The Great Bus Question

Kevin Drum posts Gov. Blanco’s response. The problem is that there are several questions and Blanco only really responds to one of them. The first question is why weren’t school buses used to get people out of New Orleans before the storm hit? Blanco has literally no answer to this since her reply deals with the time after Katrina had hit.

Hours after the hurricane hit Aug. 29, the Federal Emergency Management Agency announced a plan to send 500 commercial buses into New Orleans to rescue thousands of people left stranded on highways, overpasses and in shelters, hospitals and homes.

Now, the article does claim that FEMA turned down the idea of using school buses to get people out of New Orleans and the afflicted area because school buses are not air conditioned. I agree this was dumb, but again this was after the hurricane hit.

Even after levees broke and residents were crowding the Louisiana Superdome, then-FEMA Director Mike Brown was bent on using his own buses to evacuate New Orleans, Blanco said.

Could the reason that Brown was bent on using “his own buses” was because the buses in New Orleans were under three feet of water because Mayor Nagin and Gov. Blanco didn’t do anything to save such useful assets? What happened, did Blanco call the President and get him to give FEMA the go ahead, then go take a nap or something?

The state had sent 68 school buses into the city on Monday.

Blanco took over more buses from Louisiana school systems and sent them in on Wednesday, two days after the storm. She tapped the National Guard to drive them. Each time the buses emptied an area, more people would appear, she said.

The buses took 15,728 people to safety, a Blanco aide said. But the state’s fleet of school buses wasn’t enough. On Wednesday, with the FEMA buses still not in sight, Blanco called the White House to talk to Bush and ended up speaking to Chief of Staff Andy Card.

“I said, ‘Even if we had 500 buses, they’ve underestimated the magnitude of this situation, and I think I need 5,000 buses, not 500,'” Blanco recounted.

Well, from what I’ve read New Orleans had about 250 school buses. I bet New Orleans had a bus system as well. How many buses did they have…50, 100? Lets say 325 total. How many buses did the rest of the state contribute in the end? Another 100? Seems to me that would have helped tremendously. And the 5,000 buses is just idiotic. The numbers I’ve heard in regards to people needing to be moved was around 100,000. So we need 20 people per bus?

“I assumed that FEMA had staged their buses in near proximity,” she said. “I expected them to be out of the storm’s way but accessible in one day’s time.”

How come New Orleans buses weren’t similarly staged?

Brown said that, on the day before the storm hit, he asked Blanco and Maj. Gen. Bennett Landreneau, head of the state’s National Guard, what resources they needed.

“The response was like, ‘Let us find out,’ and then I never received specific requests for specific things that needed doing,” Brown told The New York Times last week.

Blanco said it shouldn’t have been up to her to provide a list.

Think about that. Blanco wants Brown, or anybody else, to know precisely what resources to send…via telepathy or some other psychic means I guess. If Lousiana needed water, food and buses, Blanco wants Brown to send that and everything else Lousiana doesn’t need.

I’m not defending FEMA here, but this idea that it was only FEMA’s fault strikes me as unbelievable. Blanco’s statments sound like somebody doing some major butt-covering and really skirt that actual issue. How come New Orlean’s buses weren’t used to help get people out before the storm hit? Mayor Nagin’s answer was he couldn’t find the drivers (although it seems like having the drivers show up would be part of the emergency plan). Why Blanco didn’t stage buses and resources outside the storm zone is also a good question…resources like the New Orleans school buses.

FILED UNDER: Natural Disasters,
Steve Verdon
About Steve Verdon
Steve has a B.A. in Economics from the University of California, Los Angeles and attended graduate school at The George Washington University, leaving school shortly before staring work on his dissertation when his first child was born. He works in the energy industry and prior to that worked at the Bureau of Labor Statistics in the Division of Price Index and Number Research. He joined the staff at OTB in November 2004.

Comments

  1. Herb says:

    Governor Blanco and Nagen are and have been in a major butt covering mode since Katrina hit. They have successfully to date put the blame on FEMA and epically Mike Brown. It was Mike Brown who took the hit and that just helped Blanco and Nagen in covering their rear ends. Thats why I was totally against the Brown removal.Now the MSM have picked up on this and aided both Blanco and Nagen in their “place the blame” efforts” due to their hatred towards Bush. I sure hope that a through investigation will uncover this butt covering scheme by Blance and Nagen and place the Katrina problems right square on these corrupt Louisiana politicians rear ends where it belongs.

  2. ken says:

    Steve, presumably the New Orleans bus drivers had their own families to evacuate and chose not to stick around. There was a mandatory evacuation after all which saved untold thousands upon thousands of lives. Give the mayor credit for that.

    As far as providing buses to move everyone out of NO before the hurricane hit that was never one of the plans. The plan was ALWAYS to encourage those who stayed to move to the safety of the Superdome. City buses were indeed provided for that.

    After the levees failed the people trapped in New Orleans were just like the people trapped in the debris of the World Trade Center – they depended upon rescue coming from outside the disaster area. This is where the Bush administration failed all of us.

    It is interesting to note that the Coast Guard, acting independently of the administration, went right to work taking people from rooftops to higher ground like freeway overpasses.

    The state marshalled what resources it had and sent them to the aid of people trapped in NO but the Feds, due to the sheer incompetance of the Bush political hacks, did not show up until four days after the disaster struck. That is inexcusable.

    And then today we read that FEMA is directing truckloads of ice to be moved from the disaster area to the state of Maine for storage. How dumb is that?

  3. Atm says:

    Hey, Ken,

    A competent local and state government would have planned to preevacuate the bus drivers and their families in case a mandatory evacuation was necessary. That way they would have been ready for evacuating people if the order came down. Why didn’t they think of something so obvious when they knew from Ivan last year and hurricane Pam drills that there were serious problems with evacuation of NOLA residents?

    If Dem Governors and city officials don’t take their responsiblities to their constituents seriously, and instead insist on passing the buck to the guys 1500 miles away, maybe we should pass a law or amendment federalizing the operation of all Dem controlled state and local governments.

  4. Anderson says:

    A competent local and state government would have planned to preevacuate the bus drivers and their families in case a mandatory evacuation was necessary.

    Right, and there was a federal agency whose director pledged before Congress to be proactive in pushing state/local authorities to make such plans. FEMA.

    Sure, Nagin & Blanco should’ve been (1) aware there was no plan and (2) howling for one. They & their predecessors in office—why don’t we ever hear about them?—were at fault. That doesn’t remotely get FEMA off the hook, indeed for the greater/ultimate responsibility. If anyone thought states could handle these things competently, we wouldn’t have a federal agency.

  5. ken says:

    Atm, unless you are suggesting that those who chose to stay in New Orleans were to be evacuated at the point of a gun I don’t see how having a bunch of buses available would have made that much difference. Not that it wouldn’t have been a good idea but I just don’t see it making much difference to the overall number of people who left NO before the hurricane hit. But even if half of those who otherwise chose to stay were persuaded to leave that still does not excuse the failure of the Bush administration to come to the rescue of those trapped there after the levees failed. So instead of tens of thousands of people it may have been fives of thousands of people trapped without food or water waiting at the superdome and the convention center for FEMA’s promised rescue.

  6. Herb says:

    Ken:

    What can one say that would convince you that the Governor and NO Mayor had the ultimate responsibility to initiate a plan as well as implement a plan for an evacuation prior to Katrina. I don’t think though, that you can be convinced due to your intense hatred for the Bush administration. Whats inconceivable though, is your hatred for Bush comes out with most every comment you make. But then again, you are just one more die in the wool liberal that still holds Bush responsible because the Republicans caught you trying to steal an election in 2000 and your kind just can’t get over it.

    And Anderson, Evacuation plans are up to the State and the State alone. It was Blanco who would not give up power for FEMA to act in accordance to their mission.

    No matter what you think or say, Blanco and Nagen must accept responsibility for their failure. It’s just to bad that neither on them have the guts to do it. Of course, if they did, that would put an end to their political machine that absconded 60 million in Federal Funds and $ 500.000.00 that was misdirected by then that was meant for levee improvement.

  7. anjin-san says:

    There was incompetence at all levels of government. Keep in mind that incompetence at the White House puts the national security of our country at risk…

  8. ken says:

    Another thing important to remember is that bus drivers are not in the same category as are police or firemen. They are not first responders, they are not National Gaurdsmen, they probably don’t make much money for the job they do and to expect them to engage in heroics when they have a family to protect is ludicrous. That bus drivers left NO with the mandatory evacuation is not a big surprise and no one should be criticized for allowing them to go.

    FEMA, on the other hand, was specifically tasked with responding to any and all domestic disasters whether natural or man made. So even if you blame the NO disaster on the mayor FEMA still failed in its duty. And that failure was clearly the result of Bush policies of appointing incompetent political hacks to positions that required competent professionals.

  9. Boyd says:

    Ken, you betray your bias and prejudice with idiotic statements such as “…the Coast Guard, acting independently of the administration…”

    You have an agenda, and you’ll even make idiotic statements such as the above to advance them. Try to explain how an arm of the Executive Branch operates independently from that branch. They defied orders? Give me a frickin’ break.

    And Pilot, your prejudices are well known. Vague accusations of the typical BushHitlerCheneyHalliburtonGOPHatesBlacks nonsense will get you no further now than they did before last year’s presidential election.

    And lastly, Ken, so you’re saying that all of the school buses were left to drown in the flood waters because none of the bus drivers were available to drive them. Yeah, right.

    You can’t even look at history to figure out what FEMA has done in the past to extrapolate what they should do in the future. Pardon me, your agenda is showing.

  10. jyb says:

    The number of buses that Nagin had available to him was 569. Of those, 255 were school buses, the balance belonged to NORTA. All would have been useful prior to the storm, during the “mandatory” evacuation. They all flooded when the levees broke, and were rendered useless.

    The fact is, contrary to the anti-Bush screeds in comments above, FEMA was not responsible for getting anyone–not a single person–out of New Orleans. That responsibility belonged first to the individuals themselves, then second to the city and then the state. New Orleans never took emergency planning seriously, and never took its evacuation responsibilities seriously. That fault goes back a long way before Nagin, but he was the unlucky sap who happened to be in office when the big one hit. Rather than own up to his failure, he pointed fingers at Bush and like lemmings every liberal followed him.

    Blanco, on the other hand, has demostrated awful judgement throughout the crisis. She kept the National Guard out, then encouraged looting, then kept the Salvation Army and Red Cross from bringing in food and supplies to those stranded in the city. And then like a typical Democrat, she blamed Bush, and like lemmings, liberals followed her too.

    I could go on, about all the graft in the levee boards, the incompetence in the NOLA school system (which is relevant because of the school buses), the thievery in the police department, etc. But frankly, I’m bored and I know the liberals here have their ears plugged by now and are singing “La la la, can’t hear you!”

  11. reliapundit says:

    1 –

    It is disappointing that so many conservative bloggers have gotten caught up in the MSM’s manipulation of emotions and have joined the hysterical cacophony denouncing Mike Brown and FEMA. How come FEMA could get it right through 4 devastating hurricanes in Florida last years, with nobody howling for Mike Brown’s head, and in New Orleans he couldn’t do a damn thing right? I’ll tell you the difference — Governor Jeb Bush vs Governor Katherine Babineaux Blanco. And with Nagin whining and screaming when he should have been providing LEADERSHIP.

    The Federal system is based on subsidiarity, and it usually works well.

    The local and State authorities usually know what they have to do to provide the basic governmental functions known to the common law.

    The Federal government is a government of designated powers, and should only do what it is specifically chartered to do.

    When the dust settles, it will be clear that the Federal response was quick and effective, and that the problems in New Orleans were squarely the fault of the State and local governments.

    For 100 years New Orleans has declined to police any neighborhood except the Quarter and the District, and like the Democrat party anywhere, they prefer their voters poor, stupid, dependent, but only if necessary dead.

    posted on my blog by gandlin

    2 –

    INSTAPUNDIT posted an email from a reader who lives in the Mississippi area struck by Katrina and who PRAISED the overall response.

    It’s a MUST READ; go there and RTWT!

    One thing in partricular he wrote struck me which I think bears repeating.

    He wrote this:

    “So where did this idea of a slow response originate? I believe it came from fearful local politicians, mostly in Louisiana, eager to deflect blame to anyone else. It was picked up enthusiastically by the media. The Cindy Sheehan story was rapidly fading, so this was simply another attack by the media, beleieving they have finally got Bush. The Plame story, the Rumsfield story, Cindy Sheehan, Abu Graib, etc… etc…”

    I think the most salient point is his first:

    Nagin and Blanco REALLY BELIEVED that 10,000 Louisiannes had perished (or would) and they desperately feared that they would be blamed. So they IMMEDIATELY started pointing fingers at the feds.

    They did this even though they – and Landrieu had PRAISED FEMA on Monday – AFTER Katrina had hit but before the CANAL BROKE! (This was reported in the NTYIMES!)

    The FACT that they PRAISED FEMA and “Brownie” before the canal break – (for being there, and for being so very VERY prepared!) – PROVES that their attacks on FEMA and the federal response – from Wednesday on – were merely desperate post facto rationalizations. THEY WERE COVERING THEIR OWN ASSES.

  12. ken says:

    Boyd, anyone who lives near an ocean knows that the coast guard does not wait for executive authority before responding to a mayday call.

    Unlike the army or the marines the coast guard does not await for presidential orders to begin search and rescue operations of civilians. That’s what they’re for they do it many times a year all along our coastlines. They take action in a crisis regardless of the adnimistrations own lack of action.

    Is it your idealogical blinders that make you so igorant or are you just too stupid to have ever learned this?

  13. Boyd says:

    Only a true BushHitlerCheneyHalliburtonGOPHatesBlacks idiotarian would believe that the Coast Guard operates independent of the Executive Branch of the federal government, Ken. And just to pile ad hominem on top of ad hominem, I’m quite sure you’re not too stupid to understand that what you spout is total crap, it’s just that your idealogical blinders keep you “igorant.”

  14. ken says:

    Well Boyd, I’d be perfectly happy to require the coast guard to get an executive order before engaging in a rescue of the floundering ship you on on.

    But for me and my family I prefer to allow the coast guard to continue with its current mission of engaging in search and rescue operations independent of any administrative meddling.

  15. Steve Verdon says:

    Another thing important to remember is that bus drivers are not in the same category as are police or firemen. They are not first responders, they are not National Gaurdsmen, they probably don’t make much money for the job they do and to expect them to engage in heroics when they have a family to protect is ludicrous. That bus drivers left NO with the mandatory evacuation is not a big surprise and no one should be criticized for allowing them to go.

    That’s fine ken, but you are forgetting that 48 hours before the hurricane hits…well…the hurricane hasn’t hit. So this idea of evacuating with the rest of the people who could is a little suspect. As has been noted a decent plan would have used those bus drivers to get some of the stranded out, and the busses to safety. Then they could have used the busses to get the rest out after the hurricane passes. This isn’t rocket science here.

    FEMA, on the other hand, was specifically tasked with responding to any and all domestic disasters whether natural or man made. So even if you blame the NO disaster on the mayor FEMA still failed in its duty.

    FEMA’s job is management. It does not have a large pool of resources just sitting around waiting to be used. As such relying of resources in the area is what happens. So how much aid was prepositioned by FEMA and FEMA managed agencies prior to the hurricane? I don’t know and from the looks of it not a single commenter here does. In other words, most of the commenters are talking out of complete ignorance.

    Well Boyd, I’d be perfectly happy to require the coast guard to get an executive order before engaging in a rescue of the floundering ship you on on.

    Uhhmmm ken, Boyd isn’t saying this at all. Never did…anywhere in any of his posts. What he is saying is that the Coast Gaurd is part of the Executive Branch of our government. Which, to the best of my knowledge, it is. So, the above comment by you is just irrelevant.

  16. ken says:

    As has been noted a decent plan would have used those bus drivers to get some of the stranded out, and the busses to safety. Then they could have used the busses to get the rest out after the hurricane passes.

    Steve, unless you were going to forcibly evacuate people at the point of a gun many would still have been left in NO. But let’s say with your plan you got half again as many out before the hurricane hit NO. So after the levees broke, instead of tens of thousands stranded without food and water you’d have fives of thousands stranded instead. Ok, but FEMA, due to the incompetent appointees of Bush still would have been responsible for leaving them to die.

    FEMA’s job is management. It does not have a large pool of resources just sitting around waiting to be used. As such relying of resources in the area is what happens

    .

    Today’s FEMA action regarding hurricane Rita: “In Washington, the acting director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, R. David Paulison, outlined a massive effort to pour military equipment and provisions into Texas ahead of the hurricane’s landfall.”

    No resources, Steve?