A Time of Need

A Hurricane Katrina Timeline

DEC. 1, 2001

'The deadliest of all'
The Houston Chronicle reports that in early 2001 "the Federal Emergency Management Agency ranked the potential damage to New Orleans as among the three likeliest, most catastrophic disasters facing this country."

The other two were a massive earthquake in San Francisco and a terrorist attack on New York City. ("The New Orleans hurricane scenario may be the deadliest of all," says the Chronicle. (read more)

JUNE 23-27, 2002

Times-Picayune publishes 'Washing Away'
New Orleans' Times-Picayune newspaper publishes a five-part special report titled "Washing Away." The beginning of the series reads: "It's only a matter of time before south Louisiana takes a direct hit from a major hurricane. Billions have been spent to protect us, but we grow more vulnerable every day." (read more)

JULY 23, 2004

Hurricane Pam
Representatives from FEMA along with state and local emergency officials conclude a five-day exercise in Baton Rouge. In the exercise, dubbed "Hurricane Pam," officals contemplate how to respond to a hypothetical Category 3 hurricane with sustained winds of 120 miles an hour and 20 inches of rain that would force out more than 1 million people from their homes in 13 southeastern Louisiana parishes. In a press release from FEMA's Web site, Col. Michael L. Brown, deputy director for Emergency Preparedness, Louisiana Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, states: "Hurricane planning in Louisiana will continue. Over the next 60 days, we will polish the action plans developed during the Hurricane Pam exercise. We have also determined where to focus our efforts in the future."

It predicts the storm could result in more than 61,000 deaths, affect 600,000 homes and 6,000 businesses, leave half a million people homeless and nearly a quarter of a million children out of school. The Hurricane Pam report identifies a need for 1,000 shelters, up to 800 rescuers, as well as rapid immunization and re-supplying of hospitals around the state. However, the 412-page report which the Associated Press recently obtained is only meant to be the first step toward the development of a comprehensive response plan. Former FEMA Director Michael Brown tells the AP that "money was not available to do the followup." One follow-up workshop on medical needs takes place in late August 2005. The update report produced from that meeting on how to deal with the dead and injured is submitted to FEMA headquarters Sept. 3, five days after Katrina hits. (read more) (read more) (read more)

SEPT. 22, 2004

Flood mitigation funding cut
The Independent Weekly in Durham, N.C., publishes "Disaster in the Making: As FEMA weathers a storm of Bush administration policy and budget changes, protection from natural hazards may be trumped by 'homeland security.'" The story details how Louisiana was denied flood mitigation funding that summer. (read more)


Eerie prophecy
National Geographic publishes "Gone with the Water." The article begins with a description of New Orleans flooding as a result of a hurricane. "When did this calamity happen?" the article reads. "It hasn't - yet. But the doomsday scenario is not far-fetched. The Federal Emergency Management Agency lists a hurricane strike on New Orleans as one of the most dire threats to the nation, up there with a large earthquake in California or a terrorist attack on New York City. Even the Red Cross no longer opens hurricane shelters in the city, claiming the risk to its workers is too great." (read more)

JUNE 6, 2005

Levee funding cut
New Orleans CityBusiness reports that funding for the New Orleans district of the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers, which oversees the city's levee system, will be cut by $71.2 million. The 21 percent reduction of the Corps budget was the largest single-year cut for the district.

"One of the hardest-hit areas of the New Orleans district's budget is the Southeast Louisiana Urban Flood Control Project, which was created after the May 1995 flood to improve drainage in Jefferson, Orleans and St. Tammany parishes. SELA's budget is being drained from $36.5 million awarded in 2005 to $10.4 million suggested for 2006 by the House of Representatives and the president." (read more)

FRIDAY, AUG. 26, 2005

Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco declares State of Emergency (read more)

SATURDAY, AUG. 27, 2005

5 a.m. - Katrina upgraded to category 3 Hurricane (read more)

Blanco asks President Bush to declare a Federal State of Emergnecy in Louisiana
"I have determined that this incident is of such severity and magnitude that effective response is beyond the capabilities of the State and affected local governments, and that supplementary Federal assistance is necessary to save lives, protect property, public health, and safety, or to lessen or avert the threat of a disaster." (read more)

Bush declares Federal Emergency and gives Department of Homeland Security and FEMA authority to respond to Katrina; affected parish list incomplete (Orleans, Jefferson, St. Bernard omitted)
"The President today declared an emergency exists in the State of Louisiana and ordered Federal aid to supplement state and local response efforts in the parishes located in the path of Hurricane Katrina beginning on Aug. 26, 2005, and continuing.

"The President's action authorizes the Department of Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), to coordinate all disaster relief efforts which have the purpose of alleviating the hardship and suffering caused by the emergency on the local population, and to provide appropriate assistance for required emergency measures, authorized under Title V of the Stafford Act, to save lives, protect property and public health and safety, or to lessen or avert the threat of a catastrophe in the parishes of Allen, Avoyelles, Beauregard, Bienville, Bossier, Caddo, Caldwell, Claiborne, Catahoula, Concordia, De Soto, East Baton Rouge, East Carroll, East Feliciana, Evangeline, Franklin, Grant, Jackson, LaSalle, Lincoln, Livingston, Madison, Morehouse, Natchitoches, Pointe Coupee, Ouachita, Rapides, Red River, Richland, Sabine, St. Helena, St. Landry, Tensas, Union, Vernon, Webster, West Carroll, West Feliciana, and Winn.

"Specifically, FEMA is authorized to identify, mobilize, and provide at its discretion, equipment and reread mores necessary to alleviate the impacts of the emergency..." (read more) (read more)

SUNDAY, AUG. 28, 2005

7 a.m. - Katrina upgraded to category 5 hurricane (read more)

9:30 a.m. - New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin issues mandatory evacuation of New Orleans
"We're facing the storm most of us have feared," says Nagin. "This is going to be an unprecedented event." (read more)

10:11 a.m. - New Orleans office of the National Weather Service issues detailed hurricane warning of the effects of a category 4 or 5 hit
"Most of the area will be uninhabitable for weeks, perhaps longer. ... At least one-half of well-constructed homes will have roof and wall failure. All gabled roofs will fail, leaving those homes severely damaged or destroyed. ... Power outages will last for weeks. ... Water shortages will make human suffering incredible by modern standards." ([read more](http://wikiread

Afternoon - Bush, FEMA Director Michael Brown and Homeland Security's Mike Chertoff warned of levee failure by National Hurricane Center director
Dr. Max Mayfield, director of the National Hurricane Center: "We were briefing them way before landfall. ... It's not like this was a surprise. We had in the advisories that the levee could be topped." (read more)

26,000 evacuees arrive at Superdome with 36 hours worth of food (read more)

Louisiana National Guard requests 700 buses from FEMA for evacuation, but FEMA sends only 100 buses (read more)

MONDAY, AUG. 29, 2005

7 a.m. - Katrina makes landfall as a category 4 hurricane (read more)

8 a.m. - Water begins flowing over the levees in New Orleans
"I've gotten reports this morning that there is already water coming over some of the levee systems," Nagin tells NBC's "Today Show." "In the lower Ninth Ward, we've had one of our pumping stations stop operating, so we will have significant flooding, it is just a matter of how much." (read more) (read more)

11 a.m. - Brown requests that DHS dispatch 1,000 employees to region and gives them two days to arrive (read more)

Late morning - Levee breeched, effects 'catastrophic'
"A large section of the vital 17th Street Canal levee, where it connects to the brand new 'hurricane proof' Old Hammond Highway bridge, gave way late Monday morning in Bucktown after Katrina's fiercest winds were well north." (read more)

4:30 p.m. - Bush travels to California senior center to discuss Medicare drug benefit
"We've got some folks up here who are concerned about their Social Security or Medicare. Joan Geist is with us. ... I could tell - she was looking at me when I first walked in the room to meet her, she was wondering whether or not old George W. is going to take away her Social Security check." (read more)

8 p.m. - Blanco again requests assistance from Bush
"Mr. President, we need your help. We need everything you've got." (read more)

Late p.m. - Bush retires for the night without acting on Blanco's requests (read more)

TUESDAY, AUG. 30, 2005

11 a.m. - Bush speaks on Iraq at Naval Base Coronado (read more)

Afternoon - Chertoff becomes aware that levee has failed
"It was on Tuesday that the levee - may have been overnight Monday to Tuesday - that the levee started to break. And it was midday Tuesday that I became aware of the fact that there was no possibility of plugging the gap and that essentially the lake was going to start to drain into the city." (read more)

Pentagon says enough National Guard troops are in the region
"Pentagon spokesman Lawrence Di Rita said the states have adequate National Guard units to handle the hurricane needs." (read more)

Widespread looting in New Orleans
"The looting is out of control. The French Quarter has been attacked," says Councilwoman Jackie Clarkson. "We're using exhausted, scarce police to control looting when they should be used for search and rescue while we still have people on rooftops." (read more)

U.S.S. Bataan sits unutilized
"The USS Bataan, a 844-foot ship designed to dispatch Marines in amphibious assaults, has helicopters, doctors, hospital beds, food and water. It also can make its own water, up to 100,000 gallons a day. And it just happened to be in the Gulf of Mexico when Katrina came roaring ashore. The Bataan rode out the storm and then followed it toward shore, awaiting relief orders. Helicopter pilots flying from its deck were some of the first to begin plucking stranded New Orleans residents. But now the Bataan's hospital facilities, including six operating rooms and beds for 600 patients, are empty." (read more)

Bush returns to Crawford, Texas, for final night of vacation (read more)

WEDNESDAY, AUG. 31, 2005

1:45 a.m. - FEMA requests ambulances from wrong agency
"Almost 18 hours later, [FEMA] canceled the request for the ambulances because it turned out, as one FEMA employee put it, 'the DOT doesn't do ambulances.'" (read more)

National Guard troops arrive in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida (read more)

Horrific conditions reported in the Superdome
"A 2-year-old girl slept in a pool of urine. Crack vials littered a restroom. Blood stained the walls next to vending machines smashed by teenagers. 'We pee on the floor. We are like animals,' said Taffany Smith, 25, as she cradled her 3-week-old son, Terry. ... By Wednesday, it had degenerated into horror. ... At least two people, including a child, have been raped. At least three people have died, including one man who jumped 50 feet to his death, saying he had nothing left to live for. There is no sanitation. The stench is overwhelming." (Los Angeles Times, Sept. 1, 2005)

Food and water supplies run out in Jefferson Parish
"FEMA and national agencies not delivering the help nearly as fast as it is needed," says Director Walter Maestri. (read more)

3,000 stranded at Convention Center without food or water
"With 3,000 or more evacuees stranded at the convention center - and with no apparent contingency plan or authority to deal with them - collecting a body was no one's priority. ... Some had been at the convention center since Tuesday morning but had received no food, water or instructions." (read more)

Chertoff "extremely pleased with the response" of the government
"We are extremely pleased with the response that every element of the federal government, all of our federal partners, have made to this terrible tragedy." (read more)

Early morning - Blanco again tries to request help from Bush
"She was transferred around the White House for a while until she ended up on the phone with Fran Townsend, the president's Homeland Security adviser, who tried to reassure her but did not have many specifics. Hours later, Blanco called back and insisted on speaking to the president. When he came on the line, the governor recalled, 'I just asked him for help, "whatever you have."' She asked for 40,000 troops." (read more)

8 p.m. - FEMA Director Brown claims surprise over size of storm
Brown tells CNN's Larry King, "I must say, this storm is much much bigger than anyone expected." (CNN)


7 a.m. - Bush says levee breaks were unexpected
"I don't think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees." (read more)

New Orleans Homeland Security Director assails lack of command and control
"This is a national disgrace," says Terry Ebbert. "FEMA has been here three days, yet there is no command and control. We can send massive amounts of aid to tsunami victims, but we can't bail out the city of New Orleans." (read more)

Lawlessness breaks out in New Orleans
"New Orleans descended into anarchy Thursday as corpses lay abandoned in street medians, fights and fires broke out, cops turned in their badges and the governor declared war on looters who have made the city a menacing landscape of disorder and fear." (read more)

2 p.m. - Nagin issues "desperate SOS" to federal government
"This is a desperate SOS. Currently the convention center is unsanitary and unsafe and we're running out of supplies." (read more)

2 p.m. - Brown says he's heard no reports of violence
"I've had no reports of unrest, if the connotation of the word unrest means that people are beginning to riot, or you know, they're banging on walls and screaming and hollering or burning tires or whatever. I've had no reports of that." (read more)

Brown acknowledges evacuee situation at New Orleans Convention Center
"We learned about that [Thursday], so I have directed that we have all available resources to get that convention center to make sure that they have the food and water and medical care that they need." (read more)

FRIDAY, SEPT. 2, 2005

White House begins P.R. campaign to blame Louisiana government officials
"Under the command of President Bush's two senior political advisers, the White House rolled out a plan ... to contain the political damage from the administration's response to Hurricane Katrina." President Bush's comments from the Rose Garden Friday morning formed "the start of this campaign." (read more)

Early morning - Bush watches DVD of the week's newscasts created by his staff
"The reality, say several aides who did not wish to be quoted because it might displease the president, did not really sink in until Thursday night. Some White House staffers were watching the evening news and thought the president needed to see the horrific reports coming out of New Orleans. Counselor Bartlett made up a DVD of the newscasts so Bush could see them in their entirety as he flew down to the Gulf Coast the next morning on Air Force One." (read more)

10:35 a.m. - Bush praises FEMA Director Brown
"Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job," Bush says. (read more)

Landrieu reports Bush staged levee repair photo-op
"Touring this critical site yesterday with the President, I saw what I believed to be a real and significant effort to get a handle on a major cause of this catastrophe," says Landrieu. "Flying over this critical spot again this morning, less than 24 hours later, it became apparent that yesterday we witnessed a hastily prepared stage set for a Presidential photo opportunity; and the desperately needed resources we saw were this morning reduced to a single, lonely piece of equipment." (read more)

Noon - Bush "satisfied with the response"
"I am satisfied with the response. I am not satisfied with all the results," says Bush. (read more)

Mid-afternoon - FEMA's second-in-command official "impressed" with government response
"I am actually very impressed with the mobilization of man and machine to help our friends in this unfortunate area ... I think it's one of the most impressive search-and-rescue operations this country has ever conducted domestically." (read more)


9 a.m. - Bush blames state and local officials
"The magnitude of responding to a crisis over a disaster area that is larger than the size of Great Britain has created tremendous problems that have strained state and local capabilities. The result is that many of our citizens simply are not getting the help they need." (read more)

Blanco hires former FEMA director as consultant
Blanco hires James Lee Witt, a former FEMA director of eight years under the Clinton Administration, as a consultant in the disaster relief effort. (read more)


Congressional investigation announced
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and House Speaker Dennis Hastert annouce a bipartisan Congressional investigation into what when wrong in the government's response to Hurricane Katrina. Democrats vow not to participate, saying that the Republican-controlled Congress can't fairly assess the Republican administration's performance. Instead, Democrats call for the creation of an autonomous panel to investigate, similar to that of the 9-11 Commission. (Washington Post)

Relief package passes House
U.S. House passes a $51.8 billion spending request for hurricane relief. The appropriation came after the federal government quickly went through the $10.5 billion spending request approved by Congress a week before. (read more)

SATURDAY, SEPT. 10, 2005

Breaches closed
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announces it has closed the final breaches in the 17th Street Canal and the London Avenue Canal system. The Corps says it is now pumping about 1 million gallons of water a day out of the greater New Orleans area. It estimates all of Orleans parish will be dry by the week of Oct. 8 and that Plaquemines Parish will be dry by the week of Oct. 18. (read more)

MONDAY, SEPT. 12, 2005

Brown resigns
After being taken off his onsite command of the Katrina relief effort and reassigned to Washington the previous week, Michael Brown resigns from FEMA.

TUESDAY, SEPT. 13, 2005

Bush takes responsibility for federal government's failures
In a press conference, President Bush responds to a reporter's question about public anxiety over the government's preparedness to handle another natural disaster or terrorist attack. "Katrina exposed serious problems in our response capability at all levels of government," Bush says. "And to the extent that the federal government didn't fully do its job right, I take responsibility." (read more)

THURSDAY, SEPT. 15, 2005

Project Pelican revealed
All nine members of Louisiana's Congressional delegation release details of their plan for rebuilding the state's coastal areas, with legislation to follow this week. Dubbed "Project Pelican," the plan calls for $20 billion to restore levees, $14 billion for coastal restoration projects, a $4,000 per-pupil in aid to schools taking in displaced children and $50 billion in rebuilding grants in addition to other funds to rebuild schools, hospitals, port facilities and compensation for agriculture and other business losses. It also requests that the federal government extend its commitment to paying for the entire relief and recovery effort from 60 days following the storm to three years. (read more)

Blanco takes resonsibility for state government's failures
"At the state level, we must take a careful look at what went wrong and make sure it never happens again. The buck stops here ... and, as your governor, I take full responsibility." (read more)

Bush addresses nation from Jackson Square
"We'll not just rebuild, we'll build higher and better," says Bush. Addressing the government's immediate response to the disaster, he says, "The system, at every level of government, was not well-coordinated, and was overwhelmed in the first few days. It is now clear that a challenge on this scale requires greater federal authority and a broader role for the armed forces - the institution of our government most capable of massive logistical operations on a moment's notice." (read more)