Thursday, January 26, 2006

Homeland Security and "Hurricane Pam" ...

MSNBC posts a story by the Associated Press:

WASHINGTON - The Homeland Security Department was warned a day before Hurricane Katrina hit that the storm’s surge could breach levees and leave New Orleans flooded for weeks or months, documents released Monday show.

An Aug. 28 report by the department’s National Infrastructure Simulation and Analysis Center concluded that a Category 4 or 5 hurricane would cause severe damage in the city, including power outages and a direct economic hit of up to $10 billion for the first week.

“Overall, the impacts described herein are conservative,” stated the report, which was sent to Homeland Security’s office for infrastructure protection.

“Any storm rated Category 4 or greater ... will likely lead to severe flooding and/or levee breaching, leaving the New Orleans metro area submerged for weeks or months,” said the report, which was released by a Senate panel examining the government’s breakdown in responding to Katrina.

The documents are the latest indication that the federal government knew beforehand of the catastrophic damage that a storm of Katrina’s magnitude could cause.

Katrina slammed into the Gulf Coast as a Category 4 storm on Aug. 29. Some weather experts, however, believe it had decreased to a Category 3 or even Category 2 storm by the time it reached New Orleans.

Dire prediction

In 2004, Homeland Security and the federal Emergency Management Agency ran an exercise called “Hurricane Pam” that provided a dire prediction about a Category 3 hurricane hitting New Orleans. It found, among other things, that flood waters would surge over levees, creating “a catastrophic mass casualty/mass evacuation” and leaving drainage pumps crippled for up to six months.

The Bush administration has been lambasted for its lackluster response to Katrina and its aftermath, including criticism that the government should have known that a hurricane of that strength posed a danger to the area’s levees and was unprepared to cope with it.


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