Saturday, September 03, 2005

Louisiana governor requested federal emergency assistance on Aug. 27

Louisiana governor Kathleen Blanco sent a letter to George Bush on August 27th (two days before Katrina made landfall) requesting that Bush declare a state of emergency and provide federal assistance (link, link); Bush declared a state of emergency that day (link). Blanco's letter shows that she recognized the potential danger of the approaching storm:
"A State of Emergency has been issued for the State in order to support the evacuations of the coastal areas in accordance with our State Evacuation Plan and the remainder of the state to support the State Special Needs and Sheltering Plan.

"... I have determined that this incident is of such severity and magnitude that effective response is beyond the capabilities of the State and affected local governments, and that supplementary Federal assistance is necessary to save lives, protect property, public health, and safety, or to lessen or avert the threat of a disaster."
Yet a recent Washington Post article ("Many Evacuated, but Thousands Still Waiting: White House Shifts Blame to State and Local Officials") reports that the Bush administration is now trying to blame the Louisiana governor and the state and local governments for failing to be able to handle the storm's aftermath:
"As of Saturday, Blanco still had not declared a state of emergency, the senior Bush official said."
The article is dated Sunday Sept. 4, so the Saturday referred to is most likely Saturday, September 3. If so, this statement is clearly contradicted by Blanco's letter above. But the article goes on to show even more buck-passing by the Bush administration:
"Bush, who has been criticized, even by supporters, for the delayed response to the disaster, used his weekly radio address to put responsibility for the failure on lower levels of government. The magnitude of the crisis 'has created tremendous problems that have strained state and local capabilities,' he said. 'The result is that many of our citizens simply are not getting the help they need, especially in New Orleans.'"
"Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said one reason federal assets were not used more quickly was 'because our constitutional system really places the primary authority in each state with the governor.'"

[Update Sept. 4: Gov. Blanco sent a more detailed request for federal assistance on August 28th; it can be found here (as a PDF).]

[Update 2, Sept. 4: The Washington Post now has a notice at the top of the article correcting the error I pointed out (above) regarding when Gov. Blanco declared a state of emergency. "A Sept. 4 article on the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina incorrectly said that Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco (D) had not declared a state of emergency. She declared an emergency on Aug. 26."]

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