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Homeland Security

Hurricane Katrina - Week 3

Hurricane Katrina - Thursday 15 September 2005

Recovery teams conducting house-to-house searches in New Orleans said they were finding fewer corpses than originally expected, raising hope that the actual death toll from Hurricane Katrina may not be as catastrophic as feared. Officials said the official death toll of 300 in the three states hit by the hurricane was expected to rise, but doubt it will reach the widely reported speculation of 10,000 deaths in New Orleans alone.

The US Army Corps of Engineers said that all areas of the largely-submerged city will be pumped dry by the middle of October, significantly less time than previously estimated. City authorities continued trying to persuade those not involved in the recovery effort to evacuate, warning that the flood waters were contaminated with sewage, gasoline, oil and other toxic substances.

Hurricane Katrina - Wednesday 14 September 2005

Work on repairing the Twin Spans Bridge that carries traffic on Interstate-10 between New Orleans and Slidell, La., began, following the September 9th award of a $31 million contract to Boh Brothers Construction of New Orleans. The eastbound span will be repaired first, providing one lane of traffic in each direction. The contract required work to be completed within 45 days. The second phase of the work will result in repair of the westbound span which, along with the eastbound span, will provide two-lane traffic in each direction within 120 days.

EPA continued assessment of damage to local drinking systems and providing technical assistance to help restore service in Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana. Many systems were disabled or impaired by loss of electrical power, and some are now operating under boiled water notices. The total number of systems that remain affected is 1 in Alabama, 390 in Mississippi, and 468 in Louisiana. EPA has two mobile laboratories in Mississippi and two in Louisiana.

Hurricane Katrina - Tuesday 13 September 2005

The Port of New Orleans, shut down for more than two weeks because of Hurricane Katrina, slowly resumed operations. The first commercial cargo ship arrived Tuesday evening and officials hope to return the port to its normal schedule within six months. This is the fifth largest port in the United States. Closed since August 27, the facility is now partially open for business. Tuesday, the first container ship since the storm, unloaded its cargo. Port official Gary LaGrange says the ship carried coffee and wood from Argentina, Brazil and Mexico.

The numbers of evacuees from Louisiana being housed in large shelters in Houston, Texas, are dwindling day-by-day. Officials say there were 4,680 people living in three large centers in Houston, down from more than 27,000 a week ago. Most evacuees were anxious to get out of the shelters and on with their lives. The inside of the Reliant Center, which is usually used for conventions, livestock shows and commercial gatherings, was full of cots and mattresses, lined row-on-row. Several hundred people from southern Louisiana now called this home.

There are areas that are specifically for women and specifically for men, specifically for the elderly and then there are some general population areas and people have set up the cots to make little living rooms for themselves. Child Protective Services has set up a little area for unaccompanied minors.

Hurricane Katrina - Monday 12 September 2005

Following the extreme destruction caused by Hurricane Katrina, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the State of Louisiana, along with local parishes, are considering all possibilities for temporary emergency housing. Thousands of individuals and families have been displaced and will need to find a new place to live while the Gulf Coast of Louisiana rebuilds. Wherever feasible, FEMA provides temporary housing in or near individuals' and families' neighborhoods. However, safety is paramount. If an area is unsafe due to contamination or is unfit for habitation for another reason, alternate locations will be considered. Any individual or family who was displaced from their primary residence may be eligible for financial housing assistance. Individuals and families that cannot find a suitable housing alternative might be eligible to receive help from FEMA in the form of temporary emergency housing.

State and federal officials announce a comprehensive aerial mosquito abatement program will begin Monday evening, Sept. 12 and continue in various areas across hurricane-affected areas for the next six weeks. Spraying is necessary to prevent the possible spread of mosquito- and water-borne diseases such as malaria, dengue fever, giardia, cryptosporida, E coli, and Vibrio vulnificus. Specially equipped U.S. Air Force Reserve (AFRC) C-130H cargo planes from the 910th Airlift Wing, Youngstown, Ohio will commence a routine aerial spraying operation using the insecticide Dibrom (also known as naled) approximately one hour before dusk in New Orleans. Outlying areas of Louisiana and Alabama may be sprayed at a later date, if needed.

Michael D. Brown, Under Secretary of Department of Homeland Security Emergency Preparedness & Response and Director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, resigned as Director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The president chose a replacement for Michael Brown. R. David Paulison, a FEMA official with decades of experience in emergency preparedness, will take over as acting agency chief.

Hurricane Katrina - Sunday 11 September 2005

Army Lt. Gen. Russel Honore, commander of Joint Task Force Katrina, said on "Face the Nation" television news show that early estimates of 10,000 casualties in New Orleans appear to be too high. "I think we can expect that number to be a lot lower," he said.

Hurricane Katrina - Saturday 10 September 2005

The federal government said it would permit the news media to observe remains recovery operations.

Standing water is expected to be gone from much of New Orleans by 02 October, and from eastern New Orleans and Chalmette by 08 October. Drainage will take longest in Plaquemines Parish, which was expected to be dry by 18 October.

Up to one million people, mostly from New Orleans, have been displaced in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. More than 200,000 victims have taken refuge in nearby Texas, while others are scattered in cities and towns from California to New York City. As resources to the south are exhausted and shelters begin to reach their capacity, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska officials continue to prepare to potentially accept evacuees from impacted areas.

Per the EMAC broadcast made late Friday night, states within Region VII may begin receiving evacuees as follows: Nebraska on Saturday, September 10 and Missouri and Kansas on Monday, September 12. The number of evacuees to be transported each day and the number of days the effort will continue will vary and can change. States may receive a maximum of 500 evacuees on their scheduled day, or less, depending on their pre-identified shelter capacity.

Hurricane Katrina - Friday 09 September 2005

With little rain and temperatures consistently in the 90s, debris from Hurricane Katrina is drying out. Dead and dying trees have faded from green to brown, their leaves now curled and crumbly. Heaps of twigs and trash -- much of it cured efficiently by saltwater -- were piled high on streets and sidewalks. Fire emerged as an unlikely irritant for both Louisiana and Mississippi after Katrina. In New Orleans, National Guardsmen and helicopters helping with the search and rescue were detoured to douse fires downtown and in residential neighborhoods. Public water supplies were slowly coming back online in coastal Mississippi - but not quickly enough, as the tinder box grew more flammable.

Army Lt. Gen. Russel L. Honore told reporters there would be "zero access" to the corpse recovery operation.

Many neighborhoods in the northern half of New Orleans remained under 10 feet of water. The Army Corps of Engineers said the city was still about 60 percent flooded -- down from as much as 80 percent last week -- but was slowly being drained by 37 of the 174 pumps in the Orleans, St. Bernard and Plaquemines parishes, and 17 portable pumps. They can pump out 11,000 cubic feet per second, roughly equal to 432 Olympic-size swimming pools per hour. Engineers said the mammoth undertaking could take months.

Some 400,000 homes in the city are without power, with no immediate prospect of getting it back. Where water has been restored, it is not drinkable. The city is dangerous from the sewage-laden floodwaters, which are believed to contain E. coli and other dangerous germs.

FEMA has provided nearly $460 million in expedited aid to individuals in the 48 hours since the agency activated the expedited assistance program. More than 230,000 eligible households are receiving these payments of $2,000 to help pay for their emergency needs of food, shelter, clothing, personal necessities and medical needs. More than 400,000 people have registered for FEMA assistance by phone and online. More than 3,000 people are working around-the-clock to take these calls, and in the days ahead, these numbers will increase dramatically. FEMA has deployed more than 87 National Disaster Medical System Teams and 28 urban search and rescue teams with nearly 7,000 personnel to save lives and render medical assistance. Teams have rescued more than 350 hurricane victims.

Hurricane Katrina - Thursday 08 September 2005

The temporary mortuary set up in St. Gabriel, LA, was prepared to receive 500 to 1,000 bodies a day, with refrigeration trucks on site to hold the corpses. Evacuations are still underway in New Orleans, devastated 10 days ago by Hurricane Katrina, as evacuees continue to be relocated. The displaced residents are being bussed throughout the southern United States, some staying with families that have opened their homes to them, others living in temporary shelters provided by charities, businesses, and religious organizations.

The Secretary of Labor, Elaine Chao, signed a National emergency grant for more than $100 million to create 25,000 temporary jobs in the disaster areas, largely to assist in clean-up and recovery efforts.

A shortage of Hydrogen (key component in chemical production) caused chemical companies to consider shutting down in the next few days, and the impact on the National economy and security was being assessed. The Deptartment of Commerce requested a priority effort is given to getting the New Orleans Air Products liquid hydrogen facility back into operation as quickly as possible. The facility represents 31% of North American industrial hydrogen production. Parts of the steel industry have begun to curtail operations with potentially negative impacts on the economy. NSC, DOC and DHS are working with industry to offset losses from Air Products, but it appears best case only part of the loss can be made up. The Corps of Engineers began unwatering the facility on September 5th and Air Products was in the final stages of determining how long it will take to get the facility operational again.

Authorities were evacuating up to 10,000 residents who may remain in New Orleans. Many, exhausted and hungry, are anxious to go. But some have refused, and New Orleans Police Chief Eddie Compass says they will be forced to leave the city at some point.

Forty five percent of the evacuees from New Orleans are in hotels and shelters in nearby Baton Rouge. As many as 25,000 evacuees from New Orleans were taken to the Astrodome stadium and two other large shelters in Houston last week, but officials say they are now housing just a little more than eight thousand hurricane victims.

Hurricane Katrina - Wednesday 07 September 2005

Approximately 825,900 customers remained without electric power in Louisiana and Mississippi due to Hurricane Katrina. This was down by nearly 1.9 million from a peak of 2.7 million customers that were without power after Hurricane Katrina struck the region. Mississippi Power estimated that all customers who can receive power will have service restored by the end of the day Sunday 9/11/05.

DOE announced the intent to sell 30 million barrels of crude oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. Offers from interested bidders were due by Friday, September 9; depending on the bids, the amount of oil actually sold could be more or less than 30 million barrels. The delivery date of availability of the crude to the winning bidders is during the month of October, but DOE will release it sooner if a winning bidder can take possession earlier.

New Orleans Police Chief Eddie Compass said they will be forced to leave the city at some point. "We have a mandatory evacuation in place," Mr. Compass says. "We have thousands of people who want to voluntarily evacuate at this time. We're using our resources right now to evacuate those who want to be evacuated." Later, he says, authorities will use the force they need to get the holdouts to comply.

At the Astrodome in Houston, where an estimated 15,000 New Orleans evacuees found shelter over the weekend, the number had dwindled to only about 3,000 as people were rapidly placed in apartments, volunteers' homes and hotels that had been promised reimbursement by FEMA.

Michael Brown, director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, says evacuees will receive an electronic debit card that allows $2000 in purchases. After they succeed in registering for the debit cards, evacuees will have to wait for another week or two for the cards to be delivered. The cards, which will be worth around two thousand dollars each, are issued one to a household and cannot be used for purchases of alcohol or tobacco.

Hurricane Katrina - Tuesday 06 September 2005

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Richard Myers was asked why was the federal military response relatively slow. He said: "The headline, of course, in most of the country's papers on Tuesday were "New Orleans dodged a bullet," or words to that effect. At that time, when those words were in our minds, we started working issues before we were asked."

The mayor of New Orleans says workers have made "significant progress" toward draining floodwaters from the hurricane-ravaged city. Mayor Ray Nagin estimated that 60 percent of the southern U.S. city is underwater, down from 80 percent a few days ago. The mayor vowed to rebuild New Orleans, but urged people holding out against evacuation to leave, citing the health risk posed by fires, the polluted water, and disease-bearing mosquitoes. Officials say it may be three months before New Orleans is drained completely.

The mayor of New Orleans ordered the forcible removal of all remaining civilians from his flood-ravaged city. Mayor Nagin issued an emergency order urging law enforcement officers and military personnel to use force, if necessary, to compel thousands of people who have refused to leave their homes to get out of the city. He said there were severe health risks posed by fires and polluted waters. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta urged people exposed to the floodwaters to be vaccinated for Hepatitis A.

President Bush said he will lead an investigation into what went wrong with the government's initial response to Hurricane Katrina. Mr. Bush says his administration is committed to righting what went wrong and helping those in need.

The president says his administration will spare no effort to help the hurricane victims. But he acknowledges the initial recovery effort was flawed, and says he wants to know why. "What I intend to do is lead an investigation to find out what went right and what went wrong," he said.

The president said getting it right is a matter of national security, noting America still lives in what he calls "an unsettled world." He says the country must be prepared to deal with all kinds of potential disasters, from a hurricane to a terrorist attack.

House Majority Leader Tom DeLay said he does not think a special commission is needed to examine what went wrong with rescue and relief operations, modeled on the panel that investigated failures before the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Senate Democratic Minority Leader Harry Reid disagreed. "We are going to have an independent commission to study what went wrong. People may not do it today or think it's a good idea today, but mark my word. It is going to happen," he said.



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