Hurricane Katrina: Graphic - What Went Wrong The Washington Post produced a timeline tracking Hurricane Katrina's path and listing the federal, state and local responses to the storm before and after it hit the Gulf Coast (updated thru 10/05)
Katrina's Aftermath -- Accountability This collection showcases Washington Post reporting on the debate over the government's response to the Gulf Coast Hurricanes and pre-storm planning. (updated thru 10/05)
There's big money proposed to fund new hurricane research. The National Science Board, in a report issued September 29, 2006, calls for an increase of $300 million per year in hurricane research funding. That's a whopping increase in funding, when one considers that the average annual spending on hurricane research has been only $20 million the past six years. So, what is the National Science Board, and is this a reasonable proposal?
National Science Board The 24 members of the National Science Board are appointed by the President of the United States, and make budget recommendations for the National Science Foundation (NSF). The NSF has an annual budget of about $5.6 billion (fiscal year 2006), and funds approximately 20 percent of all federally supported basic research conducted by America's colleges and universities. So, this is a very serious proposal by a group which has real power to influence the Federal budget.
Major recommendations of the report The primary recommendation of the report is the formation of a National Hurricane Research Initiative (NHRI), which will "provide urgently needed hurricane science and engineering research and education". As justification for this effort, the report notes that that hurricane damage is increasing, with annual total losses (in constant 2006 dollars) averaging $1.3 billion from 1949-1989, $10.1 billion from 1990-1995, and $35.8 billion per year during the last 5 years. $168 billion in losses occurred in 2004 and 2005 alone. Over 50% of the population lives within 50 miles of the coast, and the value of infrastructure in the Gulf and Atlantic coast areas is over $3 trillion, with trillions more in investment likely in the next few decades as the U.S. population continues to expand. This incredible investment will be increasingly affected by hurricanes, and scientists "know relatively little about the most important aspects of hurricanes including their internal dynamics and interactions with the larger-scale atmosphere and ocean; methods for quantifying and conveying uncertainty and mitigating hurricane impacts; associated short and long term consequences on the natural and built environment; and the manner in which society responds before, during, and after landfall." The study notes that "billions of tax dollars have been provided for rescue, recovery, and rebuilding after hurricanes strike", but more money needs to be spent minimizing losses from hurricanes before they strike. In fact, had the NHRI been funded two years ago, much of the devastation wrought by Katrina could have been avoided. The program funds engineering studies to evaluate the structural integrity of the entire coastal infrastucture including levees, seawalls, drainage systems, bridges, water/sewage, power, and communications. The flaws in the New Orleans levees that led to over 80% of the city's flooding could have been found and fixed before Katrina hit had such a program been funded earlier.
The report has many excellent suggestions on how to make a coordinated research effort that will pay big dividends over the coming years by reducing our vulnerability to hurricanes. For example, the report seeks funding for research on improving evacuation planning, so that we can avoid a repeat of the debacle that occurred during the evacuation of Houston for Hurricane Rita. Over 100 people died in the evacuation effort. Research on improved disaster communications technologies is proposed, so that we avoid the situation that arose in Katrina where FEMA had no idea what was going on at the Convention Center.
My only gripe about the report is the inclusion of funding for research on human modification of hurricanes to reduce their intensity or alter their movement. I don't believe we should be messing with these great storms until we understand better how they work. In addition, given the sheer size and incredible energy that storms have, modification efforts will likely be an ineffectual waste of time and money. Finally, I don't think the legal system in this country will allow hurricane modification to occur without a lot of lawsuits being filed. I don't know too many hurricane scientists who are in favor of hurricane modification research, and suspect it is being funded for political reasons.
Is $300 million a reasonable request? To do a thorough job of reducing our vulnerability to hurricanes, $300 million per year is a reasonable amount to spend. However, the U.S. faces a number of threats that also require large outlays of dollars, such as bioterrorism and earthquakes. The framers of the report realize that getting a $300 million per year project funded in a time of "increasingly small non-defense discretionary budgets" is difficult. To put this number in perspective, the annual amount spent in the U.S. on meteorology operations and supporting research is $3 billion. About $1 billion/year of this goes to run the National Weather Service, with weather satellites consuming another big chunk of the costs. But consider the amount being spent on defending the country against bioterrorism. The federal budget for bioterrorism emergency preparedness has ranged between $3 and $6 billion per year since 2002. The request for FY 2007 is $4.3 billion. That's over 200 times what we spend on hurricane research, and over ten times the $300 million being proposed. While others will disagree, I believe that the threat of catastrophe from hurricane strikes on the U.S. is much higher than that from bioterrorism. If we need to find funding for the NHRI, the bioterrorism budget can suffer a 7% cut. Another hurricane as strong as Hurricane Katrina is certain to hit a major populated area in the future, while a bioterrorism attack is not certain, and hopefully not even probable. There are wiser ways to spend our disaster preparedness dollars than what we are doing.
National Hurricane Research Initiative Act of 2006 Sen. Mel Martinez, R-Fla., introduced the National Hurricane Research Initiative Act of 2006, a bi-partisan bill that adopts the recommendations of the report. The proposed legislation puts NOAA and the National Science Foundation in charge of coordinating the research initiative. Not surprisingly, the bill is being co-sponsored by Florida's other Senator, Sen. Nelson (D-FL), and Louisiana's two Senators, Sen. Vitter (R-LA), and Sen. Landrieu (D-LA). Apparently, the Senators from the states hard hit by the hurricanes of 2004 and 2005 felt that $300 million per year wasn't enough, and ask for $435 million in funding per year through 2017.
Some historical perspective In 1898, the United States fought the Spanish-American War. With the U.S. Navy heavily committed to operations in the Caribbean during the height of hurricane season, Willis L. Moore, Chief of the Weather Bureau, saw the need set up an improved hurricane warning system. Moore took a long view through the history of naval warfare and discovered that more armadas had been destroyed by weather than by the enemy. He placed his findings before President McKinley, and proposed that the U.S. spend money to establish a new hurricane warning service, despite the fact that budgets were tight in a time of war. McKinley responded to Moore: "I am more afraid of a West Indian hurricane than the entire Spanish Navy. Get this [hurricane warning] service inaugurated at the earliest possible moment!"
The Spanish are no longer our enemies, but the threat of hurricanes remains and will worsen if we do nothing. I hope today's politicians will emulate President McKinley, and take the long view of history. In the words of the report's conclusion:
Can we as a Nation continue to remain vulnerable to hurricanes that are an inevitable part of our future, that have demonstrated the capacity to inflict catastrophic damage to our economy, and that kill hundreds of our citizens? The hurricane warning for our Nation has been issued and we must act vigorously and without delay.
I urge you to write your Senators to support S, 4005, the National Hurricane Research Initiative Act of 2006. Those of you in Louisiana and Florida probably do not need to write your Senators--they are definitely on board on this one!
Jeff Masters grew up in suburban Detroit, and attended the University of Michigan, where he received his B.S. and M.S. degrees in Meteorology in 1982 and 1983, respectively.
In 1986, he took a position teaching weather forecasting to undergraduates at SUNY Brockport, then later that year moved to Miami to join the Hurricane Hunters as a flight meteorologist for NOAA's Aircraft Operations Center. You can see him on the 1988 PBS documentary NOVA show titled "Hurricane!", flying into Hurricane Gilbert.
After four years of flying through the most extraordinary weather on the planet, and nearly getting killed flying into Hurricane Hugo, Jeff left the Hurricane Hunters in 1990 to pursue a Ph.D. degree in air pollution meteorology from the University of Michigan. His 1997 Ph.D. dissertation was titled "Vertical Transport of Carbon Monoxide by Wintertime Mid-latitude Cyclones." While working on his Ph.D., he co-founded The Weather Underground, Inc. in 1995.
Atlantic Basin, economic cost of Hurricane damage, Federal Bills, Federal Budget, Federal Legislation, FEMA, Florida, Gulf of Mexico, Houston Texas, hurricane emergency preparedness, hurricane evacuation planning, Hurricane History, hurricane modification, Hurricane Research, Hurricane Rita, hurricane science, hurricane scientists, Hurricanes, Louisiana, National Hurricane Research Initiative, National Science Board, National Science Foundation, National Weather Service, New Orleans, New Orleans levees, NOAA
Governor Kathleen Babineaux Blanco led members of the Louisiana Economic Development team and the Committee of 100, a group of Louisiana business leaders, on a three-day trip to New York City this week to meet with members of the investment banking community and national business and trade media to discuss investment opportunities across Louisiana. To learn more about the trip, visit http://gov.state.la.us/.
There has been a great deal of blame & finger pointing wafting around "Katrinaville" since day 1 - it's been about Bush, Blanco, Nagin, the Corp, disregard for the socially marginal, those "stupid" folks who live in a city below sea level, yada yada yada. While many of the issues are real, and accountability is important, I've continued to stand on the bully pulpit regarding the systemic nature of the most challenging issues that constellate around Katrina - "our" mishandling of the eco-system, for one.
For that reason, I am making a pledge to weave in more news and commentary here regarding the ecological issues that underly this disaster, and to recognize companies and initiatives that are taking a positive and healthy stand for the environment - and especially companies that are engaged in the hurricane recovery and rebuilding efforts. Maybe I'll do a little "green company" of the week?
Okay so here's the first one... since many citizens along the Gulf Coast are spending a lot of time at Home Depot these days, I thought I'd let folks know about the company's pro-active stand around environmental concerns. And no I'm not being sponsored to promote Home Depot. This is just to raise awareness about the environmental impact on hurricane devastation....
Home Depot to Offset Carbon Emissions at Atlanta Headquarters Source: GreenBiz.com
ATLANTA, Oct. 27, 2006 - The Home Depot, the world's largest home improvement retailer, has entered into an agreement with Conservation Fund to offset all carbon emissions created this year by the company's Atlanta headquarters and a portion of emissions created by associates commuting to work and traveling on business.
Home Depot will fund the planting of thousands of trees on nearly 130 acres across metro Atlanta to offset the carbon emissions as part of The Conservation Fund's Go Zero program.
The Home Depot's commitment marks the largest such carbon offset through reforestation in the United States, according to the Conservation Fund. The fund estimates that Home Depot annually creates approximately 36,500 tons of carbon dioxide at its 35-acre headquarters complex, 2,300 tons from air travel for business and 12,100 tons from automobiles used by associates commuting to work.
Through its Go Zero program, The Conservation Fund has become the nation's leader in helping companies offset their carbon footprints by using reforestation. During the past five years, the fund has planted more than 5 million trees that will offset nearly 7 million tons of carbon dioxide over the next 70 years.
Ron Jarvis, Home Depot's vice president of environmental innovation, said the decision to offset carbon emissions is part of the Company's overall philosophy of diminishing the environmental impact of its operations. "The Home Depot's commitment to offsetting carbon emissions through the Go Zero program is a milestone for the Company," Jarvis said. "By offsetting our carbon emissions through reforestation, we are doing more than sequestering carbon. We are planting trees that will help reduce the heat island effect in urban areas, reduce erosion and storm water runoff, and help clean the air."
Home Depot announced its commitment to Go Zero this week at the U.S. Conference of Mayors' 2nd National Summit on Energy and the Environment in Atlanta. The Home Depot Foundation, which promotes energy-efficient, sustainable affordable housing and healthy community design, is the title sponsor of the two-day summit.
To offset carbon emissions, Home Depot will fund the planting of trees in the nearby Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area and at Panola Mountain Park in Rockdale County and Kennesaw Mountain State Park in Cobb County. Larry Selzer, president of The Conservation Fund, said Home Depot's commitment will have a major impact on the environment in the Company's hometown.
"Climate change has emerged as the most pressing environmental issue of our time," Selzer said. "We applaud Home Depot's leadership for its commitment to offset the carbon footprint of its headquarters. In addition to making a significant contribution to the effort to address climate change, The Home Depot's actions will restore important wildlife habitat and enhance public recreation areas in the broader metropolitan Atlanta region."
The Conservation Fund will begin planting trees on behalf of The Home Depot early next year. Members of Team Depot, The Home Depot's nationally recognized volunteer program, will assist in the planting of the trees.
As part of its Climate Change Program, The Conservation Fund launched Go Zero to engage people around the world -- companies, communities and individuals -- in the effort to combat global warming. Simply put, Go Zero measures the carbon dioxide emissions of virtually any slice of life, including travel-related activities such as air and automobile transportation and hotel rooms. The Conservation Fund then offsets that impact on climate change by planting trees, which absorb tremendous amounts of carbon dioxide as they grow. These newly created forests do more than just address global warming -- they leave a lasting legacy by restoring important wildlife habitat, enhancing outdoor recreation areas and improving air and water quality. Through this program, the Fund has protected more than 25,000 acres and planted 5 million trees, which will sequester nearly 7 million tons of carbon dioxide over the next 100 years.
New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, showing Interstate 10 at West End Boulevard, looking towards Lake Pontchartrain. more about this photo. Photo credit: U.S. Coast Guard, Petty Officer 2nd Class Kyle Niemi
Earth Institute News
How do we fully account for the people killed by Hurricane Katrina? Should we count the kidney dialysis patient who died when treatment was interrupted? What about a despondent evacuee who committed suicide months after leaving New Orleans? Or the suspected looter shot in the street?
More importantly, what happens to our understanding of the storm's impact on society if these and other uncounted are added to the list of those who drowned?
These are the questions John Mutter, deputy director of The Earth Institute at Columbia University, hopes to answer through a new project that seeks to compile an online list of all Gulf Coast residents who died as a result of direct and indirect effects of the storm, and as a result of the victims' social standing or decisions made by policy makers.
"Socially marginalized people are always at greatest physical risk because they occupy the riskiest environments," Mutter wrote in a recent article about Katrina deaths. "They live on steep, landslide-prone slopes of the barrios that surround major cities in poor countries. They live in swamps and flood-prone riverbanks of urban peripheries. They live in poorly built houses that collapse easily when shaken by earthquakes or a wrecked by flood waters. They lived in the 9th Ward of New Orleans."
Mutter and research assistant Amatullah R'id compiled their list by reviewing obituaries and coroners' lists. They followed up with calls to family members, churches, and social service organizations to build a more comprehensive picture of each victim.
Mutter and R'id are reaching out to the affected communities, asking for friends and relatives to contribute information and revise existing information about those who died in New Orleans or elsewhere.
"More than one year later, the human and economic consequences of Katrina — including the causes and circumstances of deaths attributable to this catastrophic event — have still not been fully clarified," said Irwin Redlener, director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia's Mailman School of Public Health. "This work will reveal critical information about the true human toll of a natural megadisaster, providing closure to families and critical insight to disaster response planners."
To date, Mutter and R'id have collected more than 1,250 names, nearly 25 percent of which have yet to be accounted for officially. A report by the Louisiana Family Assistance Center, a group that was formed to help locate the missing, puts the total dead at 1,460, with 135 still missing as of August.
According to R'id, however, this total does not include the estimated 246 people who died in Mississippi and Texas — more than 100 of which she and Mutter have been able to confirm through official and unofficial sources.
The difficulty they have encountered in determining whether an individual died directly or indirectly of causes related to the storm points to an inherent weakness in our understanding of how natural disasters affect society. Mutter believes that, until we answer these questions and account for every victim of Katrina — whether they died at home in New Orleans or with relatives in California — we will never be fully prepared for the next storm.
"We can't understand any disaster from just the natural perspective," said Mutter. "Blaming nature for what happens abdicates us from our moral responsibility to help people."
About The Earth Institute The Earth Institute at Columbia University is the world's leading academic center for the integrated study of Earth, its environment and society. The Earth Institute builds upon excellence in the core disciplines — earth sciences, biological sciences, engineering sciences, social sciences and health sciences — and stresses cross-disciplinary approaches to complex problems. Through research, training and global partnerships, it mobilizes science and technology to advance sustainable development, while placing special emphasis on the needs of the world's poor. For more information, visit www.earth.columbia.edu.
Invest 93L (lesser antilles system) isn't getting better organized and as of this morning 3 forecasts model tracks have the disturbance crossing over Cuba and then recurving out to sea. Whew! I like to hear that. See the model tracks below...
Background material for the report may be accessed here.
For an excellent overview of why this initiative is so urgently needed - and how it impacts all citizens of the US (not just those in the hurricane zones), please see Dr. Jeff Master's comments at his blog at Weather Underground here.
A tropical wave (93L) moving through the Lesser Antilles Islands has become better organized today and is favorable to slow development as it is moving over low wind shear in the eastern Carribean. The track takes the system near the Dominican Republic and Hispaniola around Sunday. When the forecasts start mentioning Hispaniola, admittedly I get a little nervous as it hints of a possible Gulf of Mexico storm. There is no reason to think this disturbance will intensify into a tropical depression but it certain bears watching. Check out the preliminary model tracks for what is now Tropical Invest 93L, below:
BATON ROUGE - October 27, 2006 - Governor Kathleen Babineaux Blanco has issued Proclamation 74 KBB 2006 declaring a state of emergency for Allen, Beauregard, Calcasieu, Evangeline, Jefferson Davis, Sabine, St. Helena, St. Landry, and Vernon Parishes.
"At my direction, my staff and state emergency management officials are in ongoing communication with local officials of the parishes impacted by severe weather overnight and last week," Governor Blanco said. "State and federal agencies are responding as requested to support local emergency management officials. Last week I declared a state of emergency for 18 parishes affected by heavy rain, high winds and flooding. I asked President Bush for a federal declaration and assistance for those parishes. As the result of more bad weather yesterday and overnight I have declared a state of emergency for the latest affected parishes to provide appropriate state and federal assistance. As soon as the damage assessments are in, and if they support it, I intend to seek Presidential approval of assistance for the impact of this severe weather."
Margaret Saizan is a digital media producer, visual arts rep & vision strategist. Her mission is to inspire new vision through transformational media and communications.
Paul A. Greenberg Paul A. Greenberg teaches journalism at Tulane University in New Orleans. He also writes for a number of local, regional and national publications. Greenberg has been chronicling post-Katrina New Orleans since five days after the storm.
Maida Owens Ad director of the Louisiana Folklife Program Owens has curated exhibits & websites, authored & edited books & articles, produced videos, & created educational materials on Louisiana’s many traditional cultures.
Matthew White White has photographed every notable location on the La. coast. His photos and essays capture a landscape touched by and triumphing over catastrophe
Yoshio & Keiko Toyama Japanese Jazz Musicians and Co-founders of The Wonderful World Jazz Foundation which aids musicians in New Orleans.
Rick Portier As a TV photog in Baton Rouge Rick's been telling stories all of his life - Here are some of his!
Carol McClelland, PhD Transition expert focused on helping people get back on their feet after their lives have been turned upside down by natural disasters.
Making Change For Katrina National citizen-driven fundraising campaign to collect spare change to benefit the victims of the Gulf Coast hurricanes. The recipient is Habitat for Humanity, a nonprofit organization that builds simple, decent housing for people in need.
Emergency Communities a grassroots, on-the-ground relief effort using compassion and creativity to provide for those worst effected by disasters.
Sister City Support Network We are one city assisting one other city in its long term effort to rebuild in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina by: networking within our community, with other towns who embrace Bay Saint Louis, Mississippi as a sister city, and most importantly, with locals who live in Bay Saint Louis.
Levees.org grass roots effort to petition President Bush to build stronger levees. Excellent resource with facts related to Louisiana levees
Coast 2050: Toward a Sustainable Coastal Louisiana The failed levees in New Orleans are just a symptom of this larger problem.While reasons for Louisiana's coastal erosion may be more complex than levees, they are part of the problem that has a solution.
Alternate ROOTS artists, activists, and culturalworkers supporting constructive self-determination by affected communities as they begin the process of healing and rebuilding & assistance for artists & cultural workers affected by the hurricane.