Do weathermen and TV news weather crisis addicts bear some responsibility for what’s happening in New Orleans right now because they cried fire so often that too many people did not believe them?

Do the people who said they’d ride out the storm — defying a mandatory evacuation — bear some responsibility for what happened to them?

Does the government there bear some responsibility for not having adequate means to evactuate those who could not get out on their own, on buses, trains, or any means possible?


  • Undertoad


    The government there failed to evacuate prisoners… the only people they are specifically in charge of and who can’t possibly evacuate themselves.

    While watching the news these days, I am always reminded of how TV news puts everything at maximum worry, so we have to figure out what is real news. Today hurricane relief is the biggest worry. Last week it was videogame violence. Both played at the same volume, the only difference is that the videogame violence story was played with much harsher teases. Is your teen at risk?

  • David

    >Do the people who said they’d ride out the storm — defying a mandatory
    >evacuation — bear some responsibility for what happened to them?

    Yes go ahead blame the victims.

    Did the people who were in the second tower on 9/11 bear some responsibility for not leaving after the first plane hit? Did the firemen who marched up the stairs even after they were told to evacuate the buildings bear some responsibility for what happened to them?

    Funny how you now want to blame the victims and blame weathermen and look for reasons why this occured but you’d gladly bash anyone who even dares to ask “why they hate us” after 9/11 occured and you’d gladly bash anyone who dares to ask why an insurgency is still raging in Iraq even after we were told the mission was “accomplished.”

  • whodat

    Well conversely, if the weather/news did not report so much on it they would be faulty in that respect. So let’s look more at the government.

  • Rob

    Um, couldn’t most of those (not the housebound, of course) in New Orleans without other transportation have simply walked over to the Superdome? Or taken the bus?

    The town leaders said to evacuate on Saturday. There was at least one shelter, right in the middle of town, that weathered the storm just fine. There was plenty that went wrong with local disaster planning here, but I don’t see how anyone who wanted to get into the shelter wouldn’t have been able to. Quite a few thousand of their fellow citizens did mange to find shelter, after all.

    They used to be complacent about evacuations in Florida, too. After a few poundings, they no longer are. I just wish the lesson had spread as far as Louisiana and Mississippi.

    This isn’t about “blame”. People didn’t evacuate when doing so would have made them safer (hell, they didn’t even stock up on drinking water). We need to find ways to make sure they do evacuate next time, even if “next time” is in some location where there has been no need to evacuate in the past.

  • Mary Ann

    I’m not sure it’s all blame the victims. The government had a responsibility to help those without personal transportation. How far did busses travel out of New Orleans on Saturday and Sunday? They probably had their same routes as always. Their only routes should have been out of town and back again to pickup more and get them out.

    Still, there were others who were “brave” and gonna ride out the storm. These people were stupid. And public safety officers are putting their lives on the line to rescue stupid people, when they could be protecting hospitals from looters and helping the sick and elderly evacuate. That’s wrong. Yes, they’re victims, but they are victims of their own stupidity.

    There’s a lot of Monday morning quarterbacking and there will no doubt be a lot more. I think one thing that will come out is that New Orleans needed a Reuben Greenberg type. Greenberg was police chief in Charleston when Hugo came through. Before the storm he announced that anyone who chose to ride it out did so at their own risk. He was not going to send his cops to rescue them when there were higher priority tasks such as helping hospitals and maintaining order. He also announced ahead of time that he had given the order to his cops to shoot any looters. Looting was non-existent and rescues of “bitter enders” were the lowest recorded. Hugo was a mean storm — didn’t cause flooding and have an aftermath like in New Orleans, but the point is, the public was notified, don’t be stupid, and they weren’t.

  • David

    The David above is not me and I wish to distance myself from him. The firemen were not victims, they were heros. People who decide to ride out a major hurricane also are not victims, they are idiots. People who couldn’t get out are the tragic victims of this mess.

    I am most unhappy with the Major of NO. We could ALL see this a week ago, manditory evacuation should have been issued one week ago. Amtrak could have started at that point moving people out on the NS lines (City of NO). The ill that could have been moved should have been moved. And the prisoners should have been moved out early.

    The governors of various states should have started the guard call up one week ago also, not tuesday. At least moblize each unit’s cadres for easy mobilization. Notice this is the governor’s responsibility not the president’s.

    And the least guilty, W should have declared the state of emergency on Saturday, not Sunday.

    Cassandra’s crying wolf (how is that for a mixed metaphor) should not have been a problem. I have never been in a hurricane, I always got out of town. Most were false alarms, but so what.

  • Craig Danuloff

    In the ‘Post September 11th World’ that George Bush likes to remind us he lives in, the need to provide massive assistance and evacuation to a major american city would not seem unlikely. Yet we are seeing today the dramatic and pathetic proof of the fact that our government isn’t prepared at all. An american city has suffered a disaster, and 48-72 hours later they cannot bring in palettes of water by helicopter, nor drive in buses to evacuate the crowds. So people will die, desparation will take hold and the trauma will be compounded unnecessarily.

    Of course the people who didn’t leave bear some responsibility. I’d limit that for the poor, who should have had transportation provided as some have suggested above. Of course the media has served us poorly on this and nearly every other issue they touch.

    But the government bears the responsibility for what happens now, regardless of how we got here. There is no excuse for what is happening, or rather what is not happening. The President says ‘help is on the way.’ I’m very afraid it will be too little, too late. I can’t imagine there has ever been a greater failure in the history of this country.

  • Safran

    I am going to defend the meteorologists. They do not yell “fire.” They give the forecast, to the best of their abilities. It’s usually the newsrooms that yell “fire.” A meteorologist will call for a couple of inches of snow, and the newsroom will go into “STORM CENTRAL” mode.

    Jeff – you know I’m a disciple. But the meteorologists saved thousands of lives, perhaps more. This would have been Tsunami II if it weren’t for the mets. The real meteorologists, the folks behind the ones on camera, worked like hell and damn near called this one on the nose. And most of them will never hear a word of thanks.

  • Terry Heaton

    It’s hard to disagree with Undertoad, but here’s the deal about the TV meteorologists. I went through the April 3, 1956 tornado that went past my backyard on its way to destroying the community of Standale, Michigan. We had air raid warning sirens on the roofs of every school, but all they did was wail when it was too late. We (all of us) have clamored for warning for decades, and now we have Doppler radar that can show a twister forming at high altitude. Do most of them touch the ground? No. But when they do, no one can say they weren’t warned.

    I do think there’s a little common sense involved in interpreting the “scare the shit out of everybody” tactics employed by some folks, but I wouldn’t trade warning time for anything.

    We’ve come a long way since that day in my backyard in 1956. Now instead of advanced warning, we want warning only when it’s an absolute certainty. Until then, don’t disturb me or my programming. How sad.

  • Gray

    Not only the fund slashing of the bushies is to blame, Blanc bears a high responsibility, too. For the evacuation of the superdome, 485 busses will be used. Where were those busses on sunday? Even greyhound was shut down, NO citizen with valid tickets couldn’t get away. Hospitals, nursery homes, prisons were not evacuated. Hospitals didn’t have enough diesel fuel for more than a few days. The police and rescue teams suffer from lack of communication means. Police hasn’t secured transport means for flooded streets before the desaster. The superdome as the main shelter has no adequate independent power source, no backup for the failing plumping system. Nobody organized shelters in safe areas outside of the flood areas for the refuggees. No stacks of food and water were ready for the left behind. National guard hasn’t been alerted and summoned to emergency support centers beforehand. Naval support like amphibious assault ships (Kearsage) for rescue ops and hospital ships for the sick and wounded haven’t been sent en route as warnings emerged on friday, but 3 days after the hurricane. Etc, etc…
    Blanco, FEMA, Bush – they share the blame. But does anyone expect any consequences from the ‘leaders’?

  • Pingback: The Political Teen » Hurricane Katrina Devastation: State Governments Didn’t Help Evacuation

  • Angelos

    “sort of”/YesYes

    “Sort of”
    Yes, here is upstate NY, we’ve become immune to the dire predictions of “storms of the decade” every damned time it snows 1 foot. Yes, they’re just yelling and intense to stand out in the local ratings battles. Now with Doppler3D-2 million HD! Meanwhile, I just make sure my snowblower has gas and I have a couple extra belts lying around. But still, warning is warning. They have to do it, and to let us know the worst case scenario. And they do have the tools, even though the methods aren’t foolproof. We can’t blame them

    Obviously, the foolhardy deserve what they get. If you had the money, the car, the means, ANY ability to get out, you should have. What the hell – if the storm fizzled, you still had a nice little road trip to northern Louisiana or to Texas for a couple days, and you come back Tuesday to a house with maybe a couple broken windows or some 1st floor flooding.

    Gutted FEMA, thin military/Guard, vacationing and uncaring president. No adults in charge whatsoever.

  • Maureen

    My mom lives in Miami & she has an interesting observation. She can always tell the residents who lived thru Andrew from those who’ve moved there since by their reaction to hurricane warnings. The ones who were there for Andrew, to this day, absolutely freak out when there’s a hurricane warning. Why? They lived thru it & know how bad they can get. However, & this includes mom, those who’ve moved there since have, every summer, had at least one hurricane warning that ultimately missed them. (Last year, every one of those biggies managed to miss Miami–but noone knew where they’d ultimately hit until it would have been too late to evacuate. And ironically, some who did evacuate to central Florida ended up getting hit.) Sadly, last year, folks from central Florida & the Panhandle learned the same lesson. They’d been thru so many false alarms that they get very blase. You see the same thing from people in the Keys. And I’ll point out that there are almost inevitably mandatory evacuations that people ignore. Police can’t go & forcibly remove people from their homes–civil rights, you know.

    Whose fault is it? Pointing fingers doesn’t solve anything. We as a society have come to believe, somehow, that everything is always supposed to be 100% perfect, 100% of the time, & that the government is supposed to make everything 100% safe somehow. Let’s look at reality. Reality number one is that if you live near the ocean, you will alwaysalwaysalwaysalways face a danger of hurricanes & tropical storms. If you’re lucky, you can go for years–maybe your entire life–without getting hit by a big storm. But if you chose to live near the ocean (& I state for the record that my mom lives in South Beach, right on the water & understands the danger), you get paradise, but you also get a risk. You have a responsibility to decide whether or not to evacuate when warnings come–& not blame others if you don’t get out.
    Reality number 2 is that there is no such thing as 100% accurate predictions when it comes to hurricanes. No forecasting service has ever been able to predict exactly the path of a storm until pretty close to the last minute. They can only take best guesses as to where it will go, warn the local governments, & keep revising as a storm progresses. What that means is that you will get a lost of “false” alarms. Do news organizations blow it out of proportion? Well, this time, no. They’re trying to get the word out, too. But again, sometimes those reports are “false.”
    Reality number 3 is that locations on the water are getting more people & more buildings. That means more destruction when a hurricane hits. A city the size of New Orleans, plain & simple, can not be 100% evacuated every time there is a warning. Neither can Miami, or many of the other increasingly large cities sitting in harm’s way of a category 5 hurricane. Realistically, in the case of New Orleans, they would have had to start bringing in buses for those too poor to evacuate sometime in early to middle of last week. Unfortunately, at that point in time, noone knew exactly where the storm was headed or that it would become so severe (it was such a yawner for Miami that they didn’t even evacuate South Beach). And even if, by some miracle, they HAD known the path & severity of the storm–in all honesty, how many people do you think could have been persuaded to leave? Even many of those who WERE able to leave, once it did become known how bad it would get, didn’t leave (B.B. King among them, apparently). And there WERE mandatory evacuations. But again, what do you do–physically grab people & throw them on buses? Or suppose they had somehow gone & managed to ship every single solitary soul out of N.O. ahead of time–& then the storm had swerved? How many people would be convinced the next time?

    Unfortunately, it’s an unsolvable problem. Living on the ocean is stunning. But it is a risk. Hopefully, what this storm can do, if people are willing to leave politics out of it & look at the situation realistically, is make us all realize that we do have to take some responsibility for our decisions. We also have to realize that unpleasant decisions have to be made–by everyone. I can’t think of a region of the US where it’s 100% safe to live. The West Coast has earthquakes. The Atlantic Coast has hurricanes. The central part of the country has tornados. Those of us in big cities (particularly NYC & DC) know we’re terrorist targets. We live where we live because, for the most part, we enjoy it & are willing to take the risks.

    Here’s a very realistic scenario to think about: Imagine a Category 5 hurricane churning its way thru the Atlantic straight towards anywhere from NYC to Boston. Now you’re talking literally millions of people–a population dwarfing the current situation. The actual path isn’t going to be known until probably 12-15 hours ahead of time (if that). All that’s known is that it’s a 5, & a lot of people are in real danger. You’re talking the various islands, CT, RI, NY, NJ, & large sections of MA (all of which have been devastated in the past by hurricanes). In all seriousness, what does the government do? Do they try to evacuate millions of people? Can it even be done? Anyone who’s ever been to NYC or Boston–can you imagine the thousands of buses that would be required, not to mention the traffic jams that would result, just to get the poor residents out (assuming wealthier residents could evacuate themselves)? An operation like that would have to start a week or two ahead of time to succeed. But imagine simply shutting down NYC or Boston–the financial repercussions that would occur would literally effect the entire globe. The storm isn’t going to hit both places–but governments won’t know that until it’s too late to get everyone out. So do you be safe & evacuate the entire eastern seaboard, realizing that the storm could weaken in the meantime? Or do you ride it out, give warnings, & hope the majority make it out? These are decisions that the federal government & state governments game plan for constantly. Like it or not, they have to look realistically at scenarios like this & decide what the most beneficial solution is–both on a human & a financial level. This scenario is not out of the question. The eastern seabord is long-overdue for a major hurricane. We’ve had glancing hits, but nothing at a 4 or 5 level since the 1950s.

  • Mary Ann

    Angelos: Over at he makes the point that there is a reason they tell us to stock emergency supplies for a week or more – because it takes a week or more to get things going. You have to give big behemouth agencys and organizations time to assess before they execute. So sending them in a T-4 days instead of T+4 days makes no sense. I’m sorry, but I’d rather those ships be sent a day later so that they are completely prepared. They would be ineffective if they had to send the ships back for different supplies becuase they left without knowing what the situation required. Your analysis and subsequent conclusions are flawed, but I think that’s probably because it was the other way around, your conclusions preceded your analysis.

    Was there much more that could and and should have been done ahead of time? Yes. But that meant the local and state officials who know their towns and state better than the feds, should have taken the lead. Why weren’t buses running?!!! They should have been running out of town filled with people! They should have been shuttling the elderly to shelters. There was so much individuals and local governments could have done.

    To me the only place the Feds are culpable is in the authorization of funds to build up the levees. That’s a discussion where things have fallen through the cracks (no pun intended). Why it takes 5 years to study it before doing something is beyond me. So another question I’ll have as we look back on all of this is why it takes so long to analyze a levee when the engineering principles are there and need only to be applied.

    But we can’t just say, oooh something bad happened and it must be because of a guy I hate. We have to look critically and with some sense of discernment. Get the partisan blinders off so we can all work together and do something constructive.

  • Mary Ann

    sorry that last post belongs in a different discussion…

  • billg

    1. It isn’t fair to attack TV weather people. The hurricanes they report are very real. Forecast tracks are remarkably accurate, and getting better. Telling TV viewers that the National Hurricane Center is predicting a hurricane will strike them is telling the truth, not crying fire.

    2. People in the path of a Cat 5 storm like Katrina who had the ability to evacuate but did not were astoundingly stupid. What did they think when the TV told them a hurricane with 175 mph winds was one day south in the Gulf and headed right at them?

    3. If the governments of NO and surrounding parishes had a coherent ready-to-go plan to deal with a hurricane, it is not apparent to me. Everything they’ve done appears to be an uncoordinated collection of ad hoc, knee jerk and largely ineffective measures. They knew the levees and the floodbanks would break in a Cat 4 or Cat 5 storm. What was their plan to deal with that? Faced with a Cat 5 Katrina targeting their city, it looks like their plan was to hope the storm would go away. They knew that 100,000 people would not be able to respond to an evacuation order, yet it appears they had no plan to get those people out of city. (I’ve seen video of hundreds of school buses city in flooded parking lots. Why didn’t they use those buses in the evacuation? You don’t need a Federal grant to use your brain.

    3. The next time Bush wants to get on TV and talk about Katrina, someone please tell Karl Rove he needs to call Bill Clinton instead. Bush long ago lapsed back into the ineffectual, aimless, uncaring and embarrassingly small persona that afflicted him pre 9-11. He should have addressed the nation, in prime time, as soon as the dimensions of the catastrophe were apparent, which means the day after the storm. He failed, and he’s still failing.

    4. If we were all seeing video of $1 million homes in the Houston suburbs sitting in 20 feet of water; if we were seeing video of armed black kids looting suburban Houston malls, how many of you don’t believe the state and federal response would be faster and better? (Sure, accusing the Republicans of responding differently to NO because it is almost entirely African-American is playing the race card. But racism is an american reality and the Republicans have deliberately exploited white racism since George Wallace provided the example for Nixon. )

  • http://ruthcalvo Ruth

    As some one who’s lived in an area that had been devastated by a hurricane in the 50’s, then threatened time and again but never hit again (yet) by any real damaging storm – I guarantee you can’t pack up and run every time. And too often you get to the point of waiting until the storm is too close to get off the island – sort of like orange level alerts every week harden your sense of real danger into a big shrug.

  • David

    Actually Ruth, that is a good point. I am not sure that the Northeast would respond well to the next hurricane of 1935. As I live 50 miles from the coast in the uplands I don’t know if I should flee or not. I would probably stay but take out 4 trees before the storm gets a chance.

  • billg

    >>” I guarantee you can’t pack up and run every time.”

    That’s an accurate observation of human behavior, Ruth. But, we elect our local, state and federal officials and we expect them to to provide leadership in times of crisis. From where I sit here in North Carolina (hit by 7 hurricanes/tropical storms last year), no one is leading. The government of New Orleans appears to have had no plan to deal with a hurricane except to tell people to leave. The governor of Louisiana appears to be incompetent. The president is mouthing platitiudes instead of telling people what he’s doing to save lives.

    Shameful, across the board.

  • Don Singleton

    What do you suggest they should do. Everytime a hurricane is coming that might hit the city, should they load all of their homeless people up and bus them to some other city. A city might be willing to accept them, as Houston did this time, when they knew the conditions they were in in New Orleans, but what city would be stupid enough to allow another city to dump all of its homeless on them, just because “something might happen”, and then they would have been left to deal with more homeless in their cities

  • http://ruthcalvo Ruth

    billg: at least the governor of LA did tell people to leave. What happened in Mississippi? I think they didn’t want the gambling to shut down in Gulfport, it’s the major source of revenue for the state.

    David; thanks, I felt it myself – would I have evacuated? I doubt it. Especially, before, I had horses I couldn’t get out of harm’s way, had to stay and take care of them if I possibly could.

  • Holly

    Hell yes, the weather forecasters bear some responsibility. I live in a very tornado-prone part of the country, and our local weather forecasters have cried wolf so many times that I only take them seriously if a tornado is visible outside my window. I hate it that I’m so jaded about coverage, but I am. It takes hurculean effort to make myself take weather warnings seriously, because most weather events around here are not ten percent as bad as the hysterical weather forecasters scream that they will be. If the situation in NO is similar, I understand why some who had the resources to evacuate, didn’t.

  • whodat

    Well you shouldn’t rely simply on one source for your news. To blame meteoroligists is misplacing/redirecting blame.

  • billg

    >>” I live in a very tornado-prone part of the country, and our local weather forecasters have cried wolf so many times…”

    Holly, I’m pretty certain that your local weather people have reported a “Tornado Warning” every time radar indicates an emerging funnel, and only at those times. Warnings are issued by the local NOAA facility — the weather bureau — and all the media people do is report them.

    A warning doesn’t mean a funnel is on the ground. It means that radar has spotted a storm with a tornado inside it. Waiting until then would cost lives and property.

  • billg

    >>”What do you suggest they should do. Everytime a hurricane is coming that might hit the city…”

    Don, this wasn’t a case of “might”. There was no “might” in the track forecast. Katrina was going to hit New Orleans. The mayor should have called the evacuation at least 24 hours earlier.

    But, that’s only one element. Of all cities, NO should be prepared to deal with a hurricane, of whatever strength. Yes, the city has defied the odds for more than a century, but only a fool would imagine that, sooner or later, it would be hit. Why didn’t they have a plan to deal with a flooded city? Why didn’t they have a plan to keep order in a flooded city? To evacuate the homeless from a flooded city? To being food and water and health care to their city? Where was their plan to keep their constituents alive?

    The response to Katrina in NO appears to be something officials are making up as they go. It is ad hoc, ineffective and incoherent. It is also unforgivable. We need to hold them all — mayors, governors, the president — accountable.

  • David

    Hindsight is always 20/20. The mets do the best they can, but they have no control over the weather. They predict, with all the available information, but that does not promise exact results. I mean, the last weather forcasts I read of Katrina was it was going to hit NO dead on. At the last minute, it moved to the east. Only God can determine exactly which way that Hurricane was going to move.

    Yes, local, state, and even federal officials share blame on this disaster. Much of it was waiting until the very last minute to make hard decisions, but that is the nature of politics.

    But again, I repeat myself. Hindsight is always 20/20.

    As time goes on, the lessons of this disaster will be studied, and I am confident that future plans will incorporate what was learned from Katrina.

    Currently, as I have stated elsewhere, it is easy to turn this into a political football, but that does not help the survivors in NO and other places. Lets take care of them first, then the political football can be played to everyone’s content. Blaming is so easy, finding solutions is much harder.

  • JennyD

    When do insurers raise rates for all the expensive beach houses on the Eastern seaboard, all of which will be leveled in the next two decades by hurricanes?

  • David

    “Do the people who said they’d ride out the storm — defying a mandatory evacuation — bear some responsibility for what happened to them?”

    I am certain Jeff does not live in area affected by prior “madatory evacuation.” Otherwwsie he would know there are NO proviosns made for the elderly, infirm, poor.
    There was no seats left on the scheduled commerical bus lines. there was no effort to organize

    I am 99% laisse faire in 99% of situations. But laisse faire evacuations are problematic, no?

    Jeff, I like your stuff but weatherman are to blame? The people stuck almost all with NO CHOICE are to blame for “defying” the evacuation?

    This is a major government cack up with local, state andto the biggest degree, federal responsiblity.

    It is clear since 911 no serious loook at FEMA and the us of national guard has been taken. It is bordering on criminal neglect.

  • Joe Baby

    Blame the meterologists? Absurd. I’d prefer they do exactly what they are doing, rather than rely on reverse psychology.

  • glh

    here is who to blame. a country that creates an entire society of individuals who can not care for themselves. they do this by constantly caring for them by paying their rent, giving them food stamps…all this without teaching them basic life necessities. what are we to expect when these same people are faced with a life or death decision, especially if the govt is not there to make the decision for them. what will happen in the astrodome when these people, bored with their environment and their checks having not arrived yet….id like to see the crime stats for the area in the weeks following the evacuation