new ‘hurricane proof’ Old Hammond Highway bridge, gave way late Monday morning in Bucktown after Katrina’s fiercest winds were well north.” [Times-Picayune]
11:30AM — MICHAEL BROWN FINALLY REQUESTS THAT DHS DISPATCH 1,000 EMPLOYEES TO REGION, GIVES THEM TWO DAYS TO ARRIVE: “Brown’s memo to Chertoff described Katrina as ‘this near catastrophic event’ but otherwise lacked any urgent language. The memo politely ended, ‘Thank you for your consideration in helping us to meet our responsibilities.’” [AP]
2PM — BUSH TRAVELS TO CALIFORNIA SENIOR CENTER TO DISCUSS MEDICARE DRUG BENEFIT: “We’ve got some folks up here who are concerned about their Social Security or Medicare. Joan Geist is with us. … I could tell — she was looking at me when I first walked in the room to meet her, she was wondering whether or not old George W. is going to take away her Social Security check.” [White House]
9PM — RUMSFELD ATTENDS SAN DIEGO PADRES BASEBALL GAME: Rumsfeld “joined Padres President John Moores in the owner’s box…at Petco Park.” [Editor & Publisher]
Tuesday, August 30
9AM – BUSH SPEAKS ON IRAQ AT NAVAL BASE CORONADO [White House]
MIDDAY – CHERTOFF FINALLY BECOMES AWARE THAT LEVEE HAS FAILED: “It was on Tuesday that the levee–may have been overnight Monday to Tuesday–that the levee started to break. And it was midday Tuesday that I became aware of the fact that there was no possibility of plugging the gap and that essentially the lake was going to start to drain into the city.” [Meet the Press, 9/4/05]
PENTAGON CLAIMS THERE ARE ENOUGH NATIONAL GUARD TROOPS IN REGION: “Pentagon spokesman Lawrence Di Rita said the states have adequate National Guard units to handle the hurricane needs.” [WWL-TV]
MASS LOOTING REPORTED, SECURITY SHORTAGE CITED: “The looting is out of control. The French Quarter has been attacked,” Councilwoman Jackie Clarkson said. “We’re using exhausted, scarce police to control looting when they should be used for search and rescue while we still have people on rooftops.” [AP]
U.S.S. BATAAN SITS OFF SHORE, VIRTUALLY UNUSED: “The USS Bataan, a 844-foot ship designed to dispatch Marines in amphibious assaults, has helicopters, doctors, hospital beds, food and water. It also can make its own water, up to 100,000 gallons a day. And it just happened to be in the Gulf of Mexico when Katrina came roaring ashore. The Bataan rode out the storm and then followed it toward shore, awaiting relief orders. Helicopter pilots flying from its deck were some of the first to begin plucking stranded New Orleans residents. But now the Bataan’s hospital facilities, including six operating rooms and beds for 600 patients, are empty.” [Chicago Tribune]
3PM – PRESIDENT BUSH PLAYS GUITAR WITH COUNTRY SINGER MARK WILLIS [AP]
BUSH RETURNS TO CRAWFORD FOR FINAL NIGHT OF VACATION [AP]