Monday, November 28, 2005

Another man who knew

For those who still require convincing evidence that the Katrina tragedy could have been avoided comes this episode of PBS's Nova, called Storm That Drowned a City.

Among several faces that became familiar to the American public during the height of the storm coverage is that of Ivor van Heerden, a hurricane expert at Louisiana State University. Like AFGE's Leo Bosner, president of the Local at FEMA headquarters, van Heerden tried to alert any official he could reach to the tragedy that awaited New Orleaneans who remained in the city after the storm hit.

In numerous television appearances during the storm and its immediate aftermath, van Heerden reservedly explained, with scientific precision, what he knew about the storm and its wrath. Here, before Nova's cameras, however, he sheds tears over the lost opportunity to alert those in the Ninth Ward that the flood was headed their way:

The biggest failing in all of this was we should have warned everybody. We could have told the media on Monday night. The levees apparently broke Monday afternoon—the ones that really flooded the main city of New Orleans. We could have got to the media. We could have had vehicles driving on the interstates with bullhorns, telling people. We even could have used helicopters with bullhorns. We could have warned the people, "A big flood's coming, take evasive action." We didn't.

Monday, November 07, 2005

photo by Paul Treuting
The waterline halfway up the siding on this house in Picayune, Mississippi, means that although it's still standing, it will need to be rebuilt. The orange markings indicate that the house was searched by rescue teams, and no bodies were found.

Brother Paul Treuting, president of Local 1707 of the Laborers International Union (North America), kindly sent AFGE his account of New Orleans, his hometown, after the storm, a story he originally sent his LIUNA collegues in late September. Treuting works on a National Guard base in Mississippi.

FORT WORTH, TEX.--We evacuated our F-15's here on August 27th, before Katrina hit our area. We (14 of us) came here on September 19th to check on the status of our aircraft and were told to stay in place until Hurricane Rita passed thru the Gulf...

Those areas that were flooded were searched for the living by Task Force Teams from Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, Missouri, New Hampshire and California. Listening to those folks' stories at dinner was amazing.

Where the water stopped is where they launched their boats. Each team was given a neighborhood to search. They would go door-to-door, knocking and beating on a home for any response. Some folks were still in their attics and replied with their frantic calls. Many were rescued through holes that were either axed or chain-sawed. Homes where bodies were found were marked with red spray paint and the location marked by GPS coordinates.

When possible, the bodies were secured with care and respect, so not to float around. In some areas, the water was three to four feet deep. In other parts, houses were submerged to the roof peaks...Many small coastal towns and communities are obliterated like a game of Pixy Stix gone wrong...

Click here to read Brother Treuting's complete story.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

FEMA contractors
screw up some more

From the MSNBC blog, The Red Tape Chronicles, we learn who's responsible for the switchboard meltdown experienced by Katrina survivors who tried to call FEMA's much-touted 800 number:
In October, FEMA's Nicole Andrews told that the agency had staffed up to 12,000 telephone operators, many on loan from the IRS. Some, she said, were outside contractors.

One of those outside contractors is Augmentation Inc., a call-center firm based in Rockville, Md., just outside Washington. According to the Washington Post, Augmentation had about 1,000 people answering the phones for FEMA last month. According to documents on FEMA's Web site, the firm has a $31 million contract for "temporary staffing."

But the company isn't great at answering its own phones. An operator hung up twice on a reporter who asked for the name of a public affairs official. Eventually, messages were left for company executives, but they were not returned. And FEMA representatives didn't return phone calls seeking comment about Augmentation or the FEMA call centers.
The Red Tape blogger, Bob Sullivan, also reports on the skeevy, quick-hire program for FEMA insurance adjusters, farmed out by FEMA to insurance companies.

Click here to read Sullivan's post on FEMA contractors.