- Jul 31, 2005
- Reaction score
- Political Leaning
WASHINGTON (AP) -- As Katrina roared into the Gulf of Mexico, emergency planners pored over maps and charts of a hurricane simulation that projected 61,290 dead and 384,257 injured or sick in a catastrophic flood.
According to projections in the federally sponsored project, the flood would leave swaths of southeast Louisiana uninhabitable for more than a year.
The planners were not involved in the frantic preparations for Katrina. By coincidence, they were working on a yearlong project to prepare federal and state officials for a Category 3 hurricane striking New Orleans.
Their fictitious storm eerily foreshadowed the havoc wrought by Category 4 Katrina a few days later, raising questions about whether government leaders did everything possible -- as early as possible -- to protect New Orleans residents from a well-documented threat.
After watching many of their predictions prove grimly accurate, "Hurricane Pam" planners now hope they were wrong about one detail -- the death toll.
Written in ominous present-tense language, the report predicts that:
# Flood waters would surge over levees, creating "a catastrophic mass casualty/mass evacuation" and leaving drainage pumps crippled for up to six months. "It will take over one year to re-enter areas most heavily impacted," the report estimates.
# More than 600,000 houses and 6,000 businesses would be affected, more than two-thirds of them destroyed. Nearly a quarter-million children would be out of school. "All 40 medical facilities in the impacted area [would be] isolated and useless," it says.
# Local officials would be quickly overwhelmed with the five-digit death toll, 187,862 people injured and 196,395 falling ill. A half-million people would be homeless.
The report calls evacuees "refugees" -- a term now derided by the Bush administration -- and says they could be housed at college campuses, military barracks, hotels, travel trailers, recreational vehicles, private homes, cottages, churches, Boy Scout camps and cruise ships.
"Federal support must be provided in a timely manner to save lives, prevent human suffering and mitigate severe damage," the report says.
"This may require mobilizing and deploying assets before they are requested via normal [National Response Plan] protocols."
On the defensive, White House officials have said Louisiana and New Orleans officials did not give FEMA full control over disaster relief.
The so-called Hurricane Pam plan, which was never put into effect, envisions giving the federal government authority to act without waiting for an SOS from local officials.
The experts completed their first draft report in December 2004.
A follow-up workshop on potential medical needs took place in Carville, Louisiana, on August 23-24, bringing together 80 state and federal emergency planning officials as well as Beriwal's team.
They produced an update on dealing with the dead and injured and submitted it to FEMA's headquarters in Washington on September 3.
By then Katrina had hit. And Bush administration, state and city officials were under heavy criticism for a sluggish response.
The 2004 report was designed to be the first step toward producing a comprehensive hurricane response plan, jointly approved and implemented by federal, state and city officials.
But a lack of funding prohibited planners from quickly following up on the 2004 simulation.
"Money was not available to do the follow-up," Brown said.