Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Need and response proved out of sync (

Initial confidence rooted in ignorance

Getting 'boots on the ground' proved particularly difficult

By Bill Walsh
Washington bureau

WASHINGTON - It was 8:30 a.m., shortly after Hurricane Katrina made landfall Aug. 29, and Donald Bordelon was feeling pretty good.

Katrina's 145-mph fury was still raging outside his Arabi home. But in St. Bernard Parish, where residents look up at the Mississippi River, the real worry is water. Always, the water.

For the time being, the levees were holding back the forces of nature that daily threatened to render his neighborhood just one more south Louisiana swamp. His relief didn't last long.

Forty minutes later, water swirled up around the stove in his kitchen. He jumped into his boat and gave up his home to the storm.

Elsewhere in the hurricane's tailwinds, a brief sense of security swept across much of southeastern Louisiana and the nation. In the early afternoon of that Monday, it seemed, the 287-year-old city had once again been spared a direct hit by a major storm. A headline in a national press service assured, "New Orleans Weathers the Storm."

That assumption was dead wrong.

As surely as water seeks the lowest level, Katrina was about to lay bare the shortcomings of disaster plans by local, state and federal officials. ( MORE...)