‘Wash Post’: White House Had Early Warning on Katrina

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By: E&P Staff

Documents obtained by The Washington Post reveal, according to the newspaper, that in the 48 hours before Hurricane Katrina hit last August, the White House “received detailed warnings about the storm’s likely impact, including eerily prescient predictions of breached levees, massive flooding, and major losses of life and property.”

The 41-page assessment by the Department of Homeland Security’s National Infrastructure Simulation and Analysis Center (NISAC) was delivered by e-mail to the White House’s “situation room” in the early hours of Aug. 29, the day the storm hit, according to an e-mail cover sheet.

The NISAC paper warned that a storm of Katrina’s size would “likely lead to severe flooding and/or levee breaching” and noted the potential for levee failures along Lake Pontchartrain. “It predicted economic losses in the tens of billions of dollars, including damage to public utilities and industry that would take years to fully repair,” writes Washington Post reporter Joby Warrick in the Tuesday paper. “Initial response and rescue operations would be hampered by disruption of telecommunications networks and the loss of power to fire, police and emergency workers, it said.

“In a second document, also obtained by The Washington Post, a computer slide presentation by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, prepared for a 9 a.m. meeting on Aug. 27, two days before Katrina made landfall, compared Katrina’s likely impact to that of ‘Hurricane Pam,’ a fictional Category 3 storm used in a series of FEMA disaster-preparedness exercises simulating the effects of a major hurricane striking New Orleans. But Katrina, the report warned, could be worse.

“The documents shed new light on the extent on the administration’s foreknowledge about Katrina’s potential for unleashing epic destruction on New Orleans and other Gulf Coast cities and towns. President Bush, in a televised interview three days after Katrina hit, suggested that the scale of the flooding in New Orleans was unexpected. ‘I don’t think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees. They did anticipate a serious storm,’ Bush said in a Sept. 1 interview on ABC’s ‘Good Morning America.'”

The White House declined to comment yesterday on the specifics of the reports but noted that the president has repeatedly acknowledged his displeasure with preparations for Katrina. “

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