Katrina was devastating to most coastal communities in Alabama and Mississippi and Louisiana and then the breech in the levee flooded much of New Orleans... And the damage caused by the storm and the flooding was compounded by incompetent organization, poor communications, bureaucratic sclerosis, and a sluggish response.
The important thing now is to get supplies in there, get the refugees out, and stop the criminal elements that have been looting, raping, and killing. (Note: stopping them can range from shooting them to arresting them; personally I think shooting would be the better choice.)
Have you seen the pictures of a huge parking lot filled with school buses -- more than two hundred buses -- flooded now, useless -- and wondered why the city government hadn't used those buses? They could have evacuated the poorer neighborhoods where people lived without cars (and without a lot of money -- this was at the end of the month when many of those families were barely hanging on as it was, waiting for start of the new month to bring their welfare check or social security check). Then use them later to move the people in the Superdome and the Convention Center to secure refuge in Texas. Bring water and food and medicine back in the return trips.
Why didn't the governor have elements of the Louisiana National Guard positioned at key spots like the Superdome and hospitals. It should not be news to the mayor and the governor that any city the size of New Orleans has a significant criminal element, including vicious street gangs and desperate drug addicts. Any even semi-competent emergency preparedness plan should have contained provisions for guarding against gangs of looters and also for providing protection for hospitals from the junkies.
Ah, but what about the federal government? Indeed, what about the federal government. They're there now, but they should have been on the ground there two days earlier (at least two days!) In fact, I'm not even going to try to express myself about the U.S. government -- I'd like to just quote Jonah Goldberg (writing for The Corner, a blog-like section of NationalReviewOnline -- yes, the Web site of the noted conservative political journal founded by William F. Buckley):
When this ordeal is over, when the stranded have been rescued, the sick treated, the dead buried, when the emergency is over and operations shift into clean-up mode, there have to be some serious questions asked about this whole bureaucratic mess called FEMA and the larger bureaucratic mess called Homeland Security.
[I don't, of course, actually expect that to happen. Instead, the Democrats (as they already have) will seize upon this as a chance not to improve things, but merely to use it to score partisan political points. Look the New York Times, already blaming Bush about funding for flood management when they themselves just a few months ago editorialized against increased flood management funding!]
Homeland Security and FEMA were supposed to have prepared for response to terrorist attacks. Isn't blowing up a levee along Lake Ponchartrain to flood New Orleans something they might have done? Would we have this same screwed up and sluggish response to a terror attack like a dirty bomb?
Yes, I am familiar with the military axiom about no battle plan surviving contact with the enemy, but this can be looked at as a test of Homeland Security/FEMA.