While President Bush has maintained that nobody could have “anticipated the breach of the levees,” more and more information is being revealed to demonstrate that the adminstration was fully aware of the catastrophic damage that could result if a hurricane were to strike the New Orleans region.
In July 2004, just over one year ago, FEMA held a five-day exercise at the State Emergency Operations Center in Baton Rouge to develop joint response plans for a catastrophic hurricane in Louisiana.
In the staged scenario developed by FEMA, a fictitious “Hurricane Pam” brought 120-mph winds and storms that “topped levees in the New Orleans area.” “More than one million residents evacuated and Hurricane Pam destroyed 500,000-600,000 buildings.”
The New Orleans Times-Picayune covered the FEMA exercise and reported that officials focused on six major issues. One of which was: “Removing floodwater from New Orleans, Metairie and other bowl-like areas where levees will capture and hold storm surge, possibly for days or weeks.” The hypothetical specifically posited the following:
The water would be high enough in parts of New Orleans to top 17-foot levees, including some along Lake Pontchartrain and the Mississippi River-Gulf Outlet, Zileski said. Some of the water pushed into Lake Pontchartrain would flow through a gap in the hurricane levee in St. Charles Parish, flow across land to the Mississippi River levee and be funneled south into Jefferson and Orleans parishes.
The fact is that FEMA anticipated the effects of Hurricane Katrina over a year before it actually hit the Gulf Coast region. There should be no excuse for the Bush administration’s incompetent management of the hurricane recovery efforts to date.