The NOLA Bus Terminal Post-Katrina

Dumbest Demo-gogue and Leftmedia oft-asked question from NOLA after Katrina struck and the levees failed: "Why have these people not been evacuated?"

Multipart answer:

1) Who are "these people." Obviously the elderly, disabled, sick and very young should have priority for evacuation. But 85 percent of those who remained in New Orleans did not fall into that priority category. Of course, some of the latter, even though they were young and healthy, had no transportation out. For that reason, cities below sea level protected by levees that can only sustain waters from a Cat. 3 hurricane, have emergency plans to evacuate those who can't evacuate themselves in case of a Cat. 5 hurricane. For example, broadcast the emergency evacuation order by patrol cars and helicopters, and then use, say, school busses to pick up priority cases or those who have no other transportation. Unfortunately, NOLA's school busses remained at the depot near the Superdome -- except for one. Thursday, an enterprising young man, Eighteen-year-old Jabbor Gibson, "stole" a school bus and loaded it up with 80 other needy refugees on his way out of town. These folks pooled the little money they had to buy gas for the 700-mile trip to Houston's Astrodome. Gibson admitted. "I hadn't ever drove a bus." (Perhaps he can avoid prosecution for grand theft, and driving without a commercial operators license.)

"This is a national disgrace. 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." --Terry Ebbert, Director of NOLA's emergency management agency, complaining about the pace of FEMA's evacuation plan for the city. But the majority of those stranded at the Superdome and convention center, many of whom were young and healthy, were stranded because they had no transportation out.

Memo to Mr. Ebbert: The primary responsibility for evacuation of New Orleans in an emergency is, well, your responsibility. Cities below sea level protected by levees that can only sustain waters from a Cat. 3 hurricane, have emergency plans to evacuate those who can't evacuate themselves in case of a Cat. 5 hurricane. Thos plans stipulate, for example, broadcasting the emergency evacuation orders by patrol cars and helicopters, and then using, say, school busses to pick up priority cases (elderly, invalid and children) and those who have no transportation. Unfortunately, NOLA's school busses remained parked at the depot near the Superdome, as you can see from the photo below.

NOLA Bus Depot

Mr. Ebbert suggests that FEMA's crystal ball on levee failures needs some polishing. But, hindsight being what it is, perhaps Mr. Ebbert's crystal ball was not so clear. In the photo above, you can see more than 200 flooded school buses at the NO depot not far from the Superdome. In other words, once the evacuation order had been issued, why did Mr. Ebbert not position these buses in a location where they could be used for transportation.

200 buses with a capacity of about 60 people per bus means some 12,000 people could have been ferried away to high ground and safety in every two hours. In the 20 hours after the initial evacuation order, Mr. Ebbert he could have gotten all NOLA's refugees out on his own! Way to go Chief!

Notably, two days after the levees broke, as Ebbert was blaming FEMA for not having evacuated 40,000 refugees, an enterprising young man, Eighteen-year-old Jabbor Gibson, "stole" a school bus and loaded it up with 80 other needy refugees on his way out of town. These folks pooled the little money they had to buy gas for the 700-mile trip to Houston's Astrodome. Gibson admitted. "I hadn't ever drove a bus." (Perhaps he can avoid prosecution for grand theft, and driving without a commercial operators license.)

Mr. Ebbert: Wasn't the use of these buses for evacuation part of your "preparedness plan" for NOLA in the event of, say, breached levees? School buses are part every competently-run municipality's evac plan.

As our reader notes, "One emergency manager with half a clue and a couple hundred drivers could have more or less saved New Orleans from turning into Mad Max territory. Terry Ebbert can blame everyone else all he wants, but this crisis is almost entirely his fault."

2) "Evacuated" by whom? Assuming someone had a crystal ball so they could peer ahead one week for some 20/20 hindsight, emergency managers, fire and police departments and medical directors -- even military planners -- don't position their equipment in the path of a Cat. 5 hurricane, lest their equipment be destroyed and their personnel become victims. It was going to take between 24 and 72 hours to surge response capabilities for a major hurricane, and everyone from the Mayor Nagin to FEMA director Michael Brown knew that.

3) Evacuate to where, exactly? Assuming all those transportation assets were in place, and one could load up 60,000 people, to where would they be evacuated? Drive them up to I-10 where they could be dumped in a swamp? The talkingheads seem to think that when tens of thousands of refugees (homeless) do not comply with evacuation orders, that within 24 hours, the military can swoop in and take them to the nearest Hyatt. (Oh wait, the nearest Hyatt was full of media personalities.) Fact is, millions of citizens DID comply with evacuation orders, and they were occupying every hotel room, emergency shelter, church basement and relatives' living room floor in a 700-mile arc of the Gulf region. Many of them were also without provisions because the number of people displaced by this catastrophic storm is unprecedented.

Link: Anatomy of a National Disaster -- The Consequential Timeline of Hurricane Katrina

Link: Emergency Management Protocol in Natural Disasters -- Individual and Local, State and Federal Government Responsibilities