In today’s press briefing, a reporter challenges Bush’s assertion that there was no way to anticipate the levees breaching after Hurricane Katrina. McClellan’s response:
If you will recall, on August 29th, when the hurricane hit, and then it passed the New Orleans area, there were a number of reports, including media reports, saying that New Orleans had dodged the bullet, and there was some sense that the worst-case scenario did not happen. … We learned the next day — all of us learned — that, in fact, the levees had been breached and that there was a systemic failure in the levees. That was what was certain the next morning.
First, the media was not reporting that New Orleans had dodged a bullet. In fact, newspapers around the country were reporting on the “catastrophic” damage to the Gulf Coast.
Second, McClellan’s timeline is wrong. Katrina made landfall at 7 AM CDT on Aug. 29. As early as 7:30 AM CDT, the administration received word from New Orleans Homeland Security Director Col. Terry Ebbert that the levees in New Orleans had broken. By 11:13 AM CDT, the White House Homeland Security Council began circulating an internal memo called the “Katrina Spot Report,” reporting on the levee breach:
Flooding is significant throughout the region and a levee in New Orleans has reportedly been breached sending 6-8 feet of water throughout the 9th ward area of the city.
A total of 28 government agencies, including the White House, reported the levee breach on Aug. 29. Therefore, McClellan’s claim that the White House didn’t learn of the breach until Aug. 30 doesn’t hold water. Check out the right timeline here.