The most well-rested president in history, President Bush, is cutting short his vacation by two days so he can oversee the Hurricane Katrina relief effort. Great! I feel so relieved now that the most-vacationing president is getting back to work. The first thing he ought to do is fire the head of the New Orleans Army Corps of Engineers office.
Hundreds of thousands of New Orleans east bank residents like myself went to bed Tuesday night with reports that the 17th Street Canal levee breach was draining Lake Pontchartrain into the city, with fears of water rising up to 13 feet - that the bowl was filling up.
Earlier in the day, New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin complained that Blackhawk helicopters never showed up to help block the breach.
When asked what sort of day he expected to have when he woke up on Wednesday morning, Colonel Waggoner, the head of the New Orleans Army Corps of Engineers office, said in a Fox News interview that he didn’t expect to approach his job any differently, that he would be getting into the office at 9 AM like he normally did, and would assess the situation then. He said that the levy system around New Orleans was only engineered to handle a “fast-moving” category 3 hurricane. It was never expected to handle a category 4 or 5 hurricane like Katrina. He said that engineers were trying to come up with a plan and were searching for any materials they could find to block the canal breach.
The primary mission of the Army Corps of Engineers is to protect life and property along the Mississippi River by maintaining the levee system. Why is it then that no planning has gone into preparing for precisely the types of problems delivered by Hurricane Katrina? Why weren’t the levees reinforced to handle anything over a category 3 hurricane? What was the Corps of Engineers’ plan – to cross their fingers that nothing stronger would hit New Orleans? What plan, if any, did the Corps of Engineers have for the eventuality of a levee break? Why weren’t the plans and the necessary resources in place to block levee breaches the minute they occurred? Why is the Army Corps of Engineers not staying up all night to make sure the levee problem is getting resolved?
Meanwhile, I've heard from people who were able to watch WDSU coverage online that the reports of 3000 pound sandbags being dropped into the levee breach are nothing more than urban legends - nothing more than something they were thinking about doing. Mayor Nagin's complaint that the Blackhawks never showed up supports that conclusion.
Later in the day, Ray Nagin sounded like he’s been smokin’ too much from the crack pipe when he said in a CNN interview that he had all the resources he needed to handle the hurricane disaster. On the thousands of refugees stuck inside the Superdome – now without toilets that flush, without electricity, and with a leaky roof – Nagin said he thought they could hold out there for another week.
Hey, how about a couple more Blackhawk helicopters Ray-Ray!
People are probably dying, and our homes are being destroyed, but the Mayor said he has everything he needs, and the Colonel got a good night's rest!
HEADS SHOULD ROLL!!!