Sunday, September 18, 2005

Governor Blanco--still waiting for a bus

Hours after Katrina hit New Orleans, Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco was assured by FEMA that 500 c0mmercial buses were on their way to pick up people who were stranded in shelters, houses, and on the streets. They didn't arrive. Blanco then suggested that school buses be used, but FEMA rejected this idea because the school buses had no air conditioning. When the commercial buses still didn't arrive, the governor sent in as many school buses as she could.

Blanco then called White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card and told him to forget the 500 buses--she needed 5,000 buses. Wednesday night, two days after the storm hit, the governor learned that the buses had entered the northern part of the state, approximately six hours from New Orleans.

Eventually, FEMA instructed the state to stop loading people onto school buses because helicopters were on the way. Blanco instructed her staff to ignore this directive, and they continued to load people onto the buses and take them to safety.

The entire transportation plan for a Louisiana hurricane had already been detailed in the Hurricane Pam tabletop exercise, though it appears that Michael Brown threw away his Hurricane Pam packet as soon as the meeting was over.

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